Not Really an April Fools’ Prank
I added something to my site for April Fools’ Day, and it didn’t go quite so well (as opposed to my 2012 effort, which just went nowhere).
In reality, it’s something I’ve wanted to add to my site for a while, but my gaming night was canceled last night (they all went to a hockey game of all things) so I decided to take my idea and level it up.
That’s how I came up with the idea of the modal/dialog box. The bane of the web. The raison d’être of Tab Closed; Didn’t Read.
I took some time last night to make a box that on small screens sat above the content, but still in the page flow, and on larger screens sat on top of the page (top as in
z-index). I worked on focus management, allowed it to close on click or Esc key, labeled it without breaking the heading structure, and generally thought I did a good job of creating something easy to dismiss.
Initial responses seemed positive.
But that all seemed to fall apart this morning when Jared Smith from Web-AIM contacted me, clearly frustrated.
@aardrian Wouldn’t have linked to your article in our newsletter if I’d have realized you were going to punk all your users today. :-(— Jared Smith (@jared_w_smith) April 1, 2016
@aardrian Everyone that keeps e-mailing me does. Plus two low vision users who couldn’t find the article because of the pop-up.— Jared Smith (@jared_w_smith) April 1, 2016
Unfortunately for Jared, he fielded complaints from readers of the latest Web-AIM newsletter. While my reaction on Twitter was mostly annoyance (if you know me, this isn’t surprising), it’s clear I’ll never get feedback from these users to be able to debug the issues. I don’t intend to remove the message, but I did adjust the site to remove the modal (I commented out a few lines of CSS).
I’ve embedded animated GIFs of what the alert does (or did if you are reading after April 1 for your local time) below:
And now to close on this tweet from Ian Devlin…
If people used the time spent on April Fool's jokes on accessibility instead, the web would be a better and more inclusive place.— Ian Devlin (@iandevlin) April 1, 2016
Update: May 4, 2016
Update: December 1, 2020
I think the message you are conveying is fine (though it is admittedly rather ambiguous as to whether it is an April fool’s gag), but the intrusiveness of it in the dialog proved to be a bit disconcerting and confusing to a few folks. Unfortunately some of our newsletter readers thought we were the instigators of the joke – particularly two low vision users who either didn’t know how to dismiss the modal dialog or didn’t realize it was a modal and that the article content was actually below it.
The modification to remove the modal resolved my concerns – and I’ve received no e-mails since. Thanks!
Jared, I was going for ambiguity. My humor is like that — not funny. I’m sorry you caught any flack, since I was the one being snarky with it. It did, however, validate my perception that modals on page load are pretty much always a terrible user experience.