Weblogs: Web Accessibility

FormCamp: Day 1

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I'm in Munich this weekend participating in FormCamp. I'm tagging along with Christian Heilmann to form the UK contingent from Yahoo. Developers and designers from across Germany are converging to make this an interesting geek weekend. Its been hosted in the Yahoo! offices in Munich - a spacious and sleek and modern office complex. (This is one of the cool benefits of being a web developer for Yahoo! Europe).

The idea of FormCamp

FormCamp is the brainchild of Jens Grochtdreis to develop a simple component to help with the creation of forms. The main requirements are web standards compliant, simple solution resulting in an accessible and usable forms. Day one is about discussing, proposing and designing and implementing an idea, and the second day is about testing the solution, particularly for accessibility.

The quality of the attendees here is exceptionally high - participants involved in Joomla!, CakePHP, YAML, and of course WebKrauts. Everyone has vast experience in their fields of interest. Being the only non-German speaker, I thought I'd struggle, but everyone has been happy to speak in English most of the time. Everyone's been exceptionally friendly and generous - sharing information and ideas.

We had a long discussion this morning about defining the problem we want to tackle. A good couple of hours pouring over examples of forms with a strong emphasis on the accessibility problems faced and how they were tackled. The short of it is that there are many stumbling blocks in making a form accessible, but the sharing of knowledge and experience isa good start to a deeper understanding.

Rapid prototyping

We split the effort into two groups, one to create a simple validation solution that could be used to validate form data on both the client and on the server. The second effort is a semantic / structural discussion of the HTML markup aiming at creating modules or reusable form patterns.

I'm working with Dirk, Timo Derstappen and Chris; we're trying to build a simple validation framework so that one set of rules can be used on both as client-side JavaScript form validation as well as on the server. We're building a list of validation rules as a JSON object, and writing code with JavaScript and PHP to take that object and validate in their corresponding locations. I'm writing a fair bit of the PHP classes - finally found a pure PHP class that parses and generates JSON objects.

I just dropped in on the Markup group and it looks like they have been extremely thorough - the reusable modules look very interesting and appropriate for the typical web applications (ranging from the simple contact us form through to typical structures of form-based web applications).


What I've seen so far of Munich, I like. Its a modern city - I'm surprised by how quiet it is. Perhaps its because its Saturday morning. The architecture ranges from modern structures to towering renaissance-inspired churches. I haven't found a city I can adequately compare it to yet. Perhaps it is unique.

FormCampers commentary:

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