Top Technology Trends

Thomas Dowling's Non-Trends From The Trailing Edge

Why haven’t we seen more progress on these?

Accessibility. Too many web designers still don’t think about it, don’t know about it, don’t feel obligated to provide an accessible interface, or let Kewlness factors take precendence. As a case in point, OhioLINK recently reviewed an interface from a well known vendor with a search function that was completely inaccessible without Javascript, images, and a mouse. The vendor’s policy on accessibility? There was none to be found.

Browser- and resolution-independent web design. HTML editors still steer authors toward slick, pixel-perfect designs and hot-to-trot scripting without adequately informing them of the possible downsides. Firefox users know from experience that the great majority of pages that don’t display right for them either include browser sniffing that explicitly excludes browsers, or scripts that implicitly rely on proprietary functions or bugs in Internet Explorer. And as for the pervasiveness of pixel-based web designs, just look at this blog in a 700-pixel wide window, or a 1200-pixel wide window.

OpenURL. The majority of sites using it still rely on the 5-year old “version 0.1” syntax instead of the NISO 1.0 format. A greater problem is that far too many sites distribute out citations that are woefully incomplete or just plain wrong for anything other than cut and dried journal articles. This is either a real system for communicating citations or a cheap hack for looking up whether a journal article is available online—let’s decide.

Library catalog design. It isn’t as though we have a lack of ideas for how catalogs should work (catch the Roy Tennant Road Show if you haven’t done so already). But the great majority of online catalogs are still what they were 8 or 9 years ago: a web version of a mid-1980s terminal interface. It’s time for catalog vendors either to step up with some imaginative design, or just open up an SRU/SRW interface and let others do the job.

User authentication. “This is the year that Shibboleth will take off”…for the fourth straight year. My rule is that Shibboleth implementation will take at least twice as long as you anticipate, even if you take this rule into account. As usual, the problem isn’t with the technology, but with the process of getting large organizations to get all their departments to play nice with each other and stop their turf wars and squabbling. This needs to happen now.