Nathan Knowler

The Allure of Complex User Interface Challenges


Our desire to tackle complex user interface challenges overshadows the more vital challenge of making the web accessible. Sometimes there is an acknowledgement of the importance of accessibility, but “I’ll work on that once I solve this [seemingly more important, technically interesting challenge].”

As someone who appreciates technical challenges, I totally get the draw to them. They’re fun and you can really impress others with your solutions. Often they even lead to personal success (e.g. highly coveted jobs, popularity, etc.). But for me, if I’m not building them on an accessible foundation, then they just seem like a waste of time—there are crowds of other people chasing after them.

Unfortunately, I’m probably worse off personally because I think this way. Our industry favours flashiness. I often don’t have much to show for myself, because I’ve spent my time obsessing over the details of the foundation and for other reasons outside of my control, e.g. NDAs, projects being shelved, websites being replaced. I probably do need to be less of a perfectionist.

Despite my own personal grievances and shortcomings, I know that we’d all be better off if our industry had a greater value for accessibility. To truly do so would require so much more than simply changing what challenges we deem worthy of our pursuit. It would mean a radical broadening of who we are seeking to impress and to ultimately serve. It would mean confronting the fact that what we currently have is an ableist system which prizes solving problems for those who are non-disabled.