Archive for the ‘Accessible Websistes’ Category

Comparison of Myspace and facebook

August 3, 2007

I am going to compare two of the biggest social networks available to internet users today.
If you are not familiar with these networks, I will give a brief outline.

Profile Page:
On here the user can make the content to their own desire, including pictures, videos, music, change the colours of things either by creating their own layout of using a pre-made one.
The profile page is what is viewed by other users when they visit your site. Users can see the personalized layout, add you as a friend, send you a message, rate your profile, send instant messages, Invite to group or block you. They also can click on your picture albums or videos to view them, The can read about your interests and stuff about you, read quizzes/surveys you may have put on your page, see your friends and your friends comment and view what groups you belong too and see your personal information.

The Home page:
This is the page which the user views their settings and can perform all their actions upon. Check messages comments, post bulletins, blogs, join or view groups, browse myspace content see their schools details, view and change their friends and see all the bulletins their friends have posted.
I will discuss more of these features and the accessibility for blind and visually impaired users.

Facebook
Profile page:
Again this is the page other users view of you. On Facebook users view your personal information and different statuses, if the user has applications installed and a mini news feed [which gives a run down of the users most recent actions] their wall which displays things their friends and themselves may have written, their most recent notes [which are like blogs] their network or lack of, [which connects users to a regional place/school/college/company] their interests and educational information. . Applications vary from food fights which are an application which allows users to throw imaginary food at each other to zombies which allow users to bite each other to the sorting hat which lets users be put into Hogwarts houses. On the profile page, it shows the user’s status or who has hit them or given them something. There are far too many applications to go into them all right at this moment but I would hope you get the jist of what they do.

Home page:
As I stated on the Myspace section, the homepage is where the user can do all the behind the scenes stuff of their profile. The tools there allow the user to access all sections of their page and edit it.

General differences
What’s missing or different:
Myspace has the bulletins which facebook don’t really have. They have something similar which is called post which allows users to put a link on their profile page for other users can view. And you can do the same thing on the network’s page if you belong to one. But as many users do on myspace, you can’t write surveys for your friends to take on the bulletins on facebook.

I mentioned earlier about Facebook’s networks which is one feature myspace don’t have. The networks allow you to view other users in your area or school/college/work place. And view events going on in your network and posts too.

Facebook also have the applications in which you can add content to your profile, I.E. your likes or dislikes in a list, quizzes, games, videos, music etc. Myspace don’t have these applications, you have to get html codes from other websites in order to have quizzes/surveys added to your profile page.

Some of the names are changed but mean the same kind of content. For Example, facebook users’ write on people’s “Walls” where as myspace users comment on profile pages. Notes are basically blogs minus the extra features of myspace which allow the user to include what they are reading/listening too/playing/watching or including their mood. You can format your blog with style as you can on myspace.

Groups are included on both sites. You can however appoint members in officers positions on Facebook and add video content to the group. There are discussion boards on both although with facebook there is more flexibility on what you can include regarding content.

Now I have done the general outline on what site has what I will get down to the accessibility.

To sign up to each account you have to enter personal information into edit boxes and checkboxes to agree to terms and condition. On both sites you have to enter code from a capture which for those of you who don’t know is an image usually containing letters and numbers as a security measure to ensure you’re not a computer programme and a real human being. However, as many screen reader users are aware, screen readers are unable to read these captures because they are images and untagged. Now from personal experience as I recently signed up for facebook, they do have an audio capture however it doesn’t work at the present time but they also have a link to email them if you are having problems registering. As I said, from personal experience, I emailed them and one of their team replied promptly and offered to set up an account for me. Within 48 hours, I had my account up and working. However, there is no link on myspace if you’re having trouble with the capture and no audio capture whatsoever. You can click the capture again to review it but that is no use to any screen reader user.

So if you you are able to get past the capture on myspace with help from a sighted user, we will discuss the further accessibilities. If you can’t get past the capture then I’m afraid you’ll have to take what I’m saying for truth. And I would hope you’d have the same experience I had with facebook and one of their wonderful team would have set up an account for you.

Navigation on the homepage
On myspace the main sections are navigated by the heading system. I use jaws so I’m sorry if some of what I say doesn’t correlate well with your screen reader. If you press H, it will take you to the next heading and shift plus H takes it to the previous heading. These heading however don’t allow you all the tools you need to edit attributes on your profile. There is the edit profile tool in the top section which is labelled hello “user name”. Yu can manage your comments and blogs in this section also. In the next standard section is your status and mood which is very accessible for visually impaired users. The next section is your mail, all new actions that have happened to you, received new mail, new friend requests, new blog subscriptions, comments, birthdays etc. The next section is the bulletins which again are accessible. There is not much on this home page that isn’t accessible. However the main navbar which contains links like, home, search, browse, groups, forums, etc is not correctly at the top of the page and often that are flash content on the page which makes Jaws jump around a little which makes it hard for jaws users to navigate with ease. The advertisements tend to positioned in a way the screen reader user find inappropriate.

Profile pages are sometimes difficult depending on the users themselves so it seems quite pointless including that here. Songs and videos make it hard for screen reader users to hear their software and flash player is such that screen reader users are unable to locate the stop button like sighted users to cease the noise. Which would mean for users to view friends/bands pages would make it a drawn out task while they wait for the content to finish playing. Another problem that has recently occurred on myspace is the capture feature again. In order to leave comments on certain profile pages you need to enter a capture with again, no added support unless you have a sighted user’s help.

Changing profile:
This was a relatively easy task previously. All edit boxes and then a save button which would save your profile. There are categories and you put your content into the edit fields and save the profile and away you go. However, in order to save your profile now means you need sighted assistance to enter the capture code.

Another feature that visually impaired users cannot access is the change top friends tool. This requires you dragging and dropping your top friends into order which without a mouse is impossible to use. So visually impaired users cannot access this section without a sighted person.

The instant messenger service myspace have is also completely inaccessible to a screen reader user so I can’t tell you how it works at all.

Facebook and accessibility:
Homepage:
The major problem I have with facebook is the navigation bar. It is not very well organized. The home link is halfway down the bar as viewed by screen reader users. There is no real navigation short cuts to the navigation bar unless you navigate to the first heading after the navigation bar and work you way up. Unless you want applications menu or search box, which are the first too heading and work your way down. It’s not a big deal although I feel it’s relevant. I would organize it a little differently if I was facebook.

However as with myspace, each section and subsection is navigated by headings which increase their navigation tools in comparison to myspace. Users can customize their page independently, write on friends walls, join groups, send messages and add content independently to their page.

Profile Pages
A positive about facebook is its uniform design as blue and white. As myspace users can customize their appearance, it can cause some users with low vision to have trouble reading the content on their friends pages. You cannot change the background of face book so this makes it easier for low vision users to be able to read with ease.

Users can add applications as I stated earlier. The majority of these applications and facebook’s own applications are incredibly accessible. A few of them I have discovered are difficult to use if they have pictures but I have just uninstalled these applications. All facebook content appears, so far to be incredibly accessible to screen reader users. I have only been using the social network for a short period but I have explored the site expansively and have found little I am unable to do independently. Organizing top friends, which is an application is easy to do, just click on the person’s name in the order you want them to be and there are your top friends, ordered the way you desire. This applies to many things you have to order according to preference on facebook.

Conclusion
I have found myspace to be completely inapproachable and seemingly uncaring of their visually impaired users. Facebook were prompt and their content is completely accessible. Minus the problem with the navigation bar which is not a huge deal, facebook’s accessibility far outweighs that of myspace. I conclude that facebook is 98 percent accessible and myspace only a fraction of that. If myspace can address their issues, that would be great as it has a lot of users and useful content but in the meantime, facebook does hold, for me, the accessibility award.