Projectors: a great accessibility argument

So there I sat, at the demonstration of a new website I’ve been part of building. About 10 people in the room, some of which had never seen the site before. There had been preparations, and we had gone through which parts of the site we were going to present. Only the simple part left…

So the presenter fires up the projector, connects it to his Mac, and looks at the projection. Half the site is outside of the screen. Turns out the maximum resolution is 800×600, and we’ve designed the site for 1024! People started looking at each other.

“We have to be able to show the site with a projector!”, one from the audience proclaimed.

Awkward silence.

I’ve rarely heard people working with accessibility mention projectors as arguments for accessibility, but it turns out they are great for that purpose. Just look at it like this:

  • Resolution is often at the very low end, and they get upgraded much slower than regular computers.
  • Brightness is much lower than on a computer screen, especially at daytime, in a room with bad curtains.
  • Many presenters move their mouse by looking at the projection, which makes clicking things harder.

Interesting isn’t it? Those three just happens to be exactly the same things that we try to optimize when working with accessibility:

  • We try to avoid having people to scroll sideways, because unexperienced users find that hard to do. A flexible design, that can adapt to different screen widths (within reason), is a great way to accomplish that.
  • We work hard to make sure that the contrast between page elements is big enough. That way, the large part of the population with low vision (don’t forget those that left their glasses at home…), can use the page without problems.
  • We expand clickable areas of links and buttons, to make sure people with motor disabilities can still use our site.

So, we could just as well have been optimizing the “projector experience” all along.

How did the presentation go? Well, we simply zoomed the site out one step, and continued as usual. You are making sure your site zooms properly are you?

6 responses to “Projectors: a great accessibility argument

  1. This is a very good argument! I often show sites on projectors and blame them for fad quality.

    Maybe my sites are bad?

    I´ll make a post of this on my site soon, thanks!

  2. Page zoom is a bless! At least when it comes to the problem with resolution-independent presentation.

    Colors and navigation friendly designs is still a subject worth mentioning more, though. A good call would perhaps be to first include the screen stylesheet to both screen and projection, and then include a projection stylesheet which tweaks the design a bit (add more contrast, exaggerate hover and focus events, make link more visible and increase their click areas …)

    Can’t wait to being able to play around in media queries for real production usage!

  3. Mmmm…. Good point. I just discoverd my websites background goes well enlarging the website, but when I put it on 75%, my background moves to the right. Thanks to my used css…

    What I mostly do to test for color blind people is making a print screen and after this turn this to black/grey/white in Photoshop to look at the contrast/how readable it is.

    But not everyone has a beamer in their household. Should we put a light in our screen to look at the brightness at that time? ;)

    Other thing I still struggle with after reading your article, should we still think about small screens 800×600? And how do we know how much users still have small screens using internet? Or should we assume most people have 1024 screens?

  4. @Jan: I’m trying to figure that out too. My current guess is that flexible width down to 800 pixel wide screens, is the globaly optimal zolution. But that’s kinda tricky to get right (compared to fixed width)…

  5. should we still think about small screens 800×600? And how do we know how much users still have small screens using internet? Or should we assume most people have 1024 screens?

    If you care about accessibility and usability, design for 800×600. There are a lot of people still using screens that size. There are a lot of people who have larger screens but choose not to run their browser window maximised. There are a lot of people who have larger screens but have a sidebar open so can’t see the full 1024px.

    PS – Kudos to you for using × rather than x :-)

  6. @Emil, @Stevie
    Good point Stevie D! Mostly favourites are still open with older version IE users, who are still there. I have some brainstorm about this.

    Suppose these IE 6 users have small screens, then according w3school browser statistics partially about 17% (or less of course, maybe 10%) might still own a smaller screen. That’s still a large group to reach.

    Further I think it is important for who the website is. To reach private persons you should, I think, have 800×600 scaled websites or flexible ones (Until the screens get a lot cheaper by the current recession, but I see computers drop in prices, not screens yet).

    For business websites for other business websites you might use 1024. I assume business are well facilitated with nice larger screens.


    Good to read a new article from your hand, you have to wait sometimes for the next one, but at least they have good thoughts/content!

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