Jacco Niewland releases swipr, a Visio plug-in for information architects

· Applications

According to Jacco Niewland, swipr is “a toolset for Visio that allows the integration of sitemaps/screenflows and wireframes into one fully interactive HTML deliverable.”
Swipr is released under the GNU Open Source license, and is completely free. It “allows for one screenflow/sitemap document and multiple wireframe documents to be exported into one integrated HTML set, viewable by any browser; it also has the option of creating a simple prototype from all your wireframes.” It’s suited for collaboration by teams of multiple IAs and it doesn’t require any special plugins to view the HTML prototype output.
Niewland suggests that the prototypes created by swipr are suitable for early usability testing, and that the documents print well from Visio.
At swipr.com you can download the software (still in beta), see examples, and contribute to a forum.
Thanks, Jacco!

W3C roadmap for accessible RIAs

· Applications

Rich Internet Application (RIA) formats, such as Ajax, Flex, OpenLazslo, XAML, and so on, are all the rage on the Web these days, but sometimes the tradeoff involved in moving from a clunky-feeling page-at-a-time forms-driven web interface model to the more snappy thick-client feel of RIAs is a loss in accessibility (as well as issues like breaking the back button and, as we saw with frames back in the day, the difficulty of bookmarking specific states in the middle of an interaction).
Now it looks like the W3C is taking the bull by the horns: W3C Announces Roadmap for Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA). Here’s an excerpt from the announcement:

Dynamic Web Content Currently Excludes Many Users: Assistive technologies, including screen readers, speech dictation software, and on-screen keyboards help make the Web accessible to people with disabilities. To accomplish this, these tools require information about the semantics of specific portions of a document in order to present those portions in an accessible form. For example, to provide reliable access to a form element, a tool must also be able to recognize the state of that element (for example, whether it is checked, disabled, focused, collapsed, or hidden).
Web sites are increasingly delivering applications with capabilities comparable to locally-installed software. These rich Internet applications make heavy use of scripting, and developers often improvise hybrids of existing technologies, including AJAX, DHTML, JavaScript, and SVG. These applications do not always provide the semantics needed to support these technologies. People with disabilities are therefore at risk of being left out of this new world of information.

Freehand and GoLive officially deprecated

· Applications

Todd Warfel reports that the inevitable bakeoff inside the Adobe-Macromedia merger has resulted in the winding down of FreeHand (in favor of Illustrator) and GoLive (in favor of Dreamweaver).
(btw, I know this was in May – so I’m slow on the uptake – so sue me!)

Converged mobile devices = iPod killers?

· Applications

This article in the Guardian UK, Dump your iPod, the mobile’s taking over suggests that mobile devices are going to supplant dedicated MP3 players as the pocket music player of choice.
I do think the idea of carrying a PDA, an MP3 player, a phone, and a text messaging device (crackberry) is unsustainable. Only the nerdiest of ubergeeks are willing to sling so many pocket devices from their belt clips.
The downside of convergence is that you can end up with a device that is optimized for no use case and is only adequate for all of them, but these problems are being solved. For example, there’s no way I would carry a PDA and a phone now. My HTC smartphone is great for both and even my dad uses a Palm Treo now.
It’s an interesting market to keep an eye on.