Gmail accessibility


Gmail is the least web-like web application I have ever seen. It requires both Javascript and cookies in order to load at all. It uses frames in such a way that prevents bookmarking and breaks the back button, and frames can not be loaded in isolation because every frame relies on scripts defined in other frames. The entire application appears to have been designed to thwart reverse engineering (of the YahooPops and Hotmail Popper variety).

Furthermore, the most innovative feature of Gmail—the global keyboard shortcuts—appears to have been designed by vi users (j moves down, k moves up, and we are expected to memorize multi-key sequences for navigation). Yet by using fake links everywhere, Gmail throws away the most basic web feature, breaks useful browser-level innovations like Mozilla’s “Find as you type”, and breaks third-party products like JAWS and WindowEyes. So the target market for Gmail appears to be vi users who use Internet Explorer, and have a working pair of eyes.

In short, the only way to use Gmail is the way that the Gmail designers use Gmail. The only way Gmail could be less accessible is if the entire site were built in Flash.

Ouch ;)