Over the last two years, it’s been my responsibility to build and maintain the Wiki Education Dashboard, a complex website that has become our primary tool for keeping track of hundreds of courses and thousands of students each term. It’s been an amazing journey so far — one I started with almost no experience in web development — and I’ve learned little bits of lots of facets of writing software and running a website. One area where our Dashboard is better than most sites is accessibility — but unfortunately, that’s not saying much.
Since the beginning of the Dashboard project, one of my most important power users has been Wiki Education’s Helaine Blumenthal. As our Classroom Program Manager, Helaine needs to be able to use the Dashboard efficiently to keep up with now more than 300 courses per term. Helaine is blind and uses a screen reader to navigate the web, which means that if a site isn’t accessible by screen reader, it’s broken.
I’m always looking for ways to improve the usability and accessibility of the Wiki Education Dashboard, and I’ve still got a lot to learn. Now that I’ve dipped my toe into web accessibility, I find myself losing patience quickly with big software companies and open source projects that don’t even try.
2 thoughts on “The Web As She Is Spoke”
What do you use Zendesk for? Email request queues? Knowledge base about the software? Other? I thought you already had GitHub, AskBot and maybe OTRS for that kind of stuff.
We’re using Desk.com for email-based requests and tasks, mainly the emails we get from instructors and students, along with alert emails that get sent from the Dashboard, so that we can easily reassign one based to the right person and deal with vacations and staff changes more easily.
AskBot is not very good for actually getting an answer back to the person who asked the question, and we use it mainly as an FAQ repository (for which it’s not as good as I had hoped… we’ll probably move that content into the dashboard itself eventually). For a help desk system, we did consider OTRS, but taking on the long-term maintenance of an OTRS server would probably be a lot harder in the long run, and our last memories of OTRS were from the bad old days in ~2011.