A couple of days ago I received an email from a user named Jen, a Firefox user and Java programmer:
… when firefox goes to a page where it wants me to enter a password, then a horizontal bar-shaped menu appears at the top and the entire page slides down about a centimetre to accommodate this bar … The problem for me is that the bar in firefox appears very suddenly and the movement of the page to accommodate it makes me feel very motion sick. There is currently no way to turn this page sliding off.
After several emails back and forth with Jen, who very patiently explained the issue. I learned that she and others actually do get sick to the stomach from transition affects in UIs. The fact that this is trendy among UI developers is no help. For example, Apple loves to use transition affects by default. At my request, Jen put up an article on how to turn transition effects off in some popular products.
Firefox 2 doesn’t have this issue. The recent Firefox 3 automatic upgrade had literally made Jen sick! For now I suggested to that she return to Firefox 2 and turn off automatic upgrades. Prior to that suggestion, she was in the midst of switching to Opera — that’s how real the issue was for her.
As it turns out, this is a topic you don’t hear discussed much in accessibility circles. It is, however, mentioned part (h) in the software guidelines of section 508 law as well as W3C’s UAAG (the user agent accessibility guidelines). When this topic is discussed it’s usually discussed along with its cousin — blinking. Blinking can cause seizures in people with epilepsy.
Both blinking and animations can also cause cognitive stress in some individuals. Perhaps that’s why I find these things annoying. I’m probably one of them, and I suspect there’s a scale between loving it, finding it annoying, being stressed by it, and getting sick from it. But also, I just want to get to my content!
Does this mean that these effects shouldn’t be used? No. Firefox needs to provide users with a way to turn them off.
If anyone has more information on these issues or statistics, feel free to add a comment.
UPDATE: I’m also proud to have introduced Jen to AdBlock Plus — one of Firefox’s best accessibility aids.