Google—Your balls and periods are all wrong.

by Stephanie Rewis on September 7, 2010

Now, before you jump down my throat and tell me, “it’s just a logo, lighten up,” let me give a brief explanation (that’s all I have time for and 140 isn’t doin’ it). 

Today, Google launched a really cute little experiment where multi-colored balls fly into the page, assemble themselves as the Google logo and re-scatter any time your cursor gets close. Really, very cute. And it’s just a logo. The issue for me is how they did it. Though their page has an HTML5 doctype, there was no HTML5 in the method they used to create the moving logo—it was old skool Javascript/divs (being rounded by CSS3 border-radius). Because you can create little dots out of divs doesn’t mean you should. And in Internet Explorer, it gets worse—they use periods—you know, like a comma. Seriously. Tons of periods flying all over the page. Not only is this a gross example of being non-semantic, but it’s horrendous for accessibility. Can you imagine coming to the search page with a screenreader and IE? You’d have to listen to period, period, period, period…ad infinitum. Bad.

The sad thing is, they could have done this with HTML5 technologies (well, canvas and SVG). And a couple smart devs immediately did. Rob Hawkes recreated the logo effect with canvas (it’s no more accessible but it’s less annoying) and Robin Berjon recreated the logo with SVG. Furthermore, they sniffed. Sniffing in this day and age is unnecessary and they proved it by excluding the newest Opera browser which would have rendered it quite well.

I suppose what bothers me even more is that it seemed to get thrown into the hype that is HTML5. Don’t get me wrong. I love HTML5. I’m building with an HTML5 doctype and elements. I’m teaching and speaking about HTML5. I’m bothered by the fact that the term HTML5 is being bandied about like Web 2.0 once was (where’s Web 2.0 now, huh?)—used by people that don’t actually even know what it means—just that it’s cool. And for that reason, a page with an HTML5 doctype uses non-semantic, non-accessible (maybe anti-accessible, annoying is better) little logo doodle and Time magazine writes an article about it—in wonder at the mystery of the meaning. No, they didn’t say it was HTML5—I’ll give them that. But with Google’s earlier pacman HTML5 example, that was the immediate assumption by us all—and likely Time as well. The overuse/misuse of the term HTML5 is the subject for another rant however.

It would have been nice to see this done with canvas or SVG — even Flash would have been less annoying to a screen reader since it could be hidden altogether. Old style DHTML… hmmmm.

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