introducing the pod: for UX, accessibility, and better architecture for people with thought disorders

A few days ago, when I was halfway through my second round of editing Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, I suddenly realized I needed to stop what I was doing immediately and create a template from the build I’d already started. Something other people could easily use.

Also, that I would have to come up with a name for these. I can’t keep fumbling with inane, uninformative terms like “HTML book” and “book NFT.” Especially since I plan to make them available to non-crypto people, too.

I decided to call these pods. At least it says what they are, more or less. And it’s short. Then my brain started playing with it and coming up with titles. Then I realized it would be a good chance to write something explaining what these are and why HTML merits attention as an offline publishing medium.

And then I thought I should write instructions, and I needed some screenshots for that. And to make things easier for anyone using the template, there should be stripped-down versions of the home page and a content page.

Made a few more last minute changes for accessibility and general UX. That took a couple of days, but it was worth it.

I took out the full-screen menu that I loved. But I learned that those are tricky to make keyboard-accessible, so it had to go. There is only on-page navigation now. It’s better in a less-is-more kind of way. There is a light mode toggle, and I can’t stop playing with it.

Thought it would be a great idea. But now after catching myself clicking it repeatedly for no real reason too many times, I’m not so sure. Sometimes the most mundane things can become incredibly amusing for a few moments.

So now it has three pieces of writing that need illustrations. But it’s okay because Shorts #2 is almost done. And I’ll make my next pod out of those. For now, I guess the pod paper is a pretty good representative of something a pod can be.

I’m really trying to push the bar higher. Thanks to the class I took — Disability Awareness and Support — this build is head and shoulders above the rest.

The source code will be released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. That means anyone can use it, adapt it, and sell what they make from it. As long as they credit me, link to the license, and declare any changes they have made.

using HTML seems so obvious now

Why hasn’t this always been a thing? HTML and JavaScript can do so much, and CSS frameworks make the work easier.

Back in the day, before sandbox sites like CodePen came about, you had to build sites offline so you could test and debug them before making them live. So if you can build websites that work offline by linking the pages together with relative file paths, there’s no reason you shouldn’t use it as a format for content.

It could be off-putting to some to have to look for a file name in a folder with multiple files in it. A PDF is one file, and I can see why some people would prefer that. But long texts are not necessarily accessible to a person with a thought disorder.

building for people with thought disorders

Thought disorders were not mentioned in the course material in the class, and I haven’t read anything else about accessibility that talks about it. But I have circumstantial thinking. My thoughts tend to spiral away from what is supposed to be the object or subject of attention. They usually come back around eventually, after I’ve said or done a number of other things.

If your thinking is disorganized, so are your movements and speech. It’s noticeable in conversation and when I speak in a Twitter Space. When I’m cleaning at home. When I’m working. It affects task performance, and it affects how I process information.

oceans of text are less approachable

When I open a book-length PDF or EPUB with a couple hundred pages, it’s like looking at the expanse of outer space. Even if it has a good bookmark structure, it induces anxiety for all that text to be in one huge file. Maybe it sounds funny, but I feel safer when I can scroll to the end of a document in fewer screen heights.

For me to pay attention to something for very long, it needs to be broken up into digestible chunks. Like Duolingo lessons or a MOOC on Coursera. I can cover a lot of material in one day if it’s presented like that.

So that’s what I’m trying to do with books. I’m trying to make every book as easy to read as possible, even when someone wrote it a long time ago in a nonsensically wordy writing style.

the dark mode way

I want to make books that everyone can read or have read to them, whether by another person or a screen reader. I want to make books that are easy to navigate. That have more white space. That give your eyes a break from the whiteness of the web, but give you a lighter option for daytime reading.

So that’s one example of what a pod can be.

I tried my best to write the tutorials such that anyone can use the blank page templates, even if they have never seen raw HTML before. So there are screenshots and code examples. And I documented the code pretty thoroughly. I hope some people will find it useful.

It should be ready to mint it on Cardano in a few hours, and the ZIP file will be attached so anyone who wants to play with it can download and extract it.


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