Over the past year or so I’ve become aware of the importance of images in blog posts. I noticed this after I started to move away from reading blogs on my RSS reader on my mobile device, which didn’t include images, to use of RSS and Twitter aggregator services, such as Smartr, Pulse, Flipboard or Zite.

An example of the interface which I use most mornings on the way to work can be seen. This image shows the Pulse App on my iPod Touch. As can be seen in the display of UKOLN RSS feeds my blog and the blog for my colleague Marieke Guy both feature images taken from the blog posts which can held differentiate posts; in contrast items available in the UKOLN News RSS feed, for which we tend not to provide images,  fail to stand out.

It was as the importance of such personalised newspaper apps started to become apparent that I decided to make greater use of images on this blog. In this respect I am well behind Martin Weller who, on his Ed Techie blog, frequently includes images in his posts.

The thing I didn’t expect was to see such interfaces being provided for desktop browsers. However last week when I followed a link to a post on Library 2.0 on Steve Wheeler’s Learning With ‘E’s blog I found a similar graphical interface, with an image for the most recent post displayed prominently and images for other recent posts displayed underneath.

I think it will be interesting to see the way in which user interface approaches developed for mobile devices start to migrate to a desktop environment.

In a post on Who let the blogs out? Steve discusses the new theme, with a tongue-in-cheek reference to a recent series of posts on the Context is King vs Context is King debate:

For all these years I have been focusing mainly on content. It was substance over style. Focusing solely on content at the expense of context is a mistake. 

Steve went on to describe the changes to the blog:

I gave my blog a makeover a few days cheap antibiotics ago. I invoked one of the new templates that Blogger has just started to offer its users. You can see the difference it has made.  …  It holds the content, and presents it in a manner that is more accessible, easy to explore and in a more dynamic way. 

The point about “accessible content” is important, I feel, particularly in the context of accessibility for people with disabilities, which often focusses on support for Assistive Technologies (AT). But since the content hosted on blogs is available as RSS feeds, this enables end users much greater flexibility in reading blog content in ways which reflect their own personal preferences, some of which may be determined  by particular disabilities.  So for me the accessibility challenge when presented with more graphical and flexible interfaces such as the one that can be seen on Steve’s blog is the ease by which such content can be rendered by AT tools, possibly including tools which don’t support JavaScript. It is good to see that the blog is felt to conform with accessibility guidelines according to WAVE (based, of course, on only checking guidelines which can be tested with automated tools) although the blog does not conform with HTML standards.

It will be interesting to see if developments such as this theme, which is provided on the Blogger.com platform, owned by Google, will challenge traditional views on the importance of HTML conformance and Web accessibility guidelines. I would be interested to find out if the content of the blog can be made available to AT tools whilst still providing the new interface for those who prefer this way of interacting with continually the updated content we often find on blogs.

I should add that Steve’s blog can be read on my iPod Touch and Android phone using apps such as Pulse. This makes me wonder if we can regard such devices as AT tools for users who may, for example, find it difficult to make use of desktop computers?