I am quite thrilled to have a standards compliant and decent new version of Internet Explorer 8 produced by Microsoft. It is absolutely different from its predecessors and good enough to be praised by lots of standards devotees. I am sure that all the users who are stick to the old school version 6 or 7 do not have any reason of hesistating to upgrade. Now there would be a very exciting browser war among star browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and some more. With the launch of new Internet Explorer, I tested two things as a keyboard user. The keyboard usability is highly important especially for some group of people including users with screen readers, users with motor disabilities, users with screen magnifiers, and users with mobile devices. The result of the test was unsatisfactory and I hope to see a fix of this soon.
Keyboard navigation within a page problem
This is a well known bug in the previous version of Internet Explorer and I stated this in the other post: The next tab navigation goes wrong after the activation of a skip navigational link within a page. Developers used some work-arounds to avoid this same-page navigation problem. I expected to see an improvement of this troublesome issue in Internet Explorer 8 but it sitll has the same bug. You can identify this problem by yourself at this testing page. Safari and Chrome have the same bug and only some Gecko based browsers (i.e. Firefox, SeaMonkey, etc) work exactly as expected today. Opera works differently according to the viewport size. It works very unique way and its keyboard navigation between links (Shift + arrow keys) is dependent on how much you see within a page. Hopefully I would like to deal with this Opera’s unique problem later.
Keyboard navigation between two frames problem
This is more subtle and has not been issued a lot since framed web pages are not used often in standards friendly web development these days. The problem is like this. When you activate a link in a frame whose target is in the other frame, the focus should be jumped into the other frame. Unfortunately there is no modern visual browser which support this. Although you activate the link in the first frame, you are still in the first frame and by pressing the tab again, you will be directed to the next link in the same frame. Look at this cropped frames sample page from University of North Texas.
The link in the picture, “Links Challenge” has “right” as the target attribute and it causes a change in the right frame. When you navigate this page with keyboard only, it is natural to continue your tab navigation in the “right” frame after selecting the “Links Challenge” link in the left frame. In reality, however, when you press the tab key again after “Links Challenge” is activated, you will be directed to the “Images Challenge” within the same frame not “Skip Navigation” link in the target frame. In short, in the picture, path “a” is wrong way and path “b” is the right way to navigate with the keyboard. Unfortunately there is no visual browsers (at the time of this writing) who support the path “b” and only two screen readers, JAWS and Home Page Reader make up for this and they will lead you to follow path b according to Jim Thatcher.