AKS won't help you

At least if you are a Dutch SharePoint developer and you’re supposed to deliver a fully Webrichtlijnen compliant, SharePoint based Internet facing site solution.

Earlier this week I’ve attended the presentation of HiSoftware AKS @TechEd Developers Barcelona. As they are busy with it quite for some time now without sharing any useful information I’ve been very interested and expecting quite a lot from the session. Every SharePoint developer knows that SharePoint’s rendering engine is disastrous and it’s definitely challenging just getting it right. Anyway there was this session…

'Building Accessible Web Sites Using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and the Accessibility Kit for SharePoint'

First of all the HiSoftware guy didn’t show up at all ­– kind of perfect presentation of your own product isn’t it? Then there was that introduction by Ben Robb. Quite comprehensive but out of scope though: the subject was actually focusing on SharePoint instead of introduction to web accessibility and compliancy. It’s definitely important to point out the most important reasons and business cases but that’s it.

As I’ve already mentioned guys from HiSoftware have spent quite some time so far on developing the toolkit. And what we’ve seen on the demo? Rewritten SharePoint CSS and a few control adapters only! You have probably heard that they are first planning the release of the solution targeting Internet facing sites. Now how many of you actually use the beautiful BlueBand and the original Web Parts? I don’t.

Does it mean it’s all just for nothing? To quote Ted Pattison: ‘It depends’. AKS will eventually consist of not only the adapters and other customized files but will also have some heavy documentation like best practices and guidelines. It still might be useful in some scenarios.

The 1.1 version of the toolkit certainly will – at least it’s what I hope. The second release is targeted to the collaboration part of SharePoint and we all know it’s quite difficult to customize any of the views of other heavy collaboration controls.

So where do you fit in all that as a Dutch SharePoint developer?

If you have no experience with accessibility at all AKS will definitely give you a nice start off. But it won’t solve your problems. You see Webrichtlijnen requires WCAG 1.0 Priority 2+ compliancy AND fully valid (X)HTML + CSS. Since AKS targets WCAG 1.0 Priority 2 and does absolutely nothing about the invalid markup produced by SharePoint you will eventually end up trying to gain any control on the rendered output or just giving it up and choosing for another CMS. If you have read my previous post I have quite a different point of view on the whole problem. It works for me and I can prove it. What I’ve heard just recently is that the Dutch Information Worker User Group is interested in my approach and the way I have tackled the challenges. Who knows where that might end.