On content, context, and accessibility

As far as accessibility is concerned, there are some things which are pretty much universal. For example, nobody likes to read text in a tiny red font on a black background. Almost everyone would prefer less complicated user interfaces and pretty much all users would like to keep the number of steps that must be carried out before any task to a minimum.

When it comes to accessing information on the web (or on specific systems on the web), we have a number of models at work. There is the folder system which depends on categorisation for purposes of context. Then there are tags or labels which free content up from the confines of rigid categories and make context into something that grows organically.

And finally, we have something of an old hat -- keywords. The keyword system is what Google uses to index content on the world wide web. Under this system, content itself provides context. In the early days of search, HTML pages relied on keywords to define themselves, but things have changed now and how Google sees your web page depends on what the content on your web page is about.

From the user's perspective, the keyword method is the most hassle-free. In order to access information, I need not remember folder names or browse through a tag cloud. All that is required of me is to search. When Google started to branch out from its search roots, it kept the focus on the keyword method. A large search bar dominates Gmail, Google docs, Blogger, and a lot of other Google services. The idea is to make things accessible.

Of course, there are limits to this method. For example, video content can't be readily assigned context on the fly (at least with present day technology) and requires some manner of categorisation and tagging in order for it to make sense to a search engine. Also, it is not as if content readily offers itself to clear interpretation when search bots visit. The keyword method depends on technological innovation; unlike the tagging method which is powered by human effort. Your ability to easily search for information depends on a whole lot of back-end turning of cogs. In fact, tagging is vital specifically because these back-end cogs aren't entirely reliable from the human standpoint.

But when the database being accessed is a relatively small one (this blog for example), the keyword method might seem like the best bet. You can't rely on me to tag every post I write appropriately. You can't be bothered to sift through a complicated tag cloud. The search bar is your best bet.