A standard is a standard is a standard. But what if those standards don’t work as directed?
Over time, I’ve come to the conclusion that Accesskeys are more harmful than good. Until browsers allow a user to override a document’s Accesskeys, I won’t use them.
The idea is a simple one: by using the
accesskey="n" attribute on specific links in your HTML, you define n as a hot key that allows keyboard access to that particular link. Mark Pilgrim has more on the syntax and usage of Accesskeys.
WATS.ca has written a series of in-depth articles (Is it Worth it?, More Reasons…, Accesskey Alternatives) that go into the problems with this seemingly simple idea. Executive summary: key conflicts with existing browsers/operating systems/user macros prevent Accesskeys from doing the job as described.
The problem has been stewing in the back of my mind for a while. But it really hit home last week: I received an e-mail from someone complaining about a specific conflict that has been bothering me personally.
Go to the Zen Garden in any browser that allows the ALT+D key combination to select the address bar (IE and most Gecko browsers will do the trick, Safari will not). Try selecting the address bar from the keyboard. Instead of doing so, some browsers will select the fourth design from the list on the right, since that list has been assigned sequential keys from ‘a’ to ‘h’.
The annoyance factor is high, and in some cases it may be downright harmful. Accesskeys are a good idea; too bad they’re not practical.