Picture yourselves in a village by the shores of the Red Sea with deep blue waters.
We know that there's people in the water, there's mountains in the background, there's white buildings and umbrellas.
Does anyone know actually where this scene is?
Has anyone been in the room?
Did anyone watch The Deepest Breath on Netflix?
So this place that's on the screen right now is Dahab, which is a village in the Red Sea, like I said.
That's the Mecca of scuba diving and free diving.
You know, there's goats, more goats than humans.
It's super relaxed.
It has a really hippie vibe and I absolutely love it.
And another reason why I love it is that wherever you are, even if you're like half a meter from the shore in the water there, you're in this wonder world, this magical underwater world with gorgeous sea creatures dancing in the sun rays just above, super colourful and just above this amazing coral reef.
I am personally at my happiest when I'm in the water, so I just love being in Dahab.
And when I was there, I decided that I wanted to take up free diving.
That means diving on one single breath without any breathing equipment at all, because I wanted to do more than just snorkel.
I wanted to glide among the fishes.
I wanted to practice meditation, emotion.
I wanted to explore the depths and I just wanted to feel as one with the magical underwater world.
So what happens when you do a basic free diving course is that they give you all the safety information that you need to get in a safe classroom environment and then they take you to the water.
And that's where my dreams of being a silver hair maid maid completely came crashing down really, really quickly, because unfortunately I discovered very soon that I couldn't equalise, so I couldn't make my ears pop.
So what happens when you go under the water and it actually happens really quickly, like within the first half metre or metre, the pressure increases exponentially.
It's a real shock to the system.
And I just couldn't do it.
My ears under water hurt too much to make them pop.
Now, in free diving, this is what you do, you go vertically down a rope, which is very scary, very exciting.
It's quite nice to just hang out there, not breathing.
It's a wonderful type of meditation, but there was no way I could go any further than a couple of metres.
And even so, really at the expense of terrible pain in my ears, it just wasn't worth it.
And the instructors actually got worried and said, you need to see a specialist.
And because this is Dahab, which is the mecca of free diving, here you got a wonderful picturesque shot of the Sinai mountains behind and the palm trees and the beautiful village, which I invite you to visit.
So this specialist working specifically with divers examined me and he asked me, where do you live?
And at the time I lived in London, so I said, I live in London and I cycle everywhere.
And he said, that figures.
You have a chronic inner ear infection due to pollution.
You may train your ears to withstand the pressure with time and it would actually help to scuba dive because instead of doing this brutal, brutal thing to your system, you sort of go down in steps.
But even that would take years.
So, you know, basically sucks.
And I'm like, thank you, Boris Johnson, mayor from hell, thank you, thanks a lot.
So I was gutted, really.
I was so disappointed that my dream of swimming with fishes was just destroyed.
But then, you know, you move on.
I was living in London, I got back and I actually never thought that this problem would affect me in any other way in my everyday life.
I'm fine swimming, you know, I can do everything.
And also I don't have balance issues.
I skate, so you know, never noticed anything else that would affect me.
Okay, then fast forward to just a few months ago, a waiting room in a hospital in Spain where I live now.
I was waiting for some test results.
And I had been waiting for about a couple of hours.
You know what hospitals are like, they put you under this terrible neon light.
And by the end of the second hour, I had a major fainting fit.
I just I had to rip my mask off and it's sort of what's that series called?
Grey's Anatomy, you know, and like, like that I had to pull it off.
I felt dizzy like I never had in my life before, crumpled on the floor in a heap and I felt really, really sick.
And I have to say that's quite a good idea to do that in a hospital because they, they someone scoots me up, they willed me away, they put me in a bed, they put a drip in, they took some more blood to do some specific tests.
And I was just lying there feeling very sorry for myself because I had no idea what was going on.
But I was feeling really sick.
And after a while, they got back.
And they just said to me, look, there's absolutely nothing wrong with you.
Actually, at your age, you were expecting something but nothing.
So you know, please, can you leave?
We you know, just occupy space.
Thanks very much.
And I was in a ward at this point.
So the light is not as strong, but it's still there.
So I called my niece to come and pick me up.
And I was like, I'm not very, I'm still not feeling very well.
So they put me in a wheelchair and they willed me to the entrance, where, guess what, they put me underneath one of those lights again.
So, so, like within 20 seconds, here I was feeling just as sick as I had before my niece appeared like a like a mirage, like a miracle.
In the doorway.
I was like, let's go away instantly because I knew that they couldn't do anything for me anyway.
So we got into the taxi.
And within 100 meters, I said, please stop.
And I had to stop by the side of the road, relieve the contents of my stomach.
And I really apologise for the gory detail, but I need you to understand just how sick I was feeling.
So, I mean, at least I spared you a photo.
But once I got better, because I got home and then I was kind of I was fine after a few hours.
And I researched a bit further and I realised I found out that, you know, neon lights just shouldn't really exist.
But light sensitivity is very common for people affected by vestibular disorders.
And neon lights specifically have a flickering frequency that can and often does trigger episodes just like mine.
So on the same day of this discovery, I went out for a coffee with a friend in a cup to a cafe near my studio.
And guess what?
They had made the same dubious choice of decoration as the hospital.
So within 10 minutes of sitting there, I realised there was something wrong.
And I was out of there like a shot, because I was overwhelmed by this terrible wave of nausea again.
So there's no doubt left now, I have what is called a vestibular disorder.
I should have known really, because I was diagnosed in 2015 by a major expert in the field.
But I just had not made the connection.
I thought my problem was that I couldn't free dive.
And it's like, well, there's worse things in life.
So I just didn't think it affected my me unless I was in the water trying to dive.
So from the Ally Project website, this is how they explain the vestibular system.
Your vestibular system is the sensory mechanism in the inner ear that detects movement of the head and helps to control balance.
Luckily, that's not affected for me, at least when I walk and skate.
Then it goes on to explain that people with vestibular disorders have a problem with their inner ear, which affects their balance as well, crucially, their visual perception of the world around them.
That's what my problem is.
So even though I left London seven years ago, and now I live in a much less polluted environment, thankfully, but clearly, so my condition has improved because actually now I can dive.
But it's still there.
Because that was my big light bulb moment.
Finally, I have a good, sound, solid medical reason why I hate animations on the web.
And not just the cantankerous old fart resisting innovation.
There's a medical reason behind it.
So I have a sound base for my dislike.
And suddenly I was like, right, okay.
So this is worth it to walk, I think.
Because in short, and I'm really sorry if somehow you identify or recognize something you've done in the past, even very recent past, but in short, your gifs and your animations literally make me sick.
I am really sorry.
That's what happens.
It's especially the loop that does it.
So this is actually a disability that you can't see.
And for some, it's truly quite disabling.
And it's invisible.
It's one of the invisible disorders.
And by the way, it's definitely not just me.
Because I went and researched a bit further and found out that 35 or US adults age 40 plus, around 69 million, present evidence of vestibular dysfunction.
Someone much more clever than me found this out.
So, you know, and that's by the way, for context, more or less the population of Thailand.
Then 8 million, 4% of US adults, which is about 8 million people, which is a tad less than the population of London, report chronic balance problems.
1.1% report chronic dizziness. 80% age 65 plus have experienced dizziness.
Now, before you, if you are starting to think that this doesn't affect the young, let me tell you that it's not just us oldies, because also they are affected by reckless web movement.
About 2.2 billion people with a vision disability can be affected. 75 million people on the autistic spectrum.
That's more than the population of the UK. 50 million people with epilepsy. 78 million people with dyslexia.
I think that you catch my drift.
We could carry on.
Because in short, your GIFs and your animations are making billions of us sick.
So, as I was preparing this talk and thinking about these things, I was I asked myself, isn't this already obvious?
Doesn't everybody in my eyes laughing?
But I just thought if you work in UX, would you not be aware of accessibility?
Would you not think about these things if you work in the industry?
Am I preaching to the converted?
And then I should specify that I work a lot in the WordPress environment.
I've got friends from there here, which is lovely.
And so, I received an email from WordPress Granada, which is a city that I love to visit.
So, I thought maybe I'll go to the meetup.
And this is the email.
Maybe I should start.
So, here I was.
Completely helpless, hopeless, unable to stop any of these animations.
And I'm unable to actually take in any of the information in the email.
Because I couldn't literally see the words for the GIFs, basically.
So, funny enough, the person who sent this email is a friend.
And we're gonna share a car on Wednesday from Helsinki airport.
So, there's hope yet.
But he knows about this.
So, the question I'm gonna ask you a question, actually.
Are GIFs good or evil?
Clearly a lot of people think that GIFs are great.
Who thinks they're slightly evil?
There's a few people there.
Not that many.
But there's hope yet.
By the way, I don't think they are.
I mean, I am kind of joking.
For instance, does anybody remember this?
This was personally the first GIF I ever saw.
I believe it was 1995.
This was a website for Batman Forever by the legendary Jeffrey Zeltman.
And I think it was the first GIF I ever saw.
And I honestly never thought that they would be...
I mean, it was super exciting.
We saw it in 95.
I was still getting used to actually seeing things in color on a computer screen, let alone things moving.
So, it was wonderful.
And I thought, you know, amazing.
The world we're living in loved it.
There's another question that comes natural to me now.
And that is, is animation indispensable in this day and age?
And better said, can we be creative without animation being the protagonist?
And taking it further, this question for me naturally evolves into, can we be creative and accessible?
So, last year I gave a talk to a Spanish audience about accessibility.
It was generic.
But I did mention a few things.
Obviously, I mentioned animation.
And a lot of people...
It was followed by a stimulating and interesting conversation after.
And quite a few people, especially designers, were saying to me, if you ask us to be accessible, you're asking us to stop being creative.
And I was like, what?
And they basically equated accessibility with having to let go of creativity.
So, once again, do you think that the two are mutually exclusive?
Can accessibility be creative and beautiful?
Show of hands.
A lot of people.
Not everyone, though.
So, the point is that in the conversation that I mentioned, a lot of those people that were bringing up the issue equated creativity with animation.
That's what they thought was necessary on the web today to do creative stuff.
So, in fact, personally, I can think of hundreds of thousands, and I'm probably underestimating, of things that are beautiful and creative without using animation.
This on the screen right now is a detail from a painting by the Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch, active in the 16th century.
And it's a painting that's completely crazy.
It's very unirical.
It's a parade of animals and humans doing weird things.
Some of the animals are very realistic.
Some of them are at a completely wrong scale.
Like, there's a robin over here that's way bigger than the very sad man crouching next to it.
There are some magical, fantastic creatures such as a sort of a creature with the hind legs of a dog and the front of a falcon.
So, it's crazy.
It's very bizarre.
Would you call it creative?
I think it is creative.
Does it move?
It doesn't move at all.
Nothing in it is animated or needs to be animated.
Because, you know, if we needed animation in order to have creativity, then we might as well set fire to the Prado where this painting is hosted, or, you know, why not Sink Museum Island?
We could just do that while we're at it.
So, the world is full of marvellous museums, full of completely static masterpieces of imagination and skill.
And actually, I do know that, strictly speaking, this painting is not accessible.
Because someone who is blind cannot see it.
So, can we make this accessible?
I think we can.
And I'll show you how.
This painting on the screen now is by an Italian medieval artist called Vitale da Bologna, active in Bologna in the second half of the 14th century.
This is a small painting, it's probably 40 by 30, something like that, centimetres, I'm saying.
And it depicts Saint George slaying the dragon.
Now, if you want to make it possible for someone who can't see this painting to enjoy it, you can describe it in detail.
And you can start from saying that the horse, so Saint George is a knight in red armour rather than shiny.
And he's on a grey horse that's in mid-gallop with the head thrown back that creates a lovely counterpoint with the arms of the knight.
And the knight is sparing the head of a dragon laying on the ground.
And there's a woman peering in from the right, she's wearing a pink tunic and a crown.
And you could go way further into detail because I've actually not been very specific.
By the way, one thing that I love about this artist and about this painting is that I think that we must remember something, that in this day and age, in the Middle Ages, artists had no freedom.
That it didn't exist, even what we saw earlier that Bosch did, that kind of, I don't think that was a commission, it came from his imagination.
At this time in history, painters could only paint what they were asked to paint and paid to paint.
Usually it was a commission by the church or by a rich patron who wanted a religious subject.
So there was nothing else that you could do.
So anything that is more creative, because either in the posture or in the dynamism of the blind, things like that, is hugely to be admired.
Sorry, it's a bit of an aside, but just thinking about what creativity means and what constraints do to creativity.
So back to us.
This is sort of, in a way, I've made it more accessible, I've described it, but there is a way to make it way more accessible if for someone who is actually in the building.
And this is it.
This painting has a 3D companion.
It's a completely faithful reproduction to the millimeter that is like a brial version of this painting that someone who can't see can touch to really understand what the painting is about.
And I absolutely love this.
I don't need it personally because I can see it, but nevertheless it delights me.
And I wish that this was the case for every single painting everywhere in the world.
So once more, for those in the back and those in the front, accessibility is essential for some and useful for all.
And in this case, even delightful.
So creative, delightful for everyone and 100% accessible.
Can we have creativity on the web that is the equivalent of the brial version of a painting?
So delightful and 100% accessible.
Okay, so I thought I need to research this.
How do I find out?
So I thought I'm going to go to the top websites in the world.
There are various websites of awards that I'm sure you're all familiar with.
One of them is the Webby Awards, for instance.
So I went there and also I want to make a very important disclaimer here.
I'm going to show you a few examples and I am not judging them at all whatsoever because these people never asked for my opinion.
I'm not giving an opinion.
I'm just showing you things from the point of view of accessibility and also of creativity.
But I am not judging because God knows there are lots of websites out there in the wild that have my name attached to them and not quite what I would want them to be.
So, you know, no judgment here.
So the first website, I didn't pick randomly.
I went and looked at winners for certain categories.
Now the first one that I looked at is the winner for the architecture arts and design category for 2022.
This is an educational website by the Getty Museum illustrating some extraordinary objects from an exhibition at the Getty Villa and it's on Mesopotamia.
This should work.
If it doesn't work, then I've got a backup plan, but this should take us seamlessly to the web.
No, it doesn't.
I mean, I can see it, but you can't.
So let's go back to could you see it?
So I'm going to play the video.
You can see it now.
And if I click.
So this is the video that I made over the website.
I'm very glad I did it now.
And basically all it is, it's a scroll animated 3D experience of what is in this room.
So you're shown pieces of art from all various angles.
So it's quite nice because the 3D allows you to see various sides that you wouldn't see in a flat description.
And then there's descriptions on the screen that tell you what you're looking at.
But let me just also explain that as you get closer to the objects and see more stuff and see more explanations written down, there's no other interaction possible.
It's not like you can change and decide, oh, I want to see that corner now.
All the scrolling does is it activates it.
It's like really pressing play on a video.
It's not much different from that.
So you catch the drift.
It's very educational.
You do learn a lot about Mesopotamia.
And so on.
But now a question arises for me.
Could this have been a video instead?
Did it need to be a website?
The important differentiation that we need to make now, Phil, that it's important to clarify that a web, a website, an app or a digital product exists to be interacted with.
We use them to learn something, to inform ourselves or to complete a task.
Whereas a video, a film, a moving image, piece of art or whatever, they exist to be passively received.
There's no interaction required.
This is a very important differentiation.
What we need to find out is, is the Mesopotamia website visible or invisible to someone who can't see?
I have a friend who's called Laza and he is blind from birth and has been using a screen reader since 2004.
Meeting him kind of changed my attitude to life in many ways because now I have an immediate kind of reference.
And it's changed the way even I deliver my talks, for instance.
But that's another story.
So I asked him to please check the website, the Getty website that we just saw.
And his response, just copied and pasted, was that this is an extremely inaccessible website, the screen reader doesn't announce a single thing.
This site completely excludes people like Laza.
If it's an educational website, then I think that the answer now is that it should have been a video, because if it had been a narrated video, it would have been accessible.
And actually, why does it have to be a website when it's not really interactive?
Because you can't change anything about it.
So now the other what I'm going to show you now is I'm going to show you this time I kind of did go sort of randomly, because I have a theory that every single website in these awards websites is like this.
And every time I go and randomly pick, I get the same result.
So I may be wrong.
And again, not a judgment on what these people do at all.
They should start it.
Does it start it?
So this is nobody's touching anything.
This is something that just happens as you go on this website, which is a fantastically creative agency that does amazing stuff.
But when you go on your site, you're literally assaulted by all these things going on that you have no control over.
And that are completely inaccessible to Laza.
Clearly, he tested it again.
So now maybe you're asking yourselves, do I, Peach and Aaron Stage, hate animation?
Well, clearly, I don't, because I'm using it.
I'm using it on my own slides to build text, because the aim is to aid attention and visual cognition, but then they stop.
They don't go in an incessant loop.
And for instance, I recently had to use it for a client, because Music Patron is a new charity startup that connects.
It's a new way of, it's nothing like Patreon, but it does connect patrons with composers.
So the branding is these dots and the fact that they unite means the connection with the musician and so on.
But the thing is that, yeah, there's lots of subtle animations on that website that stop immediately.
So they don't bother me, which doesn't mean, maybe they bother someone else, but we did test and it tested really well.
And of course, I tested it with Laza, because I'm always like, oh my God, what will Laza say?
And he said that the Music Patron website is very accessible.
I'm actually surprised.
I don't know what he was expecting, but he said, well done.
And I'm like, phew, you know, result.
So at this point, let's look at animations again, because broadly speaking, there are two types of animation.
One is non-dynamic, non-interactive, which is GIF, autoplay or creative agencies websites that just jump at you.
The second type is dynamic, interactive and dependent on user input, such as the Mesopotamia website.
So you could say that in theory, the second type is the right type.
That's what we should aim for.
But wait a minute, because this doesn't always apply.
The Mesopotamia website was completely invisible to Laza.
So why did the Getty take the decision of creating a 3D animation on the web instead of a video?
I think, correct me if I'm wrong, I'm really interested in hearing what you think about it later, but I think it has to do with the fact that technological advances always shaped culture, art and design.
For instance, when oil painting came about, it was a game changer in art.
It completely changed the direction.
And I think that this applies to widespread use of animation on the web right now, not just for the technology, but also for the increased bandwidth, at least in the first world.
And also AI is changing things, but that's a different story.
The Getty won an award with that site.
I think that if it had been a video, probably they may not have won an award, but they did because it was a website.
And to me, this is a reflection that is very strictly connected with another one.
How have we come to equating creativity with visual effects?
Surely creativity expresses itself in a variety of ways.
It's not just visual, especially considering that visuals are actually invisible to so many people.
So, after all, why do we build digital products?
Those of us in the room that do that, mostly we build digital products in order to get customers or visitors or users to do what we want.
Conversions are what we're after.
And often that means just buy my shit.
You know, that's what we want.
Take, for instance, home insurance, which we all need, whether we're renting or we're homeowners, we need home insurance.
This is Aviva, which is one of the biggest insurers in the UK.
And let's say that we want home insurance.
So, we go get a quote for home insurance and we get to this screen.
Any other woman in the audience rather annoyed that I have to specify my relationship status while a man doesn't?
So, as a woman, I am out.
This form immediately makes me want to go away.
Then the rest of it is dull as dishwater, already annoys me again because I will willingly give you my date of birth if you tell me why you need it.
But just like the phone number, unless you tell me why, I won't give it to you.
Now, there's another insurance and I think let me just think which one.
Okay, this one is the second one is the video.
Yeah, that should be the one.
Now it's going to go rather fast.
But basically, yeah, faster than I would like.
So, look how they're using animation here very subtly and they're using also, look how there's a human contact.
We heard a lot about empathy before.
Maya made the AI, but I feel warm.
I feel like I'm actually compelled to keep filling the form because they're giving me little rewards as well as I fill it, like little tiny animations that I like or the way that they depict the things that I need or not.
And there's one thing that I really like that's coming next, how to find out who you're sharing your home with using the drinks analogy in a really nice creative way that's very subtle and very nice.
And it just makes me want to tell them everything about my life.
You know, I'm just Aviva.
I was out in a second and here I'm like, oh, please, Maya, can we make friends?
So, I think that, you know, you get my drift.
I think it's available in Germany as well.
So, we can move on from lemonade.
But the important thing once more is to check whether these websites, both of them are visible or invisible.
So, Laza checked them again and it was a pass for both sides.
But there's no doubt who I'm going with.
But there you go.
To me, lemonade, it really is a great example, a demonstration of how to be creative on the web.
Clearly, they have a lot of research behind, probably huge financial resources as well.
So, it's not like I understand that we don't all have that.
And sometimes we don't need that.
We don't need that much.
However, this really inspired me to try and use, redefine creativity because I have a past.
I have a past, I do.
Don't we all?
But I have a past as a purely creative artist.
And I am now redefining the notion of creativity.
So, I want to create similar experiences with my clients.
I don't have any to show yet, but I really hope to have some next year.
With the same kind of engagement and even more.
Anyway, but if you don't have the time or the means or the need to create anything like this, there's something else that you can do.
You could, for instance, use a concept.
A quick example, my own website needs to define now.
So, because I think it's fair enough that now I talk about myself having judged other people.
So, there we go.
So, a friend of mine suggested I use an expletive in my heading, my homepage, like a fucking good designer.
And that's nice, but I don't, you know, I'm queen of expletives.
If you've spent 15 minutes with me, you'll soon find out.
But I just thought it just comes off a little bit aggressive.
So, I countered with a rocking.
I thought that still has the vim and I feel represented by it.
So, I went with that.
And then I thought, wait a minute.
Years ago, when I was taking loads of photos still, I did a photo shoot with my niece and nephew, dressing them up as rock stars.
So, there you go.
My aptly named nephew Rocco, rocking it at six years of age.
So, sprinkle of punk rock ecstatic.
And this was my homepage.
So, is it groundbreaking?
Is it a little bit more imaginative than others?
By the way, I just wanted to say that also the punk design was very much influenced by the technology of the time.
So, there's the photocopies, the printing inks and so on.
It's very much connected to that.
So, if you go to my website now, it has accessibility issues.
I know already.
I'm working on it.
Would a sprinkle of animation actually make this a bit better?
Yes, it would.
I think it would be really good fun if the lightning struck him.
That would be quite good fun.
Am I gonna do it?
Is it urgent?
But, yeah, if I decided that I wanted to do it, that I wanted to add a little bit of animation, then I would make sure that it's animation that somehow improves the UX.
Good animation reduces cognitive load.
It improves decision making.
It helps the storytelling.
It improves usability.
And it entertains and delights.
Doesn't have to do all of these things at the same time.
Sometimes one is enough.
You don't really need more than that.
But just as long as you don't destroy the UX with animation, it takes away options, that takes away agency, that takes away well being, as loops do to me.
That doesn't add much because it doesn't really bring anything to the table.
And is completely inaccessible.
So, I think that the main thing for me is the lack of agent.
If I can I love GIFs.
Please give me a button so I can stop them.
That's the only thing.
That's really because otherwise I love them just like everybody else does.
There's a simple couple of guidelines that you can use.
The question number one is, will this animation meaningfully improve the experience?
When you are confronted with whether to use animation or not, ask yourself this question.
If the answer is yes, do it.
If the answer is no, don't do it.
Then the second guideline is, second question to ask yourself is, will this animation make the whole site invisible to someone?
As was the case with the Gatti website.
If the answer is yes, don't do it.
If the answer is no, do it.
Really, really simple.
But if you do do it, make sure, once again, a few simple rules.
That you follow the pause, stop, hide, wicker guideline.
That you set the animation not to contain either blinking or flashing.
That you set all text or captions wherever possible as well.
Because those are essential for those who can't see to know what's going on.
That you switch for a non-auto play video.
That is a must, please.
And always ask yourself at the end of everything, could you use a still image instead?
Because when we create an interaction, it needs to be usable.
To be creative and accessible, we must remember that when we create a website or an app, we're not creating a visual display or a piece of art.
That has completely different rules.
We're creating an interactive tool.
Something that's there for humans to use.
So, interaction needs to be accessible.
Because these tools need to be usable by everybody.
Everybody needs to be able to interact with them regardless of their ability.
And let's say once more, with a granddaddy of us all, Tim Berners-Lee, who said that the power of the web is in its universality.
Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.