Saturday, October 11, 2008

Keyboard only navigation on websites

Suddenly on Friday evening you realize how important it is to have websites that can be navigated only with keyboard ... when you are trying to pay for overseas travel insurance for your grandmother and the mouse goes mad.

So mad that it shows following symptoms randomly and intermittently ...
1. Context menus open up in some corner of the screen you weren't even paying attention to.
2. Top panel suddenly becomes bottom panel.
3. Different windows jump between workspaces.
4. A document you had left open wants to scroll up and down endlessly.
5. After teasing you for about 15 minutes the mouse decides to click 'Lock Screen' shortcut on the top panel. :-(

I was so irritated by this erratic behaviour that I had to unplug the mouse to actually be able to work.
Since the website designer decided to make main navigation (seen after login) using javascript, there was no way to select the transaction in queue in absence of a mouse. The accessibility preferences for mouse keys came to rescue but then it took me almost 20 minutes to finish the procedure that should have finished in 5 minutes. So much for misuse of web 2.0 technologies. :-(

On a side note the email service that boasts about keyboard shortcuts has no shortcut for adding attachment. What is worse is that the 'Attach File' link shown when composing an email is not even focusable. No matter how many times I press the tab key focus never reaches on the link.


Anonymous said...

The answer is simply: try Opera! :)
Complete keyboard support is integrated in the browser - and does not depend on the website.

Anonymous said...

Try Mouseless Browsing Firefox extension.

Jadd said...

I know Opera is closed source, but it is excellent for keyboard lovers. For example, if you search for a word using the . key, you can press enter to select the link and open it.

Jake said...

I hate to continue the broken record, but Opera really is the way to go if you'd like to use the keyboard for navigating in any practical way.

Their spatial navigation feature is the only way I've found I can use the keyboard in a practical manner. It allows you to use the Shift+Arrow Keys to navigate links in the order they're rendered, instead of tab order.

Perhaps this functionality could be (or has been) added to other browsers via an extension?

ओंकार (Onkar) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ओंकार (Onkar) said...

@To all those who recommended Opera,

The problem with site was that the links to various sections are not at all standard <a> tags. The links are accessible only when you hover on the top navigation which pops up a javascript based menu. This menu contains the links.

Do you really think Opera can navigate such site too? If it really does then I must try Opera.


I will try mouseless browsing extension although I doubt it will solve the problem.


A similar functionality is present in Firefox as well. Only the shortcut for search is Ctrl + F.

1:00 PM

Anonymous said...

at the application level I may offer my HotKeys jQuery plugin see at

Nyiti (Gabor) said...

thanks for mentioning this problem! both the post and the comments have been very useful!