Bookmark: Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites

Great insight from actual accessibility testing: Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Web Sites (via Mike Davidson)

Published January 18, 2005 · Updated September 17, 2005
Categorized as Quick Links
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Eugene T.S. Wong said on January 19, 2005

In some ways, I found that article to be very unusable. I'm getting more and more frustrated by how people keep talking about good web pages, but don't put it into practise.

I usually surf with images set to "Cached images only" in Opera. Thus, it bothers me to have to load up many images for concepts that don't seem to make sense. I think that a picture is worth a thousand words, but somehow they seem to be forcing pictures on us. I find that very ironic for an article discussing accessibility.

Another thing that bothered me was the idea of repeated words. For example:
* information on foo
* information on bar
* information on biz
* information on baz
As a sighted user, I actually appreciate the repetitions. Each heading is clear on it's own without context, yet allows for easy scanning. The suggested solution makes it hard for sighted users to scan when the words are even in length. For example:
* supercalafragalistic - information on supercalafragalistic
* ixpy - information on ixpy
* aladocious - information on aladocious
That's bad also because it adds to the bloat of a page. I would have rather been told of a css method such as using :before and content() to insert text.

Another thing that I disagree with is the idea that words like "updated" should not be repeated. That information is there for a reason. I couldn't imagine how you'd convey that to someone who needed updated information.

There were more things in there that made me uncomfortable, but I'm trying to forget it. ;^)

That being said, some of the positive things include, "Skip" and "Skip To Main Content". I didn't write it out as the authors did, but hopefully it'll be as good or better. I've already implemented it on 1 of my sites, so that I won't have to search the article. I must say that a code example would have been much clearer in this situation. I used:
name="Skip To Main Content"
Was that what they were talking about?

I'm glad that they mentioned pronunciation. That would have never occurred to me that that was a problem.

Another good thing was the reminder to not use "blue bullet" as values of alt. No matter how obvious that is to me, I always appreciate it.

I also appreciate what they said about simple web pages. I feel vindicated actually. I usually try to design pages so that they will be complete in and of themselves. I try to avoid putting any extra information in them. In other words, I actually want people to use the back-button.

I'd like to add 1 more complaint. I think that overall the article seems to be asking us to cater to their every whim, desire, and little inconvenience. A better solution would be to make a web site devoted solely to helping them learn to use their web browsers, software and the Internet. This could be useful for sighted users as well. In fact, I'd appreciate a sight like that. It could explain things like "Skip Navigation".

Don't get me wrong, though. I think that this topic is very important and needs to be discussed much more. I really appreciated this article.

Jonathan Snook said on January 22, 2005

Actually, I wanted to address a couple things that you mentioned Eugene.

First is name="Skip to Main Content". What they were referring to was the text in the link as opposed to the link in the anchor. The link in the anchor is irrelevant. This is an example of their suggestion:

<a href="#main">Skip to Main Content</a*gt;

The second was the idea of changing "information on foo" to "foo - information on foo".

I think you may have misinterpreted things. The idea isn't to pull out the keyword from the phrase and have it appear at the beginning. The idea is to reword things such that the subject is at the beginning instead of the end.

For example, "if you have trouble finding stuff, check out the Search" could be reworded to "Search - find what you're looking for". We don't repeat things but the topic is now at the beginning of the sentence instead of the end.

Anyways, that was my interpretation of things. :)

Eugene Wong said on January 23, 2005

Hi again.

I think that you were right. It makes more sense when I read it the way that you interpreted it.

Regarding that idea of putting keywords at the beginning of the line, I think that that may prove to have better spin-offs. For example, instead of these 2 headings...
* Volunteer - where do I volunteer for adult education?
* Where do I volunteer for adult education?
...we might be better off with this heading.
* Volunteer - where, adult, education
This should prove to be more efficient for sighted speed reading. I think that the main challenge is getting used to it. It makes sense, though, because every section should have some kind of summary. Each of those keywords could be wrapped in span elements, and given some kind of class that could help in speed reading. If screen readers had a scan mode, then they could look for standardized elements or classes, in all headers, so that the user could get a good summary of a long page in less than a minute.

After posting my first comment above, I put a lot of thought into why they have so much trouble with text. After all, they can only listen to 1 word a time, just as we can only read a word at a time. It suddenly dawned on me that we have the advantage of peripheral vision. Peripheral vision allows us the benefits of colour and shape.

Unsighted users don't have that. I think that we can compensate for that 1 day, by adding various sounds to inform the user that there are other elements on the screen. For example, to let the user know that there is a search box on the screen, we could play classical music. To let the user know that there is a small floating text box nearby, we could have a child recite that text and repeat it over and over, until the box scrolls off the screen. As boxes and elements get closer, the sounds get louder and as the elements go past the focus, the sounds get softer. It would be like the dopler effect.

Another way of thinking this new technique would be think of it as a convention. Overall, it is very loud and overwhelming. When you focus, you hear people. The people equate to other design elements. The user should be able to pause which ever portion of the reading that he wishes so that he could switch focus to other parts of the page. I guess that it would also be like a party where all the guests are chatting at the same time, and the party goer switches from conversation to conversation.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post. If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to send them to me directly.