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Month: March 2011

Designing a website: Top 15 things to consider for web accessibility

Here are the main things to think about when designing a website:

  1. Maintain a design and layout consistency throughout the site,
  2. Avoid clutter,
  3. Include written transcript for any audio and visual media,
  4. Avoid multiple level menus. Do not have more than two levels,
  5. Include a sitemap when your site has embed pages,
  6. Avoid making the width of content too large,
  7. Any one link should have the same title,
  8. Make the titles of the pages clear,
  9. Content must be simple and to the point (Especially if your target audience is broad.),
  10. Do not add default value in form fields,
  11. Make sure that the colours of the background and foreground are well contrasted,
  12. Have a decent font-size. (14px is good.),
  13. Avoid images with text on them,
  14. Don’t use “Read more” links, instead use “Read more about THE TITLE OF THE PAGE”,
  15. All links in the content should be underlined.

Maintain a design and layout consistency throughout the site

I have rarely seen an effective switch in design or layout within the same site. If it is absolutely required, make all changed subtle. Having differences in webpages of one site can be confusing and frustrating for a visually-impaired person and even for a new visitor. A visually-impaired person often uses a screen reader to read the content of the site to them. If within the same site the structure of the site changes from one page to the other, it can be disorienting. The norm is to maintain the same look and feel throughout a site, your new visitor might feel lost when jumping to another page with a completely different look.

Avoid clutter

Keep the layout as clear as possible. This makes it easier for the visitor to find the destination they are looking for.

Include written transcript for any audio and visual media

It’s fair to say that this demand is not obvious to produce. But it’s not fair to those who do not possess all senses. Food for thought!

Avoid multiple level menus. Do not have more than two levels

Not only do multiple level menus often not work properly in different browser, especially older ones, but they are very hard to navigate by keyboard only. Next time you see a multiple level menu try going through the menu by click on the tab key on your keyboard. You’ll see, it won’t be easy to get to the third level or even the second level.

Include a sitemap when your site has embed pages

If your site does have many sub-pages within a page, make it easier for your visitor to get to those pages through a complete sitemap.

Avoid making the width of content too large

When the width of a paragraph is too long, it is often harder on the eyes. The reader gets tired more quickly. Those affected may include people with learning disabilities, newbies, but even people with no known deficiencies.

Any one link should have the same title

You should avoid having the same link with different titles. For example, the link to the contact page with the title “Contact us” should not named “Reach us” elsewhere. We want to avoid any type of confusion that the visitor may encounter.

Make the titles of the pages clear

Be as accurate as possible when naming your pages. Think that you will be using these titles as your page’s main heading.

Content must be simple and to the point

Do not be verbose. Use lists whenever possible. Keep your sentences short. Use words effeciently. Read the W3C Writing Style section.

Do not add a default value in the text input field

The label of the text input field should be enough as to determine the desired input.

Make sure that the colours of the background and foreground are well contrasted

Colour contrast can be measured with applications like the Contrast Analyser by The Paciello Group. Download the application, install it and with the pipette determine if your chosen background and foreground colours satisfy the required contrast ratio.

Have a decent font-size

Make it as easy as possible to read your content. For a font like Arial, use a font-size of 14px.

Avoid images with text on them

If you must have text in your images, make sure to describe the image in the alt attribut.

Don’t use “Read more” links

Instead of linking to your full page with the very commun “Read more” link or the like add the title of what you are linking to. So if the title of the page the link is directing to is called “The Greatest Article Ever” have your link be “Read more about The Greatest Article Ever”. It might be redundant for sighted people, but when you consider that these links might be read out of context by screen reader, then it makes sense.

All links in the content should be underlined

In terms of usability, we want to inform the visitor when a textual information is linked to another page. Making the link a different colour may be indistinguishable to visitors with color blindness.

Many of these points have other implications when implemented in practice. We’ll leave those for another post.

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