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Web Site Design Accessible Web Design

The most neglected areas in the world of web design are usability and accessibility. There are so many different people around the world with different browsers, different operating systems, different input devices, and in many cases different disabilities. All of these things make it extremely difficult to make sure a web site is easy to use for everyone. So most amateur designers don't bother, or are simply unaware of the problem. As a matter of fact, the problem is so widespread that the government has been forced to implement a legal requirement. All professional web sites must now be built with a basic accessability taken into account.


Web Site DesignUsability

Before we get to accessibility, let's discuss good old fashioned usability. No matter who is using your site or where, it makes sense that the information and the navigation should be presented as clearly, and intuitively as possible. This is from the school of human computer interaction (application design, not native to most web developers) that always assumes the worst. If people can get confused by your navigation, become disorientated, and get lost on your site, they will leave. If people 'break' your site by causing some error you never tested for then you lose their business, and potentially the business of everyone who follows until you fix the problem.


If you can't follow some basic rules of usability, then you can never even scratch the surface of accessibility.


The solution is keep your navigation simple, clearly labeled and don't let your site do anything confusing, convoluted, pointless or unexpected. Fancy Flash navigation systems might be fun to use for some, but for many a confusing distraction that is best avoided. Test your site thoroughly for both errors and usability, and get feedback on your designs.

Web Site DesignAccessibility

"You now have a legal obligation - following the implementation of section 21 of the Disability Discrimination Act - to make reasonable adjustments to ensure blind and partially sighted people can access your service." RNIB, 2005


The Royal National Institute fo the Blind has championed this issue, which has caused significant difficulties for blind users in the past. Blind people browse web pages using audio browsers that read the content, and it's navigation. The developer MUST design the web site with this in mind. It is easy to unwittingly create content that becomes garbled or unusable in such readers, so the developer must really consider this to the core, and right from the start.


The site must also be built to accommodate users with a physical disability that may prevent them from using input devices such as a mouse. Again, without specific attention paid to this area at development stages, a web site can become very difficult for these users to interact with.


Although the legislation covers users of your web site with physical and mental disibilities, Accessible design also covers what is termed "Technical Disibility". If a user is unable to use certain technology for whatever reason, then they should still be able to interact fully with your site wherever possible.


This is one reason why W3C compliance is so important, it ensures that the web site code is able to display consistantly on any standards compliant user agent.


The developer must also take care not to rely too heavily on things like Javascript, CSS Styles or images to convey important information, without providing an alternative.


Accessible web sites are graded as follows:

A - The absolute minimum acceptable level of compliance with accessibility guidelines (Offered free by A Web Design).

AA - Or Double-A. This is considered to be the preferred level of compliance with accessibility guidelines.

AAA - Or Triple-A. This is considered to be the optimum level of compliance with accessibility guidelines.

If you don't have time to read all of the articles, or if you would like to discuss any of these matters further,
Call on 0800 0680248, or email!

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