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Whitehouse.gov Usability: The Web Wing

From: Andrew Arch <amja@optushome.com.au>
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 19:55:34 +1000
Message-ID: <00a901c13aa7$e701f860$ca2ba4cb@lowrp1.vic.optushome.com.au>
To: "EOWG" <w3c-wai-eo@w3.org>
Ok North Americans, how come everyone's picking on the White House this
week? On a serious note, doesn't S-508 apply to the top site? Seems to make
a bit of a farce of the legislation.


WebReference FEATURE:
Whitehouse.gov Usability: The Web Wing

Along with a new administration we get a new and hopefully
improved Web site for the nation's first house, Whitehouse.gov.
President Bush's staff has eliminated much of the previous
administration's content and reworked the design. The new site,
although faster loading, still has some usability issues.
Hopefully by exploring the usability and design problems of this
prominent public site, we can show you what to watch out for in
your next redesign.

The new design is definitely an improvement over the old one
(remember those big oval buttons?). It has some good content,
short blurbs for new stories, and a tighter layout. The page
nearly fits into one screen, a big improvement over the old one.
For navigation the page uses more text than graphics. This makes
it more accessible. However, some common usability problems

1. Fixed FONT sizes are used rather than relative
2. Fixed table widths (horizontal scrolling)
3. Too many graphics (slow load), non-working rollovers (Mac)
4. Overdone ALT text (Don't Make Me Think!)
5. Glaring HTML errors (</HTML> starts the source)
6. A hard-to-read cursive font
7. Inconsistent navigation

Using one big and complex fixed-width TABLE makes for a slow
initial load  (25 seconds to see anything at 31Kbps). Unoptimized
HTML and perhaps worst of all numerous blocks of unused commented
HTML bloat the home page unnecessarily.

A quick check with Websitegarage.com shows poor load time, and fair
browser compatibility and HTML design. 72 HTML objects to grab and
a total of nearly 90K for the home page make for a slow load over
today's average connection speed, 56Kbps. I want to see where
President Bush is now, not wait around for his page to load.

Some possible solutions would be to:

1.  Use relative font sizes  (let the user decide how to size fonts)
1a. Use CSS to control font sizes - linked stylesheet sitewide would
     make for easier maintenance
2.  Use relative TABLE widths (fluid tables fit in more screens)
3.  Consolidate nav bar graphics into one client/server side ISMAP
4.  Tighten up ALT text (easier to understand with graphics off/Lynx)
5.  Validate your HTML
6.  Use a more legible font for graphic text, or use straight text
     and CSS hover, or table/DIV rollovers
7.  Clean up navigation, have a usability audit (home page link on
     home page?)
8.  Even better, use CSS to layout the page for newer browsers

Shouldn't this page set an example for other pages, especially
.govs?  What about section 508 of the ADA? Don't just take my
word for it, other usability experts agree.

LA Times/Useit.com/Ben Henick Weblog, Sep. 3, 2001
Received on Tuesday, 11 September 2001 06:03:58 UTC

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