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RE: Slashdot: How should Govt sites be designed

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2000 17:49:25 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: "Pawley, Neil" <neil.pawley@ccta.gsi.gov.uk>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

	Dunno whether it will do either of us any good, but put a good amount of
time today into studying your site. I sent a humourous reply just before I
left work, but don't see that it's come through yet ...

	First of all, the desire to limit bandwidth isn't a good reason to not
illustrate your site so it can be used by your citizenry. I think I
estimated to someone onlist that you are probably shutting out 20% of your
citizenry. How many are online and using the web I cann't guess, but on our
side of The Big Puddle, the people of lesser cognitive and reading skills
are coming online in large numbers both because the cost of computers is
now well under $1,000 and because they can also access the web without a
computer, using a TV. I don't know if these things are happening in
Scotland or not. Also, on our side of The Big Puddle, schools and families
with small children are using the web for instructional purposes, and
"everyone knows" you ALWAYS illustrate instructional materials for kids. 

	In studying your homepage, I think you are trying to help users select an
index to the information in the site. You have an Organizational Index, a
Topic Indes, a Government Pathfinder, and a search mechanism. In the even
the user is a browser whose visited before and only wants to see what's
been added since last visit, you provide both What's New and Latest Sites.
I'm not sure what users are expected to choose "Top 10 sites" ... 

	Adding the Usability category to the home page is interesting, and
appropriately placed below the important information, if I was a user of
Netscape 6, I still wouldn't know how to invoke the "WAI initiative", tho
your description of the IE4 & 5 keystrokes is informative. 

	I could pick apart some of the text that is far from "clear and simple",
but may run afoul of differences in use of language between you and me. So,
unless you want specifics, I'll suggest that you often write text for the
page as if you are talking to other web designers, not the general populace! 

	Oh, a minor point: the site is titled "open.gov.uk", but entering that
sequence in a browser (at least in IE/Office 2000) doesn't work ... you
need to enter "www.open.gov.uk" ... 

	If the design of the site were up to me, I'd put the four search indexes
into a row of buttons under the title and an introductory paragraph,
followed by a heading "for our returning visitors:" followed by a row with
buttons for the new, latest, and top 10 sites. Next, a header for "Site
Services", and a row of buttons for the four services. Then a header for
"Using this site:" followed by buttons to link to help and the links under
"about" ... I think I missed the external services, which should be a
heading and row of buttons either before or after "returning users" ...
Ideally, there would be an illustrative graphic next to each header ... but
in lieu of that, put a graphic on the buttons for pages that have
significant graphic content ... After that, I'd redesign the Topic Page so
that each entry has an illustration to aide the user in finding what they
want. Agency symbols may be used in lieu of a more meaningful illustration
as long as they are clear enough to see. Skip the grey blobs! Incidently, I
wouldn't beat my head against a wall to decide what graphic to use for each
topic, but would forward a request to each agency named, and ask them to
furnish a suitable graphic that will ILLUSTRATE their function. The agency
probably has clip art available, and if you want to go the extra mile, you
could ask that it be provided or converted to SVG ... (All of this
presuming you have some political power to do so ...)

	Another suggestion: Put together a site for kids, with oodles of pictures,
graphics, multi-media ...... games?<grin - my students love online games as
simple as "Concentration", picture puzzles, and onsite coloring, older kids
like more complex games ... Flash makes very nice games! ... >? etc., and
make that the first button on the row with the indexes and search.  

	Oh, and you have a redirected link on the Education in Scotland link on
the Topics Index page. 

	If you want to look at some possibilities for making accessible buttons,
look at Leonard Kasday's site at: http://astro.temple.edu/~kasday/wai/texteg/
He's on the Guidelines list where the topic is accessible navigational





At 02:17 PM 12/19/00 +0100, Pawley, Neil wrote:
>I am afraid that I am to blame for the open.gov.uk website.  It is my design
>and my implementation.
>Firstly, I would very much like to thank everyone for their past comments,
>its great to get some quality feedback on what I am trying to do here.
>I have made a number or corrections and changes in light of these
>1. I have downgraded the WAI rating to a single A, until further corrections
>can be made to achieve a higher level.
>2. I have also corrected the DOCTYPE so that the page now validates
>I do have some concerns about introducing further graphics into the page.
>My primary concerns have been reducing possible download speeds and deleting
>unnecessary eye candy graphics.  They are of little use to most people and
>even less use to the visually impaired.
>If there is a way in which images can be used to aid usability I am more
>than willing to experiment.
>I am also concerned about the WAI guidelines insistence on the SUMMARY
>attribute for tables.  It seems like a good idea in principle but can be
>more of a hindrance in practice.  Browsers for the visually impaired will
>read out the contents of this attribute, which can be annoying and
>inefficient if the contents of the table are text based and self explanatory
>in themselves.  Explanations, however short, can just get in the way.  Why
>should we be duplicating information and handicapping the browsing
>experience of precisely the users we are trying to assist.
>An example would be the Organisational Index listing on the front page.  The
>title is textual and precise, the next line gives an explanation as to its
>purpose and the third presents the links to the relevant pages.  A SUMMARY
>attribute is superfluous.  I have examined this at length with blind
>institutions within the UK and their feelings are very similar to mine.  If
>anyone can help on this it would be much appreciated.
>Once again, I would like to thank everyone for their contributions and hope
>that there are many more comments to come.
>neil pawley
>internet development consultant
>central computer & telecommunications agency
>rosebery court, st andrews business park, norwich nr7 0hs
>direct line	:   +44 1603 704852
>fax	:   +44 1603 704817
>gtn	:   3040 4852
>mobile	:   0831 320813
>email	:   npawley@ccta.gov.uk
>"I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds and fast cars.  The rest I just
>George Best
Anne L. Pemberton
Enabling Support Foundation
Received on Tuesday, 19 December 2000 17:53:22 UTC

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