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Icons vs. Menus

From: Andy J.W.Affleck <listaccount@raggedcastle.com>
Date: Wed, 4 Aug 2004 09:39:15 -0400
Message-Id: <AD746CE1-E61B-11D8-903F-000A95CA1658@raggedcastle.com>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

I'm redesigning an older UI for a content management system. Currently, 
in the administrative/management interface, every content item is 
wrapped in a box at the top of which is a group of controls and icons: 
Select this item checkbox (for working with multiple items at once) and 
then a series of icons: move to top, move up, move down, move to 
bottom, edit, spell check, make public/not-public, etc. At the very top 
of the page are another set of icons for working with the selected 

All told, there are a whole lotta icons on the page (there's also 
navigation management on the left side of the page with a whole other 
group of controls/icons).

In a screen reader this UI is, as you would guess, a nightmare. Every 
single piece of text, ever single alt attribute, everything is read. A 
page with a lot of content could take a long time to get through.

In thinking about streamlining the UI so that it is still visually 
usable but also far friendlier in a screen reader I am considering two 
approaches. One is to simply move the navigation management to its own 
screen so you are either working on the content OR the navigation 
rather than having both on one screen. This simplifies things and also 
makes each page have its own focus rather than trying to be a 

Second, and this is where I am turning to this list for advice, is to 
get rid of the icons. It seems to me from what I have seen and read 
that form-based menus are the answer. I'd have the checkbox to select 
an item and then a menu of controls. Screen readers read the labels for 
both and mention that there is a menu of X items but don't actually 
read all the items unless requested to do so. This, to me, seem like 
the right approach. Thoughts?



Andy J. W. Affleck
iChatAV/AIM: andyjw23
Received on Wednesday, 4 August 2004 09:39:34 UTC

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