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Re: source order, skip links and structural labels

From: Terrence Wood <tdw@funkive.com>
Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2006 10:38:48 +1300 (NZDT)
Message-ID: <42834.>
To: "Web Usability Roger Hudson" <rhudson@usability.com.au>
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org, "Lisa Miller" <lisam@webboy.net>, "Russ - Maxdesign" <russ@maxdesign.com.au>

Web Usability Roger Hudson said:
> research into the relevance and importance for screen reader users of
> page source order
> http://www.usability.com.au/resources/source-order.cfm

Roger, thank you for sharing your results with us. Interesting reading to
be sure, however, your conclusions regarding source order are not
supported by your findings.

"It appears that when visiting a web page, most, if not all, screen reader
users expect at least the main site navigation to be presented before the
content of the page."

This is a comment about the current state of the web. You would get the
same result if you randomly sampled and analysed any number of sites for
source order.

Framing the result as a 'user expectation' creates a bias: "18 users said
they expect..." seems to carry more weight than "18 sites are built in
this manner" - It becomes an argument of people vs. things.

It makes no comment on the usability and accessibilty of current web site
design practice, it merely comments on how it is. If we used this kind of
argument for every aspect of web design we would make no progess towards
improving accessibility at all.

"There appears to be little evidence to support the view that screen
reader users would prefer to have the content presented first, or find
sites easier to use when this occurs."

It would appear that you didn't actually ask your participants which
method they preferred. You asked them which site they found easiest to
use. However, using your logic (that ease of use equals preference), your
results in fact show that 6 out of 8 participants had no preference or
preferred content before navigation. There is little evidence (2 of 8)
that they prefer navigation before content, despite this being the
predominant design pattern. Presumably these users in the latter group are
your novice users.

"It is our view, that a continuation of the practice of placing navigation
before the content of the page will benefit some screen reader users, in
particular those users who are still developing their skills with the

It may be significant, but clearly needs a lot more testing, there may be
any number of other factors than merely source order that influenced these
participants performance in the test. I would suggest that these novice
users would also stuggle on sites that present a hundred or so links up
front with no obvious way to bypass them.

kind regards
Terrence Wood.
Received on Wednesday, 18 January 2006 21:38:58 UTC

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