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webwatch-l Ten Hazards in Accessible Web Design (fwd)

From: David Poehlman <poehlman@clark.net>
Date: Wed, 5 Aug 1998 11:10:24 -0400 (EDT)
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.4.02.9808051109450.14455-100000@shell.clark.net>

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 4 Aug 1998 21:53:52 +0000
From: Stella O'Brien <smo-brien@lioness.demon.co.uk>
Reply-To: webwatch-l@teleport.com
To: webwatch-l@teleport.com
Subject: webwatch-l Ten Hazards in Accessible Web Design

Title: Ten Hazards in Accessible Web Design
Author: S. O'Brien
Date: 4th August 1998

Annoying design ranges from minor irritations to trapdoors and mazes
that are hazards in the search for information. I have listed nine items. I
would be interested to see other people's tenth item or lists.

1 Images without alt text
2 Alternate text but no common sense
3 Unclear text
4 Unscannable text
5 No support for keyboard shortcuts
6 Unhelpful links
7 Non-intuitive frames
8 Navigation without stable landmarks
9 Meta refresh and moving distractions
10 Please insert your own choice of hazard.

1 Images without alt text

Not every picture is worth a thousand words or a long download time.
Authors need to understand their chosen graphics well enough to be able
to describe them, and their purpose, in alt text or another suitable way. I
can choose whether I download an image or animation. Some users don't
have that choice.
For them, the lack of alternate text traps them in a maze of guesswork, or
makes the site impossible to navigate.

2 Alternate text but no common sense

Alt text and longer descriptions are intended to communicate the contents
or purpose of the graphic which they replace. I don't need to know that
the image I have not loaded is "A rainbow coloured horizontal line". I am
interested to learn that it represents "Section 2" or "Part 3".
I do not care that something is a "Java applet". The author communicates
more with "Animation: why water expands when frozen".
I'd welcome a link to a full text description of the animation and
experiment. I don't want to be left to wonder about what I am missing but
I still choose not to Java-enable my browser. Some users do not have the
choice. This is annoying if using the web for leisure. It is  user-hostile if
this example were to be part of a web-based education package.

3 Unclear text

Complex background images and colours obscure text and make it
difficult to read. So do poor colour contrasts; white text on a pale grey
background is difficult to read and to print because of the similar hues.
I never want to be forced to decipher Lucinda Sans, set small, doubled and
shifted to produce a shadow effect. Hint, I dislike the work of authors who
 set absolute font sizes and specify the face.

4 Unscannable text

Even for sighted people with big screens, it takes longer to read online text
than print. Users scan text, picking out keywords and sentences and
ignoring those areas which do not interest them. Body text should be lean
and relevant.
I like an organised framework of summaries, headings, and lists to aid
scanning. These help me to decide whether I want to follow a link or to
read a full document.

5 No support for keyboard shortcuts

Not everybody can use a mouse or tracker ball. I find it faster to tab
between form fields than to select each one by mouse. Good authors make
it possible to tab up, down, and across the screen, using directional
arrows, 'enter', and other keys to control the cursor.
For some users keyboard shortcuts are the only way that they can interact
with a page.

6 Unhelpful links

I dislike links that read "click here". I want the text in the link to
where the link would take me or what it is for. If I have scanned the text
and found interesting keywords, I want the keyword repeated in the link
If I want to listen to a web broadcast I like the link to be descriptive
and to
give the name of the station, and the title and date of the programme. I do
not want a link which is the elaborate file path and obscure name for the
audio file.
An alt text that tells me that an icon link is " a radio button" or "a camera"
doesn't help me: labelling it "Videos available to rent" is useful.

7 Non-intuitive frames

Frames are badly used by many web designers and lead to unpleasant
surprises when nothing behaves in the way you expect.
Frames are difficult to navigate, print, or bookmark. Without a title for
each frame it is impossible for some users to anticipate its contents or
function. I want to look for information. I don't want to be forced to make
a mental map of the site so that I can use it.
Frames cause problems for users of some assistive technology, and people
with cognitive disabilities. Too many web sites do not let a user past the
home page without a frames enabled browser.

8 Navigation needs stable landmarks

Many countries have stories about people who remove sign-posts or
sabotage them so that visitors can not find their route. If someone
sympathises with this type of action, then please don't advertise your site
to me.
I am not a confident wayfinder. I like web pages to reflect the name and
hierarchy of their web site in the title so that:
I always have an idea of where I am
I can recognise them in the history list.
I need every page to link to a home page. I like a home page to offer me a
choice of overviews of the site's structure and contents.
Navigation aides should  be consistent in name, style, and position
throughout the site.

9 Meta refresh and moving distractions

If I take a phone call when I am looking at a web page, I want to be able to
concentrate on the call and return to the same page. I do not like to find
that the author has used meta refresh or a similar mechanism to drop me
through a trapdoor onto another page. It is annoying for me. It is dis-
orienting for some people who use screen-readers. It is a mystery to users
who have cognitive disabilities.
On-line text is harder to read than print. So, I don't want to be distracted
when I am trying to read. I do not want part of my page to jump, scroll, or
flash. Such antics can interrupt the smooth use of assistive technology.

10 Please insert your own choice of hazard.

Best wishes - Stella

Stella O'Brien
Received on Wednesday, 5 August 1998 11:10:06 UTC

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