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RE: Logical Linearized Order on a Page

From: Mike Paciello <paciello@webable.com>
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 00:50:33 -0400
To: "Ian Jacobs" <ij@w3.org>, "Kynn Bartlett" <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Cc: "Bailey, Bruce" <Bruce_Bailey@ed.gov>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <LPBBLAFOCBGBPOEHHLNGGENJCMAA.paciello@webable.com>
I generally stay clear of discussions on the WAI listservs due to time
limitations...but I found this discussion intriguing enough to toss in a
thought or two....

Jakob Nielsen, in his book, "Designing Web Usability" makes two interesting
points (amongst several) in Chapter 1, pages 14 and 15, under the section,
"Why Everbody Designs Websites Incorrectly":

Point 1: "Information architecture: structuring the site to mirror the way
company is structured. Instead, the site should be structured to mirror the
users' tasks and THEIR views of the information space." (uppercase letters
are mine)

Point 2: "Content authoring: writing in the same linear style as you've
always written. Instead, force yourself to write in the new style that is
OPTIMIZED FOR ONLINE READERS who frequently scan text and who need very
short pages with secondary information relegated to supporting pages."

Like Nielsen, I am in favor of user-centered structure. It's no doubt very
difficult for the author (or web content designer) to relinquish this
"right". But the fact is, the user controls the user agent. If you want the
user to come back, stay, peruse, or purchase, design your site for them.

As Kynn notes, there is no exact algorithm for determining information
importance for every user. But, as users, we tend to be creatures of habit
(cultural differences notwithstanding) and, as such, we perform tasks using
similar formulas and methods that can be easily captured and subsequently
presented on web sites.

Still, I think that Kynn's methodology is one that favors the author, not
the user. Kynn notes, "Okay, so how do I adapt that for someone who is
experiencing the page in a linear function?  Easy -- I decide what is most
important on the page and I place that first, and then the rest in
decreasing order of importance." (By the way, Kynn also notes that

I think the better way to approach this is through user walk-throughs. By
testing users (with and without disabilities) we can better understand how
information should be presented both in its graphical and textual
presentation. Following the walkthrough testing, implement the design.
Through iterative testing (generally 2 or 3 iterations are sufficient) you
should be able accomplish your purpose.

- Mike

> -----Original Message-----
> From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org]On
> Behalf Of Ian Jacobs
> Sent: Friday, August 25, 2000 7:19 PM
> To: Kynn Bartlett
> Cc: Bailey, Bruce; 'w3c-wai-ig@w3.org'
> Subject: Re: Logical Linearized Order on a Page
> Kynn Bartlett wrote:
> >
> > At 04:00 PM 8/25/2000 , Ian Jacobs wrote:
> > >Kynn Bartlett wrote:
> > > > As an aside, some of you might be thinking, "Woah, hold on,
> > > > pardner! What sort of patronizing decisions are you making
> > > > here, that you know best about what's important and what's
> > > > not, that you make these decisions for someone else?"
> > >I feel very strongly the opposite of that "might be thinking":
> > >the author is the sole arbiter of what the author thinks
> > >is important. And the author designs pages based on what
> > >is important to the author. The author should consider
> > >usability to be important.
> >
> > I don't think we disagree anywhere on that. :)  However, the
> > attitude of "I'll decide what's best for you" isn't really
> > intrinsic to the web way of thinking, and often that attitude
> > (if not this particular practice here) can lead to problems,
> > such as "well, blind people don't NEED that information."
> >
> > Obviously we are dealing with subtleties and shades of gray
> > and not black-and-white, and a happy medium between the choice
> > of the author and the needs of the audience has to be struck
> > and any responsible author (such as Ian) is already thinking
> > along such lines. :)
> <smile right back>
> I'll tell you why I raise this point: the semantics of the
> document are determined by the author. For instance, the
> author states that A is a text equivalent for B. Or that
> some text is an accurate summary of a table. The fact
> that this information is determined by the author determines
> in part the limits of responsibility for the author and
> the user agent. So UAs don't have to identify a piece
> of prose as a description of an image unless the author
> has marked it up as such.
> As to the "moral" side of judging what's best for a user,
> I don't quite agree with you. I think that authors always
> make judgments about what to present to the user. I have
> to decide what photos are suitable for public viewing,
> what products will sell the most, what type of information
> users will want. I think it's easy to make mistakes
> in those types of judgments (e.g., I could get it wrong
> that people don't need a blurb about W3C on the home page
> and that a link to another page is sufficient). And we
> need to educate authors that they are wrong if they assume
> that users with disabilities don't need or want some types
> of information.
> I was talking to someone about making a Web site about
> automobiles accessible and they answered "But blind people
> don't drive". Not only did they only think of blindness
> when I said disability, they assumed that the only people
> visiting the site would be potential drivers, clearly
> a mistaken judgment.
>  - Ian
> --
> Ian Jacobs (jacobs@w3.org)   http://www.w3.org/People/Jacobs
> Tel:                         +1 831 457-2842
> Cell:                        +1 917 450-8783
Received on Saturday, 26 August 2000 00:47:36 UTC

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