Website Accessibility and Usability

Usability is one of the most pressing issues in the field of website development nowadays. The usability of a website is tested against its simplicity which makes it easy for people to navigate the site as fast as possible, therefore making access to information easier.

Accessibility is a concept that is intertwined with the concept of usability. It refers to creating the website content available to all people.

Context

The issue has caught the attention of different sectors of society.  Why? Because 1 out of 5 people in America possess some kind of disability and this figure translates to around 30 million Americans. The figure is still increasing, with the coming of age of senior citizens. During the past decade alone, a dramatic increase of 25% was seen.

Why the Internet?

One might ask, “Why is the Internet a central focus in this issue of usability?” The Internet has transformed the lives of people during the past decade. People have been able to do things that they were not able to do before, this includes the people with disabilities. People who are impaired don’t have as much opportunities compared to people who are well and able. The Internet has provided them avenues for communication, information gathering, social interaction, engaging in cultural activities and it provides them with employment opportunities. However, statistics have shown that the potential of the Internet to provide these certain opportunities is still not maximized because the people with disabilities are hindered by usability issues from using it to the fullest.

Stakeholders

The issue of usability is not only watched by institutions which are related to giving support to people with disabilities, most of the sectors of society are closely watching its progress. Institutions which are involved in governance, education, media, public services and even the business sectors are observers in the game.

Benefits

The benefits of improving accessibility of websites will not only benefit the people who have impairments but will affect the whole web community. Businesses, services, information campaigners, everyone will benefit.

Many people are calling for developing websites using a universal design approach. This is a way of developing web content which would accommodate the widest range of users. Some features of this said scheme are: provision of interoperability of applications; access for the disabled; localization and customization.

Recommendations for Improving Accessibility

Listed below are some of the key recommendations from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 which was developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative of W3C on how to improve the accessibility of the contents of a website.

1. Provide alternatives to audio-visual content

Not all people will be able to use different kinds of content. These people may be disabled or may have a lower version of Internet browsers. Movies, sound clips, animations and other contents should be translated into text alternatives so as to provide information to the broadest range of viewers.

2. Developers shouldn’t rely on color alone

Many people are impaired in color differentiation. Developers shouldn’t rely too much on the use of colors to relay information in the websites. Charts that are color-coded should be modified and the background and foreground colors of the websites should have enough contrast to enable people with color differentiation impairment to easily navigate the site.

3. Clarification of the use of natural language

Content developers usually mark up the changes in natural language in their websites. They should be able to identify the dominant language that is used in the site so as to avoid confusion.

4. Control of content changes that are time-sensitive

This issue particularly involves people who have visual or cognitive impairments and those who are not able to read texts that are moving quickly. Movement is seen as an over-all enhancer to the look of the site, but it may pose some problems to people with cognitive impairments.

5. Accessibility of user interfaces that are embedded

Objects that posses their own interfaces should be made accessible, and alternative solutions must be provided if this is not possible.

6. Provision of orientation and context information

The provision of information on how the objects are organized is important to provide people with guidance on how to access information.

There are other ways of improving a website’s over-all accessibility to make it more usable. Developers should take into consideration the different people who are going to view their websites and make them focal points in the designing process.

7 Surefire Ways To Increase Your Traffic Starting Yesterday

Internet. Business. Profit. To fully integrate all of these words into a successful merging you will need another word. Traffic. Every article you will find about making your site or company successful would always include the importance of generating traffic.

So, we all know that in the core of it all, traffic is the most essential thing to a successful internet based business company. Aside from ensuring that you have a great product to sell, and you have your company’s internal organization well taken core of, it would be time to get to the nitty-gritty of things, generating traffic.

If you already have a site and you want think that you’re not getting the traffic that you’re supposed to be getting, then its time to reconsider. If you are contending in these very competitive business, you should always be a step ahead of your competition, increasing your traffic flow should have been done starting yesterday.

Timing is essential, that’s an old adage known to everyone. But with generating traffic, you should always be on your toes and be a day ahead of everyone. Never think of today and tomorrow as a starting point for making your site traffic laden, it should always have been yesterday.

To help you out in generating more traffic for your site, here are some seven surefire ways to increase your traffic starting from yesterday.

1) Invest in good advertising with search engines

Google’s AdWords and Yahoo’s Overture provide great advertising schemes that are very truly popular and assures great traffic. Although with this surefire way to increase your traffic would cost some money. While some would shy away from spending money to increase traffic, it is imperative in this case to do so because AdWords and Overture is the top surefire way to increase your traffic.

You could see for yourself the success this search engine advertising methods have reaped rewards for so many companies. Lots of site feature these advertising system and many have signed on to reap the benefits. Do not be left behind. Every penny is worth it with using Google and Yahoo’s advertising.

2) Exchange or Trade Links with other sites

With exchanging links with other sites, both of you will benefit from the efforts both of you do to enhance your site’s traffic. When one site features another sites link, they could provide one another with the traffic one site generates. The efforts are doubly beneficial because it would seem like both of you are working to generate more traffic. The more links traded with more sites the more traffic could be expected.

3) Use Viral Marketing

Viral marketing allows you to spread the word about your company and product without any costs or if ever low costs only. This is a marketing method that can be quite sneaky; you can attach your company’s name, product or link to a certain media such as a funny video, entertaining game, an interesting article or a gossip or buzz. With this method, people get infected with the creativity and entertainment of the medium that they will pass it on to many people.

4) Search and use proper keywords or keyword phrases for your site’s content

Search engines look for certain keywords that they would show in their results page. In doing so, having the right keyword and keyword phrase is a high requirement in ranking in high in search engine results. You could write your own content or you could hire someone to do it for you.

5) Write Articles that can lead traffic to your site

Submit articles to sites that would contain the same subject that your site deals in. If you sell car parts write press releases and articles about cars and car parts. Attach your sites description and services at the end of the article as well as the link.

6) Join forums and form online communities

Capture a market and show your expertise and credibility. When you found a good foundation for your site, people will trust you and your site and will pass on to many people their trust. Traffic will certainly increase because they know that you can provide what they need.

7) Lastly, Offer newsletters.

If many people know what you are about and your existence is shared with many others, you will find a loyal traffic that can provide you with more traffic by recommendation. If you arouse the curiosity of your customers they would be pushed to help you with your traffic.

Website Design That Can Improve Its Usability

Internet users encounter a website’s usability before they even have decided to use it and more so before they make up their minds on probable purchases. A fact is, the World Wide Web is the supreme setting for empowerment, where the one who is clicking the mouse controls everything.

Search engine marketing is important as generally visitors utilize search engines in order to discover your website. However once they reach your site, they should be able to use your site with ease and understand its content.
Research shows that of 43 million internet websites, only 42 percent are found to be usable.

Evidently, a major measure of website success is its effectiveness in converting leads into buyers.  However, recent studies show that 50 percent of website sales are wasted due to the fact that visitors can not locate the content that they need; this leads to reduced web productivity, increased visitor frustration, wasted visitor time as well as loss of visitor’s repeat visits, in turn, loss of website money.

Studies done by usability experts estimates that by improving your visitors’ web encounter, it increases your buyers by about 40 percent and also increases the overall amount of orders by 10 percent.

A fact is, internet users do not like to wait, more so learning how to go about using a hard to navigate home page. Individuals need to easily understand how a certain website functions immediately after they have scanned the page.

Here are guidelines to improve your website’s usability:

Simple and clear web navigation design

•    It must be situated in the exact same location on each page and in exact same format, so that your visitors will not get frustrated and confused if links disappear and appear unpredictably.

•    Use suitable text in your links. Your visitors must know where links will take them, through reading the text provided in your link.

•    Employ the use of CSS to give emphasis on text links.

•    Include always text links. Keep in mind that each page must have “text links” which links to all important parts of the website.

•    Include a “site logo” linking to your home page. Generally site logos are located at the topmost “left-hand” corner of the page, where most visitors have the tendency to go even before searching for the homepage link which usually is located in your navigation system.

•    Place a website search box to help your visitors locate quickly the information that they need.

Have a simple, authentic and clear content.

An attractive web design no doubt attracts visitors yet good content is what keeps your visitors on your site and inspires them to visit again.

•    When you write your content, while it is important to think of search engines and keywords, also think of your visitors and present the content in a manner that is easily understandable and to solve their problems.

•    Create an attractive heading and each paragraph should offer appealing statements all the time.

•    Create a page content that is easy to scan and emphasize your most important points with colors, bold letters or header tags.

Support your brand

A great brand strengthens your visitors’ impression or idea of your website. A site that is branded strongly imprints in your visitor’s mind your products each time they go “shopping”.

•    Keep typefaces and colors consistent. Pick fonts and colors carefully and consistently use them throughout the website.

•    Keep your page layout constant. Employ the use of a “website template” in order to carry out a consistent page structure.

•    Make a helpful custom page error that can help visitors should they click on “a broken link” or enter an incorrect URL.

Provide visitor feedback

Forms are essential to your e-commerce site’s success, as without it, you can not have your shopping cart. And any site generally needs a form for visitor feedback.

•    Keep them short and easily accessible, clearly noting what is required in order to submit it successfully.

•    Supply your complete contact details including your fax number, business telephone number, postal address and your email address.

Test your website prior to launching

•    Test to determine if your website loads successfully in all “browsers”.

•    Test all your links and be sure that they are working properly.

•    Look for and be sure that your website is free from errors.

•    Search for grammatical errors and misspelled words and correct them if any.

•    Test your website load times.

Web usability puts designing and planning primarily for your website visitors your top priority.  Website that measure up to the expectations of its visitors will have comfortable visitors that will visit your site again and again and recommend it to friends.

How to Make a Website More Appealing to International Users

More and more people around the world are using the Internet, and the numbers are increasing everyday. The Internet has become the primary source of information for many, and because of that, web sites have to constantly improve the content and image of their web pages in order to keep users interested in accessing their sites.

What are the measures that should be implemented by web designers in order to make their sites more appealing to users around the world? Here is a list of issues that can be encountered in web design and the necessary action to be considered:

1. Availability of basic features
First, the design of a web site should be compatible to any browser. It should be able to pass HTML and CSS validation tests. Second, web sites should be able to cater to disabled users. This won’t be a problem as long as designers adhere to web standards. Third, the process of navigating a web site should be simple enough for all users. No user likes to encounter a new site, and then he or she has to figure out how to navigate around it. Fourth, status bars should be available. It shows the destination of links as the cursor is being moved. The status of the current page is also displayed as it loads.

2. Appearance of the pages
There are four elements that make up the appearance of a web site. They are the fonts, color, graphics, and writing.

Fonts are not just a matter of personal preference of the user and the designer. The primary importance of font choice is that it affects how fast the users can read the information being presented. Arial fonts are usually recommended over the Times New Roman and the Verdana.

When applying color, it is important that there is enough contrast between background and foreground in order for the content to be readable. To achieve maximum contrast, black text against a white background should be used. Link colors should be established at standard settings.

When it comes to graphics, bear in mind that some pages get too overloaded because of the use of too much images. As much as possible, use graphics only to support the content being presented to users. A lot of people actually have the tendency to shut off the images when browsing for information.

Web designers should remember the distinction between writing for the web and writing for print. Web content should be short and straight to the point.

3. Site performance
There are three factors that determine the overall performance of a web site. These are speed, tables, and connections.

Since everyone is hankering for more bandwidth, the best that designers can do is to avoid the usage of design that will take up too much bandwidth, because not every user has access to fast Internet connections.

To avoid making the site appear like it takes forever to download, avoid loading putting a whole page inside a table. Instead, divide the page into several tables.

Web designers should not cloud a page with too much items for the simple reason that each item requires a separate browser for the whole page to be downloaded.

4. The occurrence of bugs
Of course, no one wants to have bugs in his system. To avoid this, body text should be set up with relative font sizes. One has to consider that there are users out there who have poor eyesight, and they would like to adjust the font sizes through their individual settings in order to read the text more clearly. The relative value recommended for this would be:

font-size: -1

or

font-size: 100%

In case of URLs, it should be simple and short, containing no punctuation or spaces. Users should be able to copy a URL and paste it into an email message without it being wrapped in multiple lines. To avoid dead links, redirects should be established, in order to avoid the breaking of bookmarks and links.

Web designers should make sure that navigation features will be present at all times, whatever the size of the window the user is using. Browser windows should be maximized when applying design, because not every user will be surfing the Internet in a maximized window.

What you should know about a Computer Programming Career

Computer programming is one of the most important and exciting careers today.  It is also a field that offers plenty of job opportunities for graduates.  It’s one of the best fields of endeavor for people who love technology and are willing to try out new things.  If you’re considering pursuing a computer programming career, here are some things that you should know:

What is computer programming?
Computer programming is basically the process of writing codes to create a computer program.  A programming language is used to write this code, also known as the source code.  Computer programming is actually an umbrella term that encompasses all types of programming involving the use of computers.  The design and method utilized to write a source code will depend on the type of computer language used for the job.  Some of the most common computer languages include BASIC, COBOL, FORTRAN, C++, Java, Visual Basic, Python and PHP.

The job of computer programming also includes testing the source code, debugging it to check for flaws and weaknesses and maintaining it to ensure optimum performance.

Creating the code
The soul of computer programming is the creation of the source code, which can either be brand new or something created to modify or improve upon an already existing code.  The object of the source code is to build a program that will perform a particular series of tasks based on a specific set of commands.  This is called customization.

The end result of writing the source code is a computer program.  In software engineering, computer programming is an important initial phase.

What does a computer programmer do?
The main job of a computer programmer is to write the codes that serve as the foundation of software programs.  He is also tasked to test, troubleshoot, debug and maintain the program to ensure its quality and reliability.

Generally, the tasks that a computer programmer must perform are assigned by another person, usually the system analyst.  The computer programmer’s job is then to write the program, test it, modify it if necessary and ensure that it passes compatibility and quality standards.  If errors are found, it is the computer programmer’s job to ensure that they are corrected.

The job of a computer programmer usually requires hours upon hours spent in front of a computer to design and write a computer program.  Depending on the type of program being written, its purpose and the complexity of the commands required in order for a computer to execute the series of steps involved, writing a program can take several months to several years to complete.

The length of time it often takes for a program to be completed often necessitates having a single program broken down into a smaller series of steps.  These steps will then be assigned as tasks to a group of programmers who will work on them independently.  The final step is to put the end results and produce one coherent and useful computer program.

Computer programming is a very dynamic field and involves plenty of imagination and discipline.  Although there are set standards for the tasks involved, the profession itself does not require certification tests from government agencies.  There are also no state and federal licenses to obtain.

How much does a computer programming job pay?
That will depend on the experience and level of expertise of the programmer.  Most entry-level programmers earn a minimum of about $33,000 a year while mid-level programmers earn approximately $50,000 a year.  For senior level programmers and those who have several years of experience behind them, their typical take-home pay averages at about $65,000 a year.  Consultants, some managers and those who have advanced well in their computer programming career are often paid more.

When Web Design Gets Annoying!

The Internet is home to various artists, web artists, and designers both professional and amateur. It can afford to provide individuals with opportunities to freely explore their artistic capabilities and publish content to a border-less audience.

However, unluckily, alongside this freedom of expression afforded to everyone is the capacity to offend sensibilities. Some website provide great utility and aesthetic pleasure—others, on the other hand,  are bound to annoy users.

There are ways to avoid annoying your visitors. You could start by knowing when web design practices get annoying.

Using colors that just do not work

Colors in good and sensible doses are a good way to attract attention and communicate ideas and emotions to an audience. They can help add interest to a dull site full of text, and even introduce and maintain a certain mood.

However, there is a fine line between too much and just about right. What gets annoying when it comes to colors is when readability is compromised, and combinations are too loud for comfort. When readability is compromised, it can pose great discomfort to the site’s visitors when they try to decipher the text that they want to have access to. Using too many colors and colors that do not complement each other tend to make the website look goofy and awkward, and can make the website lose whatever credibility it can possibly gain.

Too many clicks to get to the end of the road

At the end of the day, people who visit websites do so in order to access information and content in a website. Some websites tend to re-route visitors through too many clicks before they get to the content they want to get to assuming that the content is indeed somewhere in the multiple pages they are made to access. Obviously, that gets annoying. Rule of thumb says that a maximum of three clicks (but preferably less) should be enough in order for someone surfing a site to get to the information they want to get to.

Excessive graphics that take too long to load

Graphics and pictures, when relevant and are the primary content meant for the website, are a welcome part of a website. However, when they just serve the purpose of aesthetic enhancement, graphics and pictures that take too long to load—and inevitably, slow the process of accessing primary content—become a major reason for discontent and displeasure among visitors.

It is also helpful to note that not all visitors of the website are equipped with optimal download or Internet surfing speeds; excessive graphics that are too large and thus, take too long to load are not only unwelcome but also a great inconvenience to a great number of people.

Navigation that’s over-the-top and difficult to follow

Over complicating the navigation of the website can greatly hamper the efficacy of the website to communicate its content, and can hurt the accessibility of many pages to its visitors. At any point during their visit to a site, it is important to assure that the visitors have some way in order to trace back their steps and return to content they previously accessed, as well as carry on with accessing other content.

For simplicity’s sake, many websites solve this problem by having a constant button present on all pages for visitors to return to their main menu page, or their cover page.

Fonts that simply do not work

Depending on the browser and fonts installed by the users on their computers, extremely decorative and highly uncommon fonts may not be displayed the way the web designer intended them to appear—and may oftentimes even compromise the readability of the text per se.

In order to avoid this from happening, many web designers opt to stay within the bounds of major font families (Helvetica, verdana, and the like). That way, they are assured that most (if not all) of their visitors will be viewing the site as designed, and thus have greater control of the way the page will be displayed in the end.

There is never a ‘perfect’ template for design as it is open to the subjectivity and artistic limitations of designers. However, understanding the behavior of site visitors can only help make shape design innovation and utility move towards greater heights.

Is It Easy to Create our own Website? What is HTML?

Creating a website is not so much a feat, if we compare it to the education of other technical skills. Most people tend to give up and pack their bags as soon as they hear the word “programming” and “technical”. They think it`s too much of a hassle to actually learn a whole computer “language”. HTML, the most basic computer language in building websites, is actually pretty simple to understand, as long as we have the interest in learning new things.

What is HTML?

HTML is the acronym for Hyper Text Markup Language. For learning purposes, just think of it as a language that the computer understands. For example, as humans, we were taught different languages; i.e. HTML as a language, is mostly and specifically used to create a website. The web browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, will then decipher and interpret the code or rather, language(HTML), and display it in a way we can understand it, just like in a basic webpage.

Coding.

Coding the HTML language might be a bit tough for some people, so we can actually purchase applications, such as Adobe’s Dreamweaver, or even Microsoft’s Visual Web Developer. These applications help individuals in designing professional webpages/websites.

Furthermore, one could also gain access to online web-builders, website builders that can be directly controlled from the net. There are many different and specific builders online.

Books and magazines contain guides that can help in offering tutorials and ways to put up our own websites. Even online tutorials are credible, as in the modern world, information technology is the best and most cost efficient way in retaining knowledge, especially in this particular field.

So, you could start building your site with very little technical knowledge and do so right away. Who knows, you might find yourself drawn to this evolving field and make it your new career.

When Is the Right Time to Redesign?

If you run a website, chances are you often wonder whether it is the right time to do a total redesign of the layout of your website. Here are some points to consider:

Are you thinking of a redesign just for the sake of it? If you answered yes to that question, it is not yet the right time to do a redesign. Remember, a design serves a specific purpose. If you are not sure whether to do an overhaul of your site, keep in mind that your current design might have a specific purpose that you might not know about. You will lose that function if you do a redesign.

On the other hand, if your website has had the same website design since 1990, perhaps it is high time to do a redesign. The last thing you would ever want to happen to your site is when visitors leave your site without taking a look at your content just because the design is old-fashioned. If this is your case, here are some points to ponder before doing a redesign.

Redesigning your website is like performing plastic surgery on it. Your website loses its current identity (for the better or worse) and your regular visitors might not recognize your new design at first glance. You risk losing them just because they thought they landed on the wrong page. Hence, it is very  important that you retain a characteristic feature from your old layout. Perhaps it is the logo of your site; perhaps it is the same text style for the title for your site.

To play it safe, put a poll on your site to let your visitors do the talking. If they think it is necessary for the website to have a fresh look, give it to them!

The challenges of Web 2.0 applications

Rich Internet applications allow for dynamic,
asynchronous data transfer, using multiple protocols and
a variety of servers. They gather data from distributed,
heterogeneous sources, including cloud-based and
external data storage options. Thick clients with widgets
and client-side functionality often have server-side
components, which may need additional processing
before the server sends the data back to the client.
Developers who build these widgets—often adding
them from available toolkits—do it on their development
machines and don’t realize that once separated across
the network, the server component may cause latency
and affect the overall system performance.

New technologies such as Ajax enable prefetching,
where every new letter that a user enters into a
search engine suggests a new set of results that are
dynamically delivered from the server. All this activity
generates a lot of network traffic and can significantly
impact performance. Network latency and
bandwidth constraints can also create performance
bottlenecks. To accurately predict the performance
of an application, it is necessary to test individual
components and services, but equally critical are
server monitoring and end-to-end performance testing,
along with accurate WAN emulation.

Testing Web 2.0 applications presents its own set of
challenges.1 The complexity of new technologies, the
lack of commonly recognized and accepted standards,
and the sheer multitude of emerging frameworks
and toolkits make it difficult for companies to build
Web 2.0 testing strategies and select appropriate
automation solutions. Traditional testing tools focus on
protocol-level verification, offering no framework-level
support or ability to accurately recognize objects in
these new, rich clients, making it virtually impossible
to effectively validate the performance of Web 2.0
applications. Script creation, which has always been a
lengthy, time-consuming process that requires domain
and application expertise, becomes even more
complex in Web 2.0 applications.

Make it easy to buy from your site!

It amazes me how many web site owners fail to pay attention to the process used by visitors when they attempt to purchase an item. With so many alternatives available you would think web site owners would be doing whatever it takes to make the buying process and user friendly as possible.

Convincing your prospects to purchase from you is a hard job, but have you ever thought that you’re making the process twice as difficult for both parties if your prospects are convinced but don’t know how to buy from you? No matter how good you are at convincing your prospects, they won’t buy if they find the process cumbersome.

First, you will want to check that people can find your order form easily and hassle-free. You can write a clear, concise paragraph to direct your prospects to your order form so that you can minimize the chances of them getting lost. You can also reduce the chances of losing prospects by putting a prominent link to your order page from every other page on your site.

Also, do you offer multiple payment options? Some people may feel comfortable paying via PayPal, some may only want to pay with their credit card and others might want to send a check. The more options you offer, the better your chances of covering your prospects’ desired payment method. After all, it wouldn’t make any sense to sell hard to a prospect only to find that they won’t be able to pay you when they want to.

On the other hand, you will want to prove that you are a credible merchant. Is your order form secured using encryption technology? You would want to look into SSL for this. You can also offer a money back guarantee so that people will feel confident about buying from you. How about after sales support? Who do they contact when they have problems after purchasing?

Alternatively, you can add customer testimonials, your contact information, address, and so on to boost your prospects’ confidence. Make them feel safe about buying something from you, a total stranger to them on the other end of the Internet.

As a conclusion, it would be very pitiful if you sold hard and sold well to a prospect and something goes wrong when he or she is ready to pay. Eliminate any chances of that to maximize your profits!