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.

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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.