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Website Usability

Take Website Usability To The Next Level
By Sharon Housley

Website usability is more than just a good navigational structure. A large number of people have visual or hearing disabilities, so you should design your website in ways that allow those with either minor or significant impairments to view and navigate your web content. The following tips will help expand your website's usability so that all users, regardless of their sensory perception and abilities, are able to take advantage of your web content...

1. Images

Include "alt text" for any images on a webpage. The alt text should accurately describe the image. The visually impaired will often use screen readers to discern what the images are, and their screen reader will read the alt text and tell them what the image is.

2. Transcripts

Any audio recordings should have transcripts available. Hearing impaired individuals can then read the transcript to learn what is contained in the audio recordings that are available on the website.

3. Contrast

Website colors should be easy to discern, and contrasted so that they stand out. Keep in mind that different monitors will display colors slightly differently. As such, usability research suggests that you should play it safe and stick with websafe colors. Even individuals with minor visual impairments may have difficulties in discerning subtle color differences, so use contrasting colors to highlight important information.

4. Scanable

Write your web copy in a way that makes it easy for visitors to scan. Use bulleted lists and bold headlines to assist with the web content's readability.

5. Captcha

In addition to a visual captcha code, provide an optional verbal captcha code that can be "played" and listened to thru the visitors speakers. If someone has difficulty with their vision, discerning the characters in a captcha code can often be an exercise in frustration and futility. Providing an audio version of the captcha code will greatly assist visitors with visual impairments.

6. Type Face

Avoid using very small font sizes or overly ornate font styles. The more standard sans-serif fonts are much easier to read by most users.

7. Obvious

Make links and the website's navigational structure obvious.

8. Consistent

Keep the navigation present and consistent throughout the entire website, so users know where to look for recurring options without having to search for them on each page.

9. Avoid Animation

Animated graphics can also be a challenge for visually impaired individuals. If animation is not a critical component of your message, avoid using it in your web design. Animated graphics are distracting, and often aggravating for individuals with focal impairments.

10. Text Only

Many webmasters offer a text-only or "print-friendly" version of important web content. Consider this as an option, as it will help those with text readers to completely understand and comprehend your website.

Ultimately, a webmaster's goal should be to make their website accessible and usable to as many visitors as possible. With minor website changes, webmasters can be assured they are not accidently or unintentionally excluding the disabled population.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll audio recording and editing software.


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