articles tagged with: accessibility
Recently at a focus knowledge share I talked to the team about Information Architecture and its role within the user centred design process. I also talked through best practice methods and techniques that could be used within a digital project. I like to think of Information Architecture or IA as the art of organising websites or software to support usability. IA can be used outside of digital projects but this is what I focused upon.
Information Architecture can identify the goals of your website and help you to create a digital blueprint or wireframe of your potential users' process through your website. It is an important part of the strategy and solution design process right at the start of a web project. You can use it to eventually group up and define the taxonomy of all of the website's contents, products and features in a user driven way.
IA is just one part of the user centred design process, analysing your users needs and assessing the journey they want to complete on your website. It is using key usability principles such as visibility, accessibility and consistency to create the basis for what will become your final deliverable. The user centred design process as a whole incorporates a lot of real world testing to ensure no assumptions are made during the design process. IA starts off this real world testing at a very early stage, ensuring first of all you know the correct audience to test! Designers and developers must be experts in our fields, however we do not know often the intricacies of the end user and need to form our opinions on a basis of research to then take back to the client.
There is always a different amount of research required with every project. The methodology, processes and opinions of IA I am talking about just refer to common approaches rather than quoting from an exact guide to IA.
At the very beginning of any size IA process it is important to ask yourselves, your users and your client questions. What are the short term goals of the website? Why would people come to the website? We need at this stage to establish an audience, this is going to be very important as we will base the majority of our research gathering from this audience. At this point we have to really think through what different elements that make up a website's audience and how they will use the website differently from each other. You can create scenarios of them coming to the website, what their goals are and what difficulties they might have. From here we can gauge our competitors and start to address gaps in functionality in the market for the audience. This is only the start of your UX and IA journey, next you can start to define core content and the functional requirements of your website, this will lead you down a path of wireframes and lo-fi designs until you have your perfect blueprint for the website of your user's dreams!
Some of the core methods and techniques of IA were the reason I enjoyed it so much in university. Card sorting and content discussions with your peers either as part of the user group or as a facilitator is always fascinating and insightful. It helps to outline potential issues and golden points to your website that you have not thought of yet.
Creating sitemaps, wireframes and discussing the user flow throughout a website will help your designers. When they open the graphics tool of their choice they are equipped not only with their expert knowledge of the web but a knowledge of what the user needs and what goals have to be achieved by their design. Personas can often really bring a website to life, when you are discussing how best Jimmy the iPhone fanatic will achieve his goals of buying your client's products you can start to feel the website being out in the real world before it is fully created.
A full user centred design process is not always what the client has in mind when they bring a project to you, it is often the case that there is not a budget to go out and spend weeks creating personas and testing how the wbsite flow using paper based designs. However small bits of IA and the user centred design process will always fall into a web-creative's design process, we want to create the dream websites for our users and the only people who know exactly what the dream is, is the users themselves.
Created on Thursday February 07 2013 03:38 PM
Last week we proudly launched a great new site for Findability Bristol. It’s an online directory for disabled children and their families, offering information about services, organisations and events in Bristol.
We’ve loved working on the site with the Findability team, and especially enjoyed developing some of its more engaging features, including:
• Changing home page image every time you visit
• Advanced search, enabling postcode and category filters
• Scrolling events calendar
• Site accessibility features such as Text Resize and Text Only
• Blog – enabling the Findability team to keep in touch with users.
Findability is a Bristol-based portal site for 1Big Database, an online community database we set up for Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire back in 2004. Findability filters data from 1BD for it’s relevance to disability, and reflects this in the results it shows to the user. It’s an ongoing project, relying on the listees’ details being updated regularly and accurately, therefore providing better and more relevant results for users as time goes on.
We’re delighted to have been a part of such a worthwhile project, and would thank the partnership involved:
• 1Big Database (Bristol City Council, Bath & North East Somerset Council, South Gloucestershire Council)
• Bristol Parent Carers
• BCC Disability Communications Group.
Check out the site here!
Created on Tuesday March 13 2012 10:10 AM
I started to look into other features that we had implemented to help with accessibility and just to update my knowledge on the biggest problems for users with reduced access. There were several issues that you would expect to see high up the list, such as; missing alt tags, poor keyboard accessibility and inaccessible flash. The most problematic item however was captcha. Captcha is Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, you will often see it when trying to complete forms.
Captcha has the issue of needing to provide security against bots whilst allowing users to still gain access. On some websites I will get the captcha wrong several times so I can imagine a user with poor eyesight would find it impossible. W3 suggests logic puzzles, sound output and non-interactive checks such as heuristic checks (detecting bots using the volume of data the user requests and other background methods) as good possible solutions to solve adding security to websites without reducing access.
We have been implementing a logic captcha gem which produces questions such as "In the following list how many animals are there: cat, blue, red, lion, yellow?" This gives the user the chance to prove they are not a bot but does not need any extra features for text only or high contrast versions. reCAPTCHA also has improved accessibility from previous versions, adding better keyboard support and sound output. There are several other implementations with positives and negatives as well.
The accessibility and usability of the websites we create will always be a high priority however we can only keep up these standards if our knowledge of what users need is up to date. Our 'next text captcha' is an example of how we try to implement accessibility best practices across our websites.
Created on Friday February 17 2012 02:41 PM
There have been a large number of articles over the last few months on the rise of mobile internet with more people now using mobile devices to view websites. This is something which interests us a lot here at Focus Towers as we’ve always believed mobile phones and tablets would become a key way for people to access the web.
I also read yesterday about how social media is helping to maintain the interest in TV shows such as X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday. I would imagine the people using social media while watching TV are using a mobile phone or tablet to ‘tweet’ or ‘comment’ about what they are watching. I for one was on Twitter (on my iPhone) last night while watching Young Apprentice and chuckling at some of the comments which were made and observations made by people which I had also noticed.
“Almost half of UK internet users are going online via mobile phones, according to the Office for National Statistics.”
Source: BBC News, 31 August 2011
It’s not just TV shows, you can now use your mobile phone to check prices of items online before purchase in store or using your phone to find the closest coffee shop. There is a huge buzz around app currently and I have 100’s downloaded to my phone, but I’m using mobile sites more and more for things like banking, shopping, checking out the latest film or train times. I even used Heathrow’s mobile site to check on arrival times for a friend’s flight. I also use the Amazon mobile site rather than the iPhone app because I find that it’s quicker and easier to make a purchase.
A recent study commissioned by Barclays Corporate found that almost 63% of all mobile owners use their device during the online purchase process at present but that this still accounts for just 5% of total ecommerce spend (£26bn) for 2011. However, the research predicts that this figure will rise to £19.3bn a year by 2021 due to the growing popularity of smart phones and tablet devices, sales of which are set to hit 6m by the end of this year alone.
Building a mobile version of a web site isn’t complicated and doesn’t require extensive additional coding (as the same data sources can be used for both ‘standard’ and ‘mobile’ sites) - but it does require some thought due to the reduced processing power and screen real estate of such devices.
We find the key is to focus on your ‘call to action’ and ensure it can be completed easily within the given restrictions. One of the other main differences is that smart phones tend to rely on touch screen for interaction with the user - so the design should lend itself to big graphical buttons that can be viewed and ‘clicked upon’ easily with the finger - rather than a cursor.
If you want to see our own mobile site just type www.thisisfocus.co.uk into your phones browser and you’ll see how we have made our desktop site an easy to use and view mobile version.
Created on Tuesday October 25 2011 12:11 PM
I've just come back from a very interesting lunchtime lecture entitled: WCAG 2.0 for usability specialists by Michael Cooper (from W3C WAI). It is the second of two events I've attended this year advertised on the 'Bristol Usability Group' network, and it was extremely informative. Having attended the RNIB WCAG 2.0 one day course last year, I was interested in polishing up some knowledge on building accessible websites, but also in posing a few questions from the perspective of the buzz term 'User Experience'. The talk was really well organised and informative so thank you to Stuart Church from CX Partners for adding it to the Bristol Usability forum.
In his talk, Michael Cooper went through some of the beginnings of accessibility, as well as confronting a few common perceptions as to notions of what is usable, and what is not.
For example he illustrated that whilst an image online might seem visible and helpful to the average user, without the magic [alt=""] attribute not visible to the average browser user, it suddenly becomes unhelpful and positively annoying for the screen-reading user, as the random image url is read out loud in an effort to inform the user of it's presence. Whilst information like this is available at the W3C WCAG 2.0 Guidelines site, even Michael Cooper admits that the guidelines are 'carefully crafted to be precise, rather than to be easily read'. Slightly ironic bearing in mind that one of the 4 key principles of accessibility is for content to be 'Understandable!'
One area of particular interest for me was the notion of a 'A', 'AA' or 'AAA' site. As with everything now, whilst definable in a court of law, what is black and white on paper is often grey in the light of day.
As I had an official W3C WAI representative right there in front of me, I asked Michael if it was really possible to have a 'AAA' site, as some of the strictest 'AAA' guidelines seem to contradict each other. His response was interesting, and seemed to sum up the best-practise attitudes that are helpfully gaining some momentum in the web world today.
He said (paraphrased): Yes, there can be 'AAA' standard websites, 'as long as you chose appropriate content for the specific user group, and don't use a conflicting combination of content'.
User groups and users are ultimately who we're working for, even though we love our clients. Whilst a bit simplistic, if we can help a user to use a site, then we are doing our job, and Michael Cooper's position on aiming to broaden the possible types and numbers of those users is a cause worth fighting for...even if that means trawling daily through the 'book-length' documentation that accompanies the WCAG 2.0 guidelines!
We look forward to this years release of PDF and Flash specific additional guidelines.
You can view the Talk notes here.
Created on Thursday April 08 2010 04:00 PM
Last month I was privileged enough to have the opportunity to spend a day with the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) super-accessibility-squad, or SAS for short, and blown away by how much information can be picked up in just a day.
I was in the "Working through WCAG 2.0" day-long workshop, and I would recommend it to anyone who would like to work out some of the differences between the old and new Website Accessibility Guidelines, and/or learn some up-to-date best practises on attempting to meet these guidelines.
My experience was made even better because I was able to sit next to someone who only coded using screen-reading technology, and was therefore able to gain an insight into a level of accessibility know-how that I could not have gained any other way.
I was interested in the realistic approach taken by the RNIB. Whilst they have every right to scream and shout about the unbelievable amount of inaccessible material out there on and off the web, they instead pointed out the small things that you can quickly change to make a big difference to all of your users. This was the least that a user should expect from a website, allowing us all to progress into more complex issues with a good understanding of the standards expected by the RNIB.
Another interesting idea was that by trying to meet all AAA Priority guidelines in WCAG 2.0 could in fact exclude more users than aiming to meet the AA Priority guidelines and only a few but well chosen guidelines from AAA Priority! Obviously this is determined by the user group, but it was an interesting point that could only be really made by the experts!
Hopefully I've sung their praises enough, so please have a look for yourself as I would recommend this course to small and big companies alike, because this is the way web best-practise is definitely taking us.
Course details: http://www.rnib.org.uk/..../work_through_WCAG_2.0.aspx
Related article: http://www.rnib.org.uk/professionals/..../uk_law.aspx
Created on Wednesday October 14 2009 03:16 PM
The W3C have recently brought out a new series of guidelines for web accessibility (WCAG 2.0) that we've been digesting here in the office. The most immediate change noticeable is the shift in how accessibility is defined. There are now four principles that all have to be adhered to for conformance, rather than a series of levels you can choose to comply with or not. The levels are whether your website is:
- Perceivable - Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- Operable - User interface components and navigation must be operable. (This means that the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform)
- Understandable - Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
- Robust - Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
Although there are several improvements, the language is still very jargony, and an attempt to simplify some of the terms has actually resulted in making some areas more vague.
Created on Thursday February 19 2009 05:25 PM
According to The Central Office of Information, all public sector websites will need to comply with strict web accessibility standards by next December, or risk losing their .gov status.
Minimum standards can be viewed here.
Created on Thursday August 21 2008 05:19 PM
or, more applicably:
These are just some of the potential urls that may come out of ICANN's latest announcement regarding top level domains.
Caving into stakeholder pressure, ICANN have agreed to open up the virtual real estate of the web by making it possible for people to select their own domain names.
Currently, internet users have a limited choice of 21 domain extensions, such as .com, .org, and .uk. By this time next year people may be able to apply for whatever they like.
A major factor behind this change was the pressure and influence exerted by non-English users of the web.
"One of the most exciting prospect before us is that the expanding system is also being planned to support extensions in the languages of the world," said Peter Dengate Thrush, ICANN's Chairman. "This is going to be very important for the future of the Internet in Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Russia." The present system only supports 37 Roman characters.
Many pundits see this move as an act of appeasement to the Chinese, who have made many moves to implement a separate internet (going further, even than their Great Firewall). Others see it as an inevitable solution to increasing web usage, much like the periodic extension of local telephone codes.
I'm personally hanging on to get first dibs at my own name extension - hands off all you other amy wilson's!
Created on Thursday July 10 2008 01:10 PM
Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a full days' training on e-safety and child protection in relation to online chat facilities and forums. The session was hosted by Tony Domaille of David Niven Associates and the session was not only interesting and useful but also quite an eye-opener.
Tony worked as a police officer for over 30 years as a Detective Sergeant for the Child Protection Department and the last four years working on the Dangerous Offenders Unit concentrating on sexual exploitation of children through the Internet, so he's more than used to dealing with the issue of paedophilia. I was, on the other hand, very naive and completely unaware of the lengths these people will go to in order to carry out their fantasies and that they are generally very respected and trusted members of our community.
We're working with 3 local authorities on web sites which publicise positive activities for young people and include interactive chat facilities. Bath and North East Somerset council (B&NES) have enlisted the help of Tony to ensure that the moderators of the site are fully trained to recognise any misuse of the site. This includes not only being aware of sexual predators and how to deal with them, but also online bullying, cries for help in relation to issues such as suicide or anorexia, and discrimination against others in terms of things like racism or sexuality.
The actual website has also been enhanced by a number of e-safety features to ensure it's as easy as possible for users to report anything that they're concerned about as well as to deter potential predators. Some of the enhancements are:
Link to Think U Know, which informs on how to have fun, stay in control and how to report online abuse.
Link to directly contact site moderators.
Inclusion of House rules for use of the site and forum.
Internet Protocol (I.P) address to be captured at the point of registration.
The email address provided on registration will be verified before the user is able to use the site.
The new website - B-Active - is due to go live at the end of April.
Created on Monday April 21 2008 02:17 PM
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