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"It's about the whole look" - Web Empress

"Your internet business site must be beautiful and powerful, a strong contender in the swiftly-developing online network."

Accessibility - and why it matters

The universal web

The internet is truly global. The number of people using the internet is increasing every day. More and more in the way of information, products, entertainment, help, services, and more can be obtained by browsing online. With the already existing difficulties in finding what one wants, it's no wonder that search engines increasingly put users in charge of how they want to search, and make those searches learn the user's preferences.

With search functions moving towards personalisation and usability, it's well past time that web designers took into consideration the W3C's guidelines on accessibility, making their websites work for everyone, not just the perceived majority.

Understanding limitations

Users with low vision or blindness are the most obviously limited by badly designed websites ignoring accessibility guidelines. Websites full of flash effects, pretty animations, fabulous images, beautiful decorative text - these things are either invisible or hard to see for some users. It's not often realised that colour-blindness is another limitation that can adversely affect online experience for users.

And it's not just vision. There are various sensory, cognitive and physical disabilities or limitations that must be taken into consideration for a truly well-designed website.

Potential visitors to websites utilise a variety of solutions to maximise their online experience - enlarging their text size, using screen or text readers, text-to-speech software, personal stylesheets (terrific for colour-blind users), speech recognition technology, the use of the tab key, and so on.

Designing for solutions

But some websites are largely impervious to these solutions. If the website has been designed without care to make it accessible, it may effectively be useless to a considerable number of users.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a text reader cannot hear those words unless the image is described using alt text. The same is true for animations and other graphics.

Tables are notoriously difficult for text/screen readers to understand - the task is made much simpler if column and row headers are correctly marked within that table. This is another reason for avoiding the use of tables in design, if at all possible.

Personal stylesheets used by those with colour-blindness or other vision or physical limitations can only change the appearance of a website (so that the user can see it or use it) if the website's page has an external style sheet with the CSS elements.

The W3C accessibility guidelines

These are only a few points to consider. For further information, visit the W3C website page on "How People With Disabilities Use The Web".

XHTML, supplemented by the use of CSS in external stylesheets (and extensive javascripts also made external), is code designed with accesibility in mind. Clean, elegant code is immeasurably useful for a well-designed website that is beautiful and easy to use for all users.

Good design practices will result in (forgive the pun) a site for sore eyes.

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From concept to design, Web Empress works to provide you with a website to suit your design criteria.

Web Empress
P.O. Box 4292,
Ringwood, VIC  3134
Phone: 0418 328 516
61 3 9879 9150