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Home > Web Development > Web Site Usability and Accessibility spacer

Web Site Usability and Accessibility

Section editor
Ann Tothill, APC: AATothill@apc.org

Introduction

This section links to resources to help you make your site easy-to-use and accessible to the widest possible range of users.

Web Site Usability and Accessibility - Usability

Editor's choice: Usability.gov

Developed by: National Cancer Institute, United States
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Usability.gov offers extensive resources on web site usability, from basic concepts to advanced design techniques.

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Usability Research

Developed by: User Interface Engineering
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

User Interface Engineering is a company specialising in usability research. Its web site carries a wealth of information about usability in its articles and whitepapers, both of which are free to use.

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Appropriate Use of Alternative Text

Developed by: WebAim
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

"Adding alternative text for images is the first principle of web accessibility." This article from WebAim shows how to add alternative text appropriately and effectively.

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Creating Accessible Cascading Style Sheets

Developed by: Paul Bohman
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This tutorial gives an overview of CSS and why they are particularly useful in terms of accessibility. A special focus looks at options for ensuring viewable and usable content for all visitors to your website, with detailed instructions for improving linearized viewing and tricks to skip navigation. "Skipping over the navigation is a useful feature both for those who use screen readers and for those who rely on the keyboard for other reasons, such as those who have certain types of motor disabilities."

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Expert usability review vs. usability testing

Developed by: Webcredible
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

"An expert usability review is when a usability specialist inspects a website to identify potential usability problems. Usability testing involves getting people from the target audience to evaluate your site whilst performing tasks." Lisa Halabi compares the two methods.

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Introduction to Web Accessibility

Developed by: WebAim
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

WebAim has recently updated their introduction to web accessibility. It "highlights the web's potential to empower people with disabilities, the frustrations they feel when they cannot access the web, and what you can do to make your sites more accessible. This is a great resource for anyone who is new to web accessibility."

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Usability and User Experience Usability Toolkit

Developed by: Usability and User Experience
Type of resource: MS Word documents
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

"The Usability Toolkit is a collection of forms, checklists and other useful documents for conducting usability tests and user interviews."

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Usability First

Developed by: Foraker Design
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

A wealth of resources on designing usable web sites and software, and evaluating usability.

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Usability Toolkit

Developed by: Information & Design
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General, Trainers
Cost: Free access

Articles and checklists on a wide range of usability-related topics. An extended commercial version is also available.

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Usability- The Basics

Developed by: INT Media Group
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Usability is something every aspiring web designer has to keep in mind. This article is a simple introduction to the concept of building usable web sites.

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Usable Web

Developed by: Usable Web
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Usableweb.com is a collection of links to some of the best thinking and resources on the web about Web Usability. Although no longer updated, Usableweb.com remains an excellent starting point.

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Useit.com

Developed by: Jakob Nielsen
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Perhaps no one else has single-handedly brought web site usability into mainstream awareness than Jakob Nielsen. His site contains "Alertbox", his bi-weekly column on Web usability, and news and reports on various aspects of developing usable web sites.

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Web accessibility articles & resources

Developed by: Webcredible
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Webcredible offers articles a range of web site accessibility topics, from basic to advanced.

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Welcome to the Global Village: Some Considerations for Doing Usability in the Global Markets

Developed by: Kath Straub/HFI
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This article looks at the importance of considering local psychology in developing globalized internet sites. Although written primarily for a commercial-focussed audience, the article will be of interest to a more general audience.

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Framing Web Sites: FARN's Experience

Developed by: FARN
Type of resource: Web case study
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

FARN first developed their web site in 1997. Soon after, frames emerged as the new, innovative technique in design. In thinking that frames were more user friendly and better in general, FARN began converting their site into frames in 1998. By 1999, FARN had removed all frames and moved back to a simpler design.

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Web Site Usability and Accessibility - Usability testing

Usability evaluation and testing

Developed by: Information & Design
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

"Evaluation is crucial in any quality activity; if we want quality products, we must apply ourselves to uncovering the faults that are inherent in any user interface, and mitigate or eliminate them." This site walks you through the main steps of usability testing and evaluation.

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Usability testing without a budget

Developed by: 456 Berea Street
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Roger Johansson looks at basic usability testing methods to improve your site.

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Web Site Usability and Accessibility - Accessibility

Editor's Choice: Website Accessibility 101: Policy, Standards, and Design Techniques

Developed by: University of Wisconsin - Madison
Type of resource: web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Full online tutorial offered by the University of Wisconsin. The course details how to make images, links, tables, multimedia, scripts and more fully accessible. Each module provides a self-assessment test to ensure full understanding of the concepts presented, as well as a full assessment at the end of the course. In addition to ensuring compliance with US laws on accessibility, the site presents considerations that go beyond Section 508 on accessibility. It also gives handy tips and suggestions for facilitating the transformation of your site into an accessible one. The site also features a simple an online quiz to test your accessibility awareness.

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Accessibility audit vs. accessibility testing

Developed by: Webcredible
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

"There are currently three different options available to you when testing a website for accessibility:
* Accessibility audit - An accessibility expert reviews your site, highlighting any accessibility issue
* Accessibility testing - Real disabled users complete common tasks on your website whilst a moderator notes all problems they experience
* Automated accessibility testing - An automated program evaluates your website against accessibility guidelines"
Webcredible looks at the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

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Accessibility Features of Dreamweaver MX and MX 2004

Developed by: WebAim
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Dreamweaver MX and MX 2004 allow developers to be prompted when inserting web elements that may need accessibility attributes added to them. This article by Jared Smith describes the new accessibility features of these programmes.

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Accessibility Reference Sheets

Developed by: WebAIM
Type of resource: Web articles
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

WebAIM has created two accessibility reference sheets: Web Accessibility Principles and Testing for Web Accessibility.

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Accessibility: Learn by Example

Developed by: University of Wisconsin
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

"In order to illustrate the best practices for accessible web page design, we have created a website that contains both Inaccessible & Accessible pages. These examples should provide solutions to the most common accessibility issues currently facing web content managers. Each page in the Inaccessible website has a "What's Wrong" link that connects to both the Explanation of the problem & to a corresponding Accessible version. Similarly, Accessible pages contain a "What's Correct" link that guides the users to an Explanation of the best practices employed on the page."

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Accessify.com

Developed by: Accessify.com
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This not-for-profit initiative provides tools, links and resources to help you make your site comply with accessibility standards, along with news on accessibility-related topics.

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Building Accessible Web Sites

Developed by: Joe Clark
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This free online version of Joe Clarke's book (minus the graphics of the printed edition) offers a comprehensive guide to accessible web design.

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Dive into Accessibility: 30 days to a more accessible web site

Developed by: Mark Pilgrim
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Using five fictitious characters that represent real-life people with various disabilities, Mark Pilgrim provides design guidelines that can make it easier for people like them to use web sites. Available in HTML and PDF formats.

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Facts and Opinions About PDF Accessibility

Developed by: A List Apart
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

"PDF files on the web are sometimes annoying and very often unnecessary. But when they aren’t either of those things, we need to make them accessible for the same reasons we make other web content accessible." This article by Joe Clark looks at how PDF does and does not support accessibility.

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Four Web Accessibility Myths - Busted

Developed by: TechSoup
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

TechSoup challenges four myths around alternate text, the title attribute, tables for layout, and javascript.

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Improving the Accessibility of Your Web Site

Developed by: W3C
Type of resource: Web guide
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

If your web site was not designed with accessibility in mind from the start, implementing accessibility standards can seem a daunting task. This guide from the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative will help you make accessibility improvements and repairs to an existing web site efficiently and effectively.

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Planning web accessibility training

Developed by: W3C
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General, Trainers
Cost: Free access

This set of training resource pages outlines strategies and resources which can be useful in preparing training sessions on web accessibility.

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Section 508 Web Accessibility Standards for HTML

Developed by: WebAIM
Type of resource: website
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This detailed check list provides key information for meeting accessibility standards in the United States, at the same time
providing an example of an appropriately tagged PDF file so that the PDF file is fully accessible. A "pass" or "fail" listing is provided for each component of Section 508, helping web designers know if they are appropriately complying with accessibility criteria. The notes section helps readers avoid common traps when addressing accessibility. (Section 508 requires that United States Federal agencies' electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities.)

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The future of web accessibility

Developed by: webcredible
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This article by Trenton Moss looks at a few of the new challenges to accessibility posed by evolving web technologies, and makes some predictions about the factors which will shape web accessibility in future.

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WCAG 2.0 Quick Reference

Developed by: W3C
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

A summary of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 requirements and techniques to meet them.

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Web 2.0 & Accessibility for Disabled Users

Developed by: ICTHUB KnowledgeBase
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

"Web 2.0 has become one of the buzzwords within the internet community. In this article we examine what Web 2.0 is and what implications it might have for disabled people who use the Web, particularly the use of Ajax for interactive web pages."

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Web Accessibility Initiative

Developed by: W3c.org
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Perhaps the first stop on the Web for resources relating to web site accessibility. This is from the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative group.

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Defining Acrobat PDF Accessibility

Developed by: WebAIM
Type of resource: website
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

An excellent tutorial from WebAccessibilityInMind on accessibility for PDFs - detailed information regarding how to use Adobe 7.0 to make tags and Adobe 7.0 Professional to modify tags. The tutorial warns of pitfalls and failings in the Adobe tagging process, and how to get around them. The tutorial first outlines different disabilities and approaches to accessibility. It also offers general concerns about accessibility using easy "convert to HTML" tools, which create unnecessary HTML code.

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Web Site Usability and Accessibility - Validation and testing tools

W3C HTML Validation Service

Developed by: W3C
Type of resource: Web page
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This free service checks HTML documents for conformance to W3C HTML and XHTML recommendations and other HTML standards.

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Evaluating Website Accessibility

Developed by: WebAIM
Type of resource: website
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This WebAIM tutorial provides seven steps to ensure the accessibility of your site, including validation tools and tips for different types of disabilities.

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FEED Validator for Atom and RSS

Developed by: Sam Ruby, Mark Pilgrim, Joseph Walton, and Phil Ringnalda
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Trouble setting up RSS? This online tool can help you identify the problem and find solutions.

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Hermish

Developed by: Hermish
Type of resource: Online accessibility testing tool
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Free, easy-to-use tool to help you check the accessibility and cross-browser compatibility of your web site.

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iCapture

Developed by: Dan Vine
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This tool delivers a screenshot of your site as a Mac sees it through the Apple Safari browser.

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ieCapture

Developed by: Dan Vine
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This tool delivers a screenshot of your site as seen by Internet Explorer 4.01 - 6.0, Mozilla Firefox 0.8, and Opera 7.23 at different screen resolutions.

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Usablenet

Developed by: UsableNet Inc.
Type of resource: Web site with free downloads
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Useablenet are the creators of commercial website analysis tools. They also offer a number of free services. You can download their award-winning Accessibility Extensions for Dreamweaver and try out their trial version of LIFT Online, which tests a web page against usability and accessibility guidelines.

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Vischeck

Developed by: Stanford University
Type of resource: Website with downloadable plug in
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Can colourblind users see your site? Vischeck is a computer simulation that shows you what things look like for someone who is colourblind. Download the free tool to test your web designs for colour blind visibility. You will also find useful information on colour and vision.

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Watchfire WebXACT

Developed by: Watchfire
Type of resource: Online accessibility testing tool
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This free service allows you to test web pages (one at a time) for compliance with accessibility guidelines such as Section 508 and the W3C's WCAG with a view to repairing barriers to accessibility in your pages.

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WDG HTML

Developed by: The Web Design Group
Type of resource: Online tool
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

The WDG HTML Validator works in the same way as other validators, except that it allows you to validate up to 100 pages as a batch.

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WebAIM Simulations

Developed by: http://www.webaim.org/simulations/
Type of resource: Web site (including Shockwave)
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

The WebAIM site offers three simulations:
* Screen reader simulation - experience a screen reader and learn how inaccessible content affects screen reader users.
* Low-vision simulation - view web content through several types of vision disabilities. Learn how to design content to best work with screen enlarging software.
* Distractability simulation - experience the frustrations similar to what someone with a cognitive disability may experience on the Web.

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Web Site Usability and Accessibility - Writing for the web

Effective Activism on the internet

Developed by: Anitra Freeman
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This website from Anitra Freeman offers suggestions for internet activism in websites. The simple text site gives tips on how to get your message across, how to make sure your HTML is accessible to all, including people who have physical impairments; and writing effective emails.

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Inverted Pyramids in Cyberspace

Developed by: Jakob Nielsen
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Jakob Nielsen provides a quick overview of the "inverted pyramid style" for writing articles, and why it is particularly relevant for writing on the web. He cites studies of web usability and compares the traditional pyramid and inverted pyramid frameworks. He also enriches basic print media's linear inverted pyramid with the interlinked information possibilities of the web, i.e. linking to full background materials or article digests.

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Lower-Literacy Users

Developed by: Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox
Type of resource: web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Lower-literacy users exhibit very different reading behaviors than higher-literacy users: they plow text rather than scan it, and they miss page elements due to a narrower field of view. The article explores characteristics of lower literacy users, and offers design and writing tips to keep them on your site, as well as results of a study to show the effectiveness of gearing your site to lower-literacy users. In the United States alone lower-literacy users represent almost 50% of the population, and anyone who is not a native speaker of the language being read is more likely to have similiar reading characteristics.

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Writing for the Web

Developed by: GDNet
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

This article, from the Global Development Network, looks at issues such as usability, how people read on the web, and the problems of using a traditional "academic" writing style on the web. The article is primarily aimed at people who want to publish research findings on the web.

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Writing for the Web

Developed by: MMTK
Type of resource: MS Word document
Target audience: General, Trainers
Cost: Free access

Guide by Marion Walton from the University of Cape Town with tips and strategies for writing effective content for the web. Part of the Multimedia Training Kit.

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Writing for the Web: Guidelines for MIT Libraries

Developed by: MIT
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Based on a workshop given by Janice Redish, these guidelines look at how people read on the web, writing for the web, and design for on-screen reading.

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Writing Online: Best Practices

Developed by: OneNorthWest
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

OneNorthWest offers guidelines, tips, and hints for writing more effective web content.

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Web Site Usability and Accessibility - General

Developing with web standards: recommendations and best practices

Developed by: Roger Johansson
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

"This document explains how and why using web standards will let you build websites in a way that saves time and money for the developer and provides a better experience for the visitor. Also discussed are other methods, guidelines and best practices that will help produce high-quality websites that are accessible to as many as possible."

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Human Factors International

Developed by: HFU
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

The web site of Human Factors International (a commercial consultancy) offers a number of free resources relating to usability and accessibility, including a monthly User Interface Design Update newsletter.

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The Web Standards Project

Developed by: The Web Standards Project
Type of resource: Web site
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

The Web Standards Project is a grassroots coalition fighting for standards that ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all. Designing and building with web standards simplifies and lowers the cost of production, while delivering sites that are accessible to more people and more types of Internet devices.

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UITest.com User Interface Test resources

Developed by: Jens Meiert
Type of resource: Web directory
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

Links to a wide range of free resources for user interface development, and analysis tools for graphic user interface (GUI) assessment and improvement.

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Web Site Usability and Accessibility for Nonprofits

Developed by: TechSoup
Type of resource: Web article
Target audience: General
Cost: Free access

TechSoup conducts an interview with Jakob Nielsen about the importance of usability and accessibility for the web sites of non-profits

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