Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design

19Dec0

Web Content Accessiblity Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0: Overview and Structure

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Overview

Last week the W3C announced the publishing of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 as a final Web Standard "W3C Recommendation". This is good news for many reasons:

  • Guidelines are more specific, e.g. specifying contrast ratio or time-based actions in seconds.
  • Success Criteria are written in a technology neutral fashion.
  • Success Criteria are written as testable statements.
  • Past killer arguments like "Javascript is forbidden" are now included as a technique to enhance accessiblity.
  • Gathering 'implementation experience' is now part of the W3C Process.
  • Guidelines include requirements related to informing users of data entry errors.
WCAG 2.0 Overview showing Principles, Guidelines, and Success Criteria (Level A, Level AA, Level AAA).

WCAG 2.0 Overview showing Principles, Guidelines, and Success Criteria (Level A, Level AA, Level AAA).

But what I personally like the best is the revamped structure called layers of guidance:

Structure

The four principles of Web accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

The four principles of Web accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

The WCAG 2.0 define a logical hierarchy of accessibility guidelines called layers of guidance. All of these layers work together to provide guidance on how to make content more accessible.

Principles

The foundation is built on four principles that are essential for anyone to access and use Web content, i.e. every Web content must be:

  1. Perceivable
  2. Operable
  3. Understandable
  4. Robust

These principles are the four pillars of Web accessibility and describe at a high level what can be done to assist users with varying needs to successfully access your content.

Guidelines

The 12 WCAG 2.0 Guidelines provide basic goals for creating accessible content.

The 12 WCAG 2.0 Guidelines provide basic goals for creating accessible content.

The 12 guidelines are basic goals that authors of Web content should work toward in order to create accessible content. None of them are testable and are only meant as a framework of overall objectives. The guidelines are:

  • 1.1 Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
  • 1.2 Provide alternatives for time-based media.
  • 1.3 Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
  • 1.4 Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
  • 2.1 Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  • 2.2 Provide users enough time to read and use content.
  • 2.3 Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
  • 2.4 Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
  • 3.1 Make text content readable and understandable.
  • 3.2 Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • 3.3 Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
  • 4.1 Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

Success Criteria

WCAG 2.0 Success criteria shown in three column: column 1 (red) are Level A, column 2 (yellow) are Level AA, column 3 (green) are Level AAA.

WCAG 2.0 Success criteria shown in three column: column 1 (red) are Level A, column 2 (yellow) are Level AA, column 3 (green) are Level AAA.

Now, the success criteria is where the meat is. For each Guideline, testable success criteria are provided. Every Web content or series of Web content (complete web page or series of connected pages) can be tested and evaluated against these criteria and further assigned a true/false (equals pass or fail) value.
These success criteria are further divided into three levels of conformance, meaning satisfying all the requirements of a given standard, guideline or specification:

  • Level A (lowest; minimum level of conformance)
  • Level AA
  • Level AAA (highest)

The notion of conformance is so important that I will discuss it in a separate blog entry.

Sufficient and Advisory Techniques

Up until now all the principles, guidelines, and success criteria are written in a technology neutral fashion. That's great but what now? The Working Group has identified and published examples for HTML implementations that should serve as examples and tutorials and are kept in the living document called Techniques for WCAG 2.0. This document explains a variety of techniques on how to implement the given guideline for each success criteria. The list is not complete and will be expanded as new techniques are discovered.

The techniques fall into two categories:

  • Sufficient techniques: considered to be sufficient to meet a success criteria.
  • Advisory techniques: enhance accessibility, but did not qualify as sufficient techniques.

Most Success Criteria have multiple sufficient techniques listed. Any of the listed sufficient techniques can be used to meet the Success Criterion. Also there may be other techniques which are not documented by the working group that could also meet the Success Criterion. This is especially true for content that is not HTML.

Resume & Criticism

I'm really excited about the WCAG 2.0, their clear structure and promising, almost marketing-like wording. I also like the amount of effort taken to document examples, techniques and common failures.
What I miss is the programmer perspective that outlines each element with its associated success criteria and code samples, e.g. how can I make tables accessible, what about links, captcha, maps, etc.? I think this work is up to us and I will continue to tackle this issue by grouping, summarizing and compiling elements so I can publish them on this blog.

What are your opinions on WCAG 2.0?

20Oct0

Design Guidelines: Content

Posted by Michael Gaigg

When writing content for the web it is essential to speak the language of your users. Become a word detective, use google trends. Words are the basic elements of links, get them precisely right to provide strong information scent. Identify trends, don't invent them. Look at the evolution of language.

Get to the essence of the message! Stop 'waving' on your webpage ('Welcome to the webpage of our company. We are proud to blah-blah...').

Always remember that the user is in charge, the user is impatient, nasty, demanding, in a hurry and in control to spend its time somewhere else (according to Jakob Nielsen: 'Users spend most of their time on other sites'). Online marketing is about giving attention (versus offline marketing is about getting attention).

Design Guidelines for Content

  1. Make information easy to find with clear headings and meaningful sub-headings (not ‘clever’ ones).
  2. Break up the information into manageable pieces.
  3. Put the pieces in a logical order for your readers.
  4. Keep your sentences short and employ one idea per paragraph.
  5. Use the ‘inverted pyramid’ style: conclusion (context) first, results later.
  6. Talk to your readers. Use "you".
  7. Write in the active voice (most of the time).
  8. Put the action in the verb, not in the nouns.
  9. Use your readers' words.
  10. Use half the word count (or less) than conventional writing.
  11. Use bulleted lists where appropriate – for a list of items and for parallel "if, then" sentences.
  12. Employ scannable text like highlighted keywords.

Best Practices

See my blog entry for Best Practices for accessible Content

References:

Suggested reading:
15Oct0

Design Guidelines: Links

Posted by Michael Gaigg

"If links were married they'd get divorced all the time! That's because they can't keep their promise." (Gerry McGovern)

What Gerry means is that what links say they will do and what they actually do are total opposites. How many times have I believed, clicked and followed a link that promised me to 'Download this or that' just to find another page describing this piece of software. There I had to muddle through even more links just to find another 'Download version' link that yet again takes me to another page acknowledging the terms and conditions. The story could go on and on.

Remember: Good links are like magnets - they drive users to them.

With that in mind, here are the

Design Guidelines for Links

  1. Color and underline link text (exceptions include lists of links like a navigation menu)
  2. Reserve underlining for links (do not underline text that is not a link)
  3. Use different colors for visited and unvisited links (e.g. shades of blue)
  4. Avoid using color for text unless it is a link and never use blue for non-text links (even if your links are not blue)
  5. Avoid changing the font style on mouse over
  6. Avoid tiny text for links
  7. Use appropriate spacing between links or use a clear separator
  8. Use links primarily for navigation between pages
  9. Link text must be describe the target as short and precise (clear call to action) as possible AND hold this promise!

Best Practices

See my blog entry for Best Practices for accessible Content

References:

 

Suggested reading: