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  #1  
Old 05-21-2010, 02:25 PM
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Accessibility VS. Usability

There seems to be a lot of confusion between accessibility and usability. How do YOU define both, and how do you feel they differ from each other. Additionally, I would like to know what importance you place on them personally and what impact you think accessibility and usability have on the success of a site.
 
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Old 05-21-2010, 03:10 PM
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Okay, I'll fire the first shot.

I think accessibility and usability are two different things, that go hand in hand. Accessibility deals with making a site accessible to people with any sort of limitation, such as a handicap. Blindness, deafness, neurological disorders, even people stuck with a slow dial-up connection or a clogged network, should all be afforded the opportunity to make good use of the internet. That means we need to take a lot of things into consideration. Alt. attributes for images, for instance, will interface with screen readers for the visually impaired, as well as aiding those with slow connections. No Visitor Left Out would be a good slogan for the accessibility minded designer.

Usability takes it one step further, making the user experience simpler and more intuitive. Good, logical navigation, for instance, makes the experience more productive and pleasant, than a nav. bar that lists everything available, in no particular order...it's all there, but finding what you want can be a real chore. It's also important to present your information in a way that will be easily understood. Just because you own a website doesn't mean you need to try to impress people with a five-star vocabulary. Write TO the users, not over their heads.

Frankly, I wasn't very aware of accessibility issues until about a year ago. I had previously focused mostly on usability, and thought I was doing fine. But accessibility is becoming more of an issue every day. Site owners are being fined and penalized for their failure to address accessibility in some countries, and it is not limited to large sites, or government sites. Every webpage needs to be accessible, as well as usable. I strongly suspect we will soon see mandated compliance to the WAI, in order to even put a site up.

I have always believed that usability was important, to keep visitors on-site, and to keep them coming back. I now understand that accessibility is equally important, even without any penalties hanging over our heads. I think it won't be long before WAI compliance will be mandatory, and I think that's a great thing!
 
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Old 05-21-2010, 09:16 PM
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Accessibility is when you can still reach the whiskey bottle. Usability is when you're damn sure it's still whiskey.
 
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Old 05-22-2010, 06:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Muddy View Post
Accessibility is when you can still reach the whiskey bottle. Usability is when you're damn sure it's still whiskey.
LMAO!! I was wondering if this would be serious reply after reading docc reply! Muddy made my day!
 
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Old 05-22-2010, 08:21 AM
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Accessibility

Quote:
Originally Posted by Muddy View Post
Accessibility is when you can still reach the whiskey bottle.
First I will try to explain with two sentences what accessibility is about, even if the majority of the internet professionals and users underestimate or don't care at all:

"For people without disabilities, technology makes things convenient. For people with disabilities, it makes things possible."

And what do you think about accessibility?
 
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Old 05-22-2010, 09:05 AM
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Thanks, John. I couldn't remember that quote, but I recalled having seen it before. It sums it up nicely.
 
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Old 05-22-2010, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by DocC View Post
Thanks, John. I couldn't remember that quote, but I recalled having seen it before. It sums it up nicely.
You seen it before at WPW and your expressed your thoughts about it.
 
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Old 05-22-2010, 10:24 AM
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For many years after the A.D.A. was enacted, architects, builders and owners defended the absence of ramps in their buildings by proving that they had no wheelchair-ridden employees. As a building inspector, I heard such arguments constantly. Apparently, it was lost on them, that not only did such an attitude keep the handicapped from entering their buildings, but also would make the cost of such retrofits part of the hiring analysis for new employees.

Similarly, a site owner of say, a photography website, could say, "blind people can't take pictures, so they won't visit my site". Just as invalid! Who could appreciate a well designed, WAI-compliant photography site more than someone that has never been able to enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the Grand Tetons or Niagara Falls?

One point that has been made is that alt. attributes should not just say, "picture of Grand Teton mountains", but rather something like, "Majestic Grand Teton mountain range, backed by beautiful multi-colored sunset". That certainly makes the visit more descriptive and enjoyable for someone visiting via a screen reader, and I think it also enhances the quality for the rest of us.

John also made a very good point here, that rather than simply running your pages through an automated validator, it is beneficial to actually have persons with disabilities take part in the evaluation process. I very much agree! I saw a point made on another site, that basically said (paraphrasing), "If you don't believe it makes much difference, try navigating a site using only your other hand on your mouse, or with your eyes closed." Good luck, if the designer hasn't addressed WAI issues!

Last edited by DocSheldon; 05-22-2010 at 10:48 AM.
 
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Old 05-22-2010, 11:19 AM
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Y'all are opening my eyes, and the eyes of others. I would like to hear more.
Yes, I will be adding my own 2 cents to this topic soon . . .
 
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Old 05-22-2010, 11:34 AM
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There are tools available to help spot accessibility issues on your pages. None are perfect, obviously, but using one or two can definitely help you understand some of the issues that can cause problems. One that I have found helpful is Wave, at http://wave.webaim.org/. They even have a FireFox addon. While WaveAim will highlight many detected items that need fixing... it will NOT find everything. However, I think just seeing the flagged items on your pages will help you to start thinking in terms of WAI compliance during your design/redesign efforts. Just a new way of thinking will make your compliance easier to achieve.

Note: There is coding that can be inserted, that essentially converts all "=blank" links to open in a popup window, which is not prohibited, although some users will have popups disabled. You can also convert your "=blank" attributes to "=external", and achieve compliance. See this article.

Last edited by DocSheldon; 05-22-2010 at 11:59 AM.
 
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Old 05-22-2010, 11:52 AM
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One aspect of accessibility, which I used to be constantly in violation of, is the "=blank" attribute. I used to always prefer to open links in a new window or tab, so that my user would still have MY page up on their browser. However, I found out that such was in direct violation of WAI guidelines, and that in the U.S. and some other countries, has even been ruled to be in violation of civil rights law, as discriminatory.

The premise is that a user utilizing a screen reader will be unaware that their browser has shifted to a new window, and as a consequence, their navigation is made much more difficult. (For instance, their BACK button becomes useless.) As a result, they may become disoriented, and be unable to find the information they were seeking.

Note: There is coding that can be inserted, that essentially converts all "=blank" links to open in a popup window, which is not prohibited, although some users will have popups disabled. You can also convert your "=blank" attributes to "=external", and achieve compliance. See this article. (I inadvertently added this remark to my previous post, rather than this one, but I can't delete it there)

Last edited by DocSheldon; 05-22-2010 at 12:12 PM.
 
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Old 05-22-2010, 01:57 PM
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Okay, these thoughts are just my personal opinion, so don't jump all over me, okay?

Accessibility - I define this the same way everyone else does.
Quote:
Web accessibility refers to the practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_accessibility
My issues don't involve me not WANTING to make my sites more accessible, but rather I just don't think most authorities on the topic make it very easy to understand HOW to do so. I would love to see a site who used extremely simple language of step by step help for the average mom & pop business.


Usability - I often confuse this term with accessibility, because to me they should be one in the same.
Quote:
Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word "usability" also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process. http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030825.html
Again, my issues do not involve me not WANTING my site to be more usable. One issue I see is there has to be a balance. If the number one resource on usability is an example of ideal usability, no thanks. Does usability have to mean that a site has to be this ugly? Why can't there be a balance between modern design that is pleasing to the eye while still remaining highly usable and accessible?
 
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Old 05-22-2010, 02:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cricket View Post
Okay, these thoughts are just my personal opinion, so don't jump all over me, okay?

Accessibility - I define this the same way everyone else does.

My issues don't involve me not WANTING to make my sites more accessible, but rather I just don't think most authorities on the topic make it very easy to understand HOW to do so. I would love to see a site who used extremely simple language of step by step help for the average mom & pop business.


Usability - I often confuse this term with accessibility, because to me they should be one in the same.

Again, my issues do not involve me not WANTING my site to be more usable. One issue I see is there has to be a balance. If the number one resource on usability is an example of ideal usability, no thanks. Does usability have to mean that a site has to be this ugly? Why can't there be a balance between modern design that is pleasing to the eye while still remaining highly usable and accessible?
I think there CAN be, Cricket. They're not mutually exclusive. It just requires a new mindset, I think.
 
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Old 05-22-2010, 02:50 PM
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Usability and Accessibility

If you get beyond "Oh that's cool! Gotta add that feature!" and seriously look at what makes the website do what the visitor expects and be able to do that easily, usability is really not that hard to accomplish and no, that doesn't mean the site has to be ugly.
Quote:
It's not rocket surgery TM

The good news is that much of what I do is just common sense, and anyone with some interest can learn to do it.

After all, usability really just means making sure that something works well: that a person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can use the thing - whether it's a Web site, fighter jet, or a revolving door - for it's intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated.

Like a lot of common sense, though, it's not necessarily obvious until after someone's pointed it out to you
Don't Make Me Think - A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability Second Edition
Introduction page 5

It's not rocket surgery is the tradmarked corporate motto of Mr. Krug's company Advanced Common Sense.

There are really some simple things that improve the usability of your site right off the bat:
  • Make things as easy as possible to do on the site. Mr. Krug's book title says it best, "Don't make me think!"
  • Let the person know where on the site they are. This can be accomplished with what is called breadcrumb navigation. It shows the path within the site the current page is.
  • Let the person know at what stage of the task they are performing they are at. e.g. the checkout process of your cart or the process of signing up.
  • Have clear instructions on what to do when there is a task required. e.g. How to Join, Where to Find.., Once You Join You can do...
  • Label things on the page appropriately. e.g. Your search box. Give clear indicators of where it is and what to do.
  • Clear navigation system. Make it clear how to get to different parts of your site. Mr. Vince Flanders coined the phrase "Mystery Meat Navigation (MMN)" to refer to those cute, but useless icons certain web designers use that are not obvious what they do.
  • Make the page easy to scan. Web surfers scan, they don't read the page unless they find something that interests them. By scanning the headings the user can find what they want quickly.
  • Use headings to define sections and the hierarchy of the page.
  • There are certain conventions on the web. e.g. top, left or right navigation Yes I know it's really boring (every ecommerce site looks the same) but consider the plus of that. People generally already know how to get around the site and where to look for the navigation. If you want to break convension, then make it easy to figure out!
  • We get really involved designing a site. Whether you are doing it yourself or in coordination with a designer. Through the process we "learn" how the site works, this doesn't necessarily mean it's easy to use to a new visitor. Get someone not associated with the site to review it. An average person in your target audience is the best. Just put the site up infront of them and watch what they do. Ask them to do something without you helping (or hinting) how to get it done.
Now back to the title of this thread: Accessibility VS. Usability.

Mr. Krug specifically added a section on accessibilty to the second edition of his book referenced above and I think it says the relationship between usability and accessibility quite well:
Quote:
People sometimes ask me, "What about accessibility? Isn't that part of usability?

And they're right, of course. Unless you're going to make a blanket decision that people with disabilities aren't part of your audience, you really can't say your site is usable unless it's accessible.
Page 169 Don't Make Me Think Second Edition. (bolding added by yours truly)

The points I brought up above are echoed in Accessibility circles too.

And did you notice, these points are also brought up when reading about search engine optimization?

Last edited by HTMLBasicTutor; 05-22-2010 at 02:57 PM.
 
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Old 05-22-2010, 03:26 PM
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The following books are really very easy to read for anyone.

Don't Make Me Think A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability Second Edition<--Mr. Flanders has this in his book collection too!

Web Pages That Suck and Son of Web Pages That Suck

Web Design for ROI

Mr. Krug has a new one out: Rocket Surgery Made Easy The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems which I imagine will be just as easy to read as his others.

Building Accessible Websites by Joe Clark is available online.
 
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Old 05-25-2010, 11:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DocC View Post
One aspect of accessibility, which I used to be constantly in violation of, is the "=blank" attribute. I used to always prefer to open links in a new window or tab, so that my user would still have MY page up on their browser. However, I found out that such was in direct violation of WAI guidelines, and that in the U.S. and some other countries, has even been ruled to be in violation of civil rights law, as discriminatory.

The premise is that a user utilizing a screen reader will be unaware that their browser has shifted to a new window, and as a consequence, their navigation is made much more difficult. (For instance, their BACK button becomes useless.) As a result, they may become disoriented, and be unable to find the information they were seeking.

Note: There is coding that can be inserted, that essentially converts all "=blank" links to open in a popup window, which is not prohibited, although some users will have popups disabled. You can also convert your "=blank" attributes to "=external", and achieve compliance. See this article. (I inadvertently added this remark to my previous post, rather than this one, but I can't delete it there)
How fascinating web life can be. We redesigned our main association website and removed most of the "-blank" coding. Members started complaining that we dropped the ball. Turns out opening a new window is preferred when it comes to items like PDFs or other files. They want us to preserve their "surfing spot" on the site.
 
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Old 05-25-2010, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Bearsong View Post
How fascinating web life can be. We redesigned our main association website and removed most of the "-blank" coding. Members started complaining that we dropped the ball. Turns out opening a new window is preferred when it comes to items like PDFs or other files. They want us to preserve their "surfing spot" on the site.
Yeah, I also prefer that links open in a new tab or window. I usually right click on links, and select new tab, for that reason.

I'm not sure what the difference is between =blank and =external... I'll have to investigate that.
 
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Old 05-25-2010, 11:55 AM
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From wiktionary:
Usability is a term used to denote the ease with which people can employ a particular tool

From wikipedia: Accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is accessible by as many people as possible.

I think DocC defined it best in his first post.

From my experience, tt seems usability is a little more of import to marketers.
 
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Old 05-25-2010, 12:06 PM
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Of the U.S. population, alone (courtesy of http://www.disabledinaction.org/census_stats.html):
(presumably based upon the 2000 census)

51.2 million
Number of people who have some level of disability. They represent 18 percent of the population.


32.5 million
Number of people with a severe disability. They represent 12 percent of the population.


11%
Percentage of children ages 6 to 14 who have a disability. This amounts to 4 million children.

72%

Percentage of people 80 and older with disabilities, the highest of any age group.


These are, of course, ALL disabilities, and all these people may not be in a position to surf the web. Nevertheless, it's a huge number of people... a demographic that no smart marketer should exclude from their efforts, even if it's not mandatory to cater to them.

And it is becoming increasingly more mandatory, the world over.

Last edited by DocSheldon; 05-25-2010 at 12:14 PM.
 
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Old 05-25-2010, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by DocC View Post
I'm not sure what the difference is between =blank and =external... I'll have to investigate that.
Both methods create usability and accessibility problems.

First of all the target attribute was created for frames, not regular web pages. If you read the HTML 4.01 spec (which forms part of XHTML) it talks about frames.
Quote:
target = frame-target [CI]
This attribute specifies the name of a frame where a document is to be opened.
Continued: Frames in HTML documents

The second method explained in the SitePoint article uses Javascript. If the user is using a popup blocker () or can not use Javascript for some reason this method won't work.

Both methods create an usability problem. It doesn't matter if you are surfing challenged or not. For anyone, they can get confused which window or tab they are in. Really, how many times have you had multiple windows or tabs opened yourself and closed the wrong one.

An example of an accessibility problem is: close your eyes, which tab/window is active? Without telling the screen reader to reread the page to you, you wouldn't know which tab/window you are on nor would know which way to go for the other tab/window (unless you have a really good memory).

Another thing to think about is the mobile web. If you build your site to be flexible then it could work on mobile devices as is with a few minor tweaks.
Quote:
[POP_UPS] Do not cause pop-ups or other windows to appear and do not change the current window without informing the user....

...Many mobile devices cannot support more than one window and consequently, attempting to open one will have unpredictable results....
Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 - 5.2.8 Refreshing, Redirection and Spawned Windows
 
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