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DEMOS Project

Online Materials for Staff Disability Awareness
: Techniques


Accessibility and Usability are related. If a site is designed for accessibility many usability issues are covered already. However, usability is more concerned with the general user experience rather than with issues raised by specific disabilities. Usability deals with issues like consistency of design and ease of navigation.

Visitors to websites don't usually have the leisure to learn their way around the interface and navigation system provided, learn which bits can be safely ignored and which bits lead to the information one wants. Consistency and uncluttered, straightforward interfaces can contribute greatly to easing this experience and gaining the user's trust.

Target Audience

It is important to be clear on a site's objectives and to establish an user profile, which includes the equipment used to access the web. It is a good idea to test a design at different stages, apply necessary changes, then test again.


Consistency of style, design and navigation are crucial. Inconsistent design and navigation confuses and frustrates users. Even experienced users give up quickly when it becomes too difficult or confusing to find the wanted information. Users should always be able to know where they are within the site and be able to easily find back to a top-level page.

Especially people with learning difficulties or memory problems will benefit from consistency.


In 'Don't make me think', Steve Krug suggests that navigation should answer the following questions:

Some tips:

Be consistent in the presentation of site navigation, position on page, link colours, etc.

Avoid graphics as navigational links, unless a text equivalent is provided.

Every page should have a link to the homepage, preferably in the upper left corner.

Group related links.

Using so-called 'breadcrumb trails' ensures that users don't get lost. They represent a way up the hierarchical structure of a site. For example: Home > Main Section > Subsection > Current Page.

Provide links to the main sections of the site or a back-to-top link at the bottom of long pages.

Provide a sitemap / table of contents and search options, especially on large sites.


Name links in a meaningful way to provide context and information to where they lead. If link text is not descriptive enough, give additional information using the TITLE attribute:

<a href="guide.html" title="Accessibility Guide for Web authors">Guide</a>

In the latest browsers a small box with the content of the TITLE attribute will pop up when the mouse cursor is moved over the link. This is called a 'tooltip'. Some screen readers can be set up to read out this additional information. [Test this by moving your mouse onto the code example above. If you are using a browser that supports this feature, a tooltip will pop up.]

This technique can be useful if a page contains two links with the same name, which lead to two different pages. To avoid confusion, the TITLE attribute can be used to clearly identify the target of each link.

It is, however, better to avoid using the same text for two links leading to different destinations, or to use two different link texts for two links leading to the same destination. Both these scenarios will trigger accessibility checker alerts.

Avoid the phrase "Click here", as it is not very descriptive.


People who are confused by a site's structure or can't find what they are looking for on their first visit are unlikely to ever return to this site. Interfaces and site layouts have to be instantly and intuitively usable. This is why it is important and safe to stick to conventions, especially regarding the positioning of information on a page. These conventions have now turned into user expectations. Ignoring them can therefore quickly frustrate the visitor.

Some of these conventions are:

To learn more check out this information from an eye tracking study. [External link: Open in new browser window]

Some other conventions:

Site Maintenance

Usability also includes regular maintenance of content and links. Broken links can quickly frustrate the user and outdated information can give a site low credibility.

Other usability considerations

Some general recommendations

[An extensive list of usability links can be found on the resources page.]

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