Best Practices

Making sure that our web sites are accessible is not only the law, it is the right thing to do. By following these suggestions when you design your web site you will make it easier to update, manage and use. You will find that your site has far fewer Section 508 compliance issues and will have a greater level of accessibility than sites who do not employee these techniques. Taken from the Chancellor's Office manual web page evaluation check list, below are ways to ensure that your web pages maximize usability and accessibility.

CSS - Cascading Style Sheets

In the early days of HTML people were used to making very simple pages with the only variety being the size of text. If you have ever edited a web page in a simple text editor, such as Notepad, you know how boring these pages can look. In time people began to use graphics in much broader ways to liven up the look and feel of their web sites. Unfortunately the most common method of doing this was to use tables to get graphics to line up properly. Why is this unfortunate? Because using tables to layout a web page mixes content with presentation information and to users of certain assistive technologies (and graphically challenged browsers) the tables can destroy or obscure the information that is meant to be conveyed.

CSS allows a web designer to completely remove presention from the content. This allows the designer to create a presentation with much greater control than the old style of table layouts. Because content and presentation are seperate it means that updating a web page is much easier to do. Information that you want to update is not jumbled in with the complex markup of the presentation. Furthermore someone who may be responsible for updating the content of a page is less likely to 'break' the presentation.

Links

Links with same text pointing to the same place. If a page has more than one link using the same text it is important that they go to the same place. Contextual information alone may not be enough to inform users of the differences in destination. Many pages use 'click here' as the link to a document, as in "To get the course syllabus click here" and then later on the same page "To get the review sheet click here". It is easier and clearer to just link "Course Syllabus" and "Review Sheet".

Document Structure

Using the built in structure of standard HTML allows a document to be organized as you type it. This makes a document much easier to be read and to maintain. Most people have stopped using header tags because they did not like the presentation such tags imposed on their web pages, but with the use of CSS that should not be the case. The use of styles should not be a replacement to creating structured pages. It is important to remember that users can choose to use their own style sheets in place of the ones you have created in order to best meet their needs.

Frames

Frames are to be avoided. They are an outdated method of organizing information on a page and the inherent navigational obstacles they posess are not worth the beneift. Styles should be employed to create the desired visual effect.

Blinking and Moving Text

Blinking or moving elements on a screen should not be used. They can cause siezures in some people. Scrolling text is particularly problematic for users of assistive technology.

Scripting

Javascript and other types of scripting should be used in such a way that users who do not have these enabled are still able to use the page. Some drop down menu items are displayed using javascripts but when the scripts are turned off the navigation system is unusable. Links that employ the use of javascript hide their destination leaving users of assistive technology guessing as to where they might be going. It is best to avoid using javascript in a link.

Plug-Ins and Readers

Documents that require a certain type of reader, such as Acrobat or Word, should have a link to download the appropriate program nearby in a logical place.

Resizable Text

Text should be resizable so that users can enlarge or shrink it to suit their needs. In most cases this means that text should not be contained in graphics, which are not resizable by the user. Furthermore graphics that contain text must be recreated in the alt tag or long description element of the graphic.