The reflection I wrote this week was actually a bit longer than my usual (believe it or not), so I’m only posting a summary. If you would like to read my full reflection, you can do so here: Week 6 Reflection (Full) (http://bit.ly/gaX1zl)
This week we got an in depth look at designing effective web pages. The first reading from the Web Style Guide focused on site design in general whereas the second, Web Accessibility in Mind, dealt more with accessibility issues. The readings were quite interesting because they brought to light several important aspects of web sites that we either often don’t pay attention to, or take for granted.
Lynch & Horton (2009) stress that when designing web pages, we should consider first and foremost our users’ needs, as opposed to satisfying our own desires. “No site succeeds because it has a cool home page” but rather, because it provides “great content and services” (Lynch et al., 2009).
The section on page structure covered three major areas including page headers, scan columns, and the content area. Page headers are “the most visible component of site identity,” found at the top of each page that provide for global navigation (Lynch et al., 2009). Scan columns provide similar features to page headers. The last piece discussed was the content area where the main content for any section of a site is found.
The reading then went on to explore page templates. In contrast to popular action, Lynch et al. (2009) emphasize the design of the internal page template (global page framework across the site) before that of the home page and secondary pages. The home and secondary pages actually play unique roles which will be described in a bit.
Internal page types vary depending upon “the range of content and user interface needs” (Lynch et al., 2009). Secondary pages act as somewhat of a liaison between internal pages and the home page, especially in a multi-tiered hierarchy (Lynch et al., 2009). As alluded to earlier, the home page should be designed last in order to play up “the larger navigational interface and graphic context of the site” achieved during creation of the internal secondary page templates (Lynch et al., 2009).
Moving onto the second reading, the focal point dealt with web accessibility in site design. At my previous job as a software engineer, I had some exposure to accessibility compliance issues, but my work in this respect was mainly to just come up with text-only versions for the some of the software we developed in order to allow for screen-reader compatibility. After completing the reading though, I know see that I was only exposed to a very small part of the puzzle.
First off, one of the startling facts the reading stated was “that about one fifth (20%) of the population has some kind of disability” (WebAIM, 2010). I never imagined the percentage was so large, so obviously not catering this group would not only be unwise for businesses, but potentially unlawful for education and government entities (WebAIM, 2010).
The reading also discussed “the major categories of disability types” which include visual (blindness), hearing (deafness), motor (limited fine motor skills) and cognitive (learning disabilities) (WebAIM, 2010).
The reading then went on to explain some concepts that were necessary to put forth before even trying to implement any type of accessibility. Besides having a general understanding of what accessibility is, the first of these concepts was a commitment “to ensuring accessibility” (WebAIM, 2010). Following a commitment to ensuring accessibility, the next concept mentioned was learning “how to implement accessibility” (WebAIM, 2010). The last concept discussed revolved around understanding legal obligations.
To close out the readings, several excellent tips were mentioned to keep in mind regarding principles of accessible design.
In conclusion, it’s pretty clear from the readings that there is no real mystery to designing effective sites. Although it is skill almost all developers aim for, probably only a small percentage attain it. However, if the necessary research and training is invested to properly understand and implement the best practices mentioned above (especially concerning accessibility in order to reach a wider audience), the goal can be more easily achieved.
Lynch, S., & Horton, P. (2009). Web style guide (3nd Ed). Retrieved from http://webstyleguide.com/wsg3
• Chapter 6: http://webstyleguide.com/wsg3/6-page-structure/index.html
Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM). (2010). Introduction to web accessibility. Retrieved from