Heidi Valles gives five tips for im­prov­ing us­abil­ity through con­sis­tency

net magazine - - CONTENTS - Heidi (@hei­di­work) is a de­vel­oper and ac­ces­si­bil­ity con­sul­tant. Her busi­ness Arch In­clu­sive ( arch­in­clu­ spe­cialises in cre­at­ing ac­ces­si­ble web­sites and help­ing oth­ers do the same

Heidi Valles on keep­ing things con­sis­tent

One of the is­sues I enjoy dig­ging into when au­dit­ing sites for ac­ces­si­bil­ity is con­sis­tency; making sure re­peated terms and func­tion­al­ity ap­pear and be­have the same way across the en­tire web­site. Align­ing com­mon el­e­ments in this way makes for a pre­dictable ex­pe­ri­ence that sup­ports the user when they are ex­plor­ing the site.

One of the four prin­ci­ples of WCAG 2.0 states that web­sites should be ‘pre­dictable’. Un­der this, there are two cri­te­ria that de­pend specif­i­cally on con­sis­tency. 3.2.3 dic­tates that nav­i­ga­tional items (e.g. navbar links, pre­vi­ous and next ar­rows, bread­crumbs) oc­cur in the same rel­a­tive or­der each time they are re­peated. 3.2.4 rules that com­po­nents that have the same func­tion­al­ity (e.g. carousels, tabs, but­tons) are iden­ti­fied con­sis­tently.

It’s un­der­stand­able that some­one might think that adding a lit­tle va­ri­ety would make a site more in­ter­est­ing. But in gen­eral, a uni­form UI is ac­tu­ally of ser­vice to your users. Hav­ing to learn how to use a site over and over again with each new page will only frus­trate visi­tors, par­tic­u­larly those us­ing as­sis­tive tech­nol­ogy who might now need to in­vest even more time and en­ergy.

Con­sis­tency tips

Let’s go through some key ways you can make sure your web­site is easy to use. Keep nav­i­ga­tion con­stant: Small changes like up­dat­ing ‘Sign in’ to ‘Log out’ are fine, but in gen­eral your page nav­i­ga­tion should be un­chang­ing and ever-present Make func­tional el­e­ments pre­dictable: El­e­ments that help a user move through con­tent (e.g. ‘next’ and ‘pre­vi­ous’ links, pag­i­na­tion), should look and act the same wher­ever they’re used Con­sider no­ti­fi­ca­tions: Adopt a con­sis­tent method for lay­ing out forms, dis­play­ing no­ti­fi­ca­tions and giv­ing er­ror mes­sages. En­sure info tips, carousels, date-pick­ers and other wid­gets all look and be­have the same way Don’t re­use func­tional icons for dif­fer­ent pur­poses: A ‘next’ ar­row should al­ways be a next ar­row Use clear, con­sis­tent ter­mi­nol­ogy: En­sur­ing your ter­mi­nol­ogy is con­sis­tent will lessen cog­ni­tive load and make a site feel eas­ier to understand. If search func­tion­al­ity is la­belled ‘Search’, use this term through­out – don’t in­tro­duce other de­scrip­tors such as ‘Find a topic’ or ‘Page lookup’ By cre­at­ing an over­all ex­pe­ri­ence that is pre­dictable and clear, users can nav­i­gate with con­fi­dence, ab­sorb con­tent fully, and move on to par­tic­i­pate, make a pur­chase, or reach out. An ac­ces­si­ble web­site is an ef­fec­tive web­site.

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