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Web Design Fundamentals is a survey of Web design and development techniques and technologies, fundamental concepts, terms, and best practices involved in professional web design. Instructor James Williamson examines popular web development tools, server-side software solutions, content management solutions, and cloud-based software, providing a high-level overview of the world of Web publishing.
Do you know your target audience, their demographics, how comfortable they are with specific interface types, or how they prefer to find information within your site? Many designers finding answers to all these questions without answering a very simple question. What percentage of my users will have some form of disability and how can I make my content more accessible to them? If the answer to the above question is any at all, you need to have a strategy for designing your site with accessibility in mind. Honestly, regardless of your target audience, having a strategy for accessible content is extremely important, whether it is a mobile device, screen reader or toaster oven.
More and more devices are accessing your web content everyday. As such removing barriers to that content regardless of device should be an important goal of your design process. It's also important to be vigilant about your potential clients' responsibilities regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 1998, Congress passed Section 508 of the ADA and that requires that all federal agencies make their information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Since then, the law has been broadly applied to any site receiving government funding and even applied to commercial sites in specific instances.
Depending upon your client, accessibility might not be just a good idea but it might also be the law. You can learn more about your responsibilities by visiting the government's website on Section 508. The good news is that designing with a focus on accessibility requires no more effort than any other means. It just requires that you stay focused on it throughout the process. Here are a few of the things that you can do to ensure that your sites meet Section 508 requirements. First, make sure that your focus is on the content and not on the design of the site.
Navigation is just as important to those with disabilities as those without and it's a good idea to make sure your site navigation addresses both, since CSS allows us to control our layout and position elements as we wish. Consider where navigation is found within the flow of the page as a way of presenting it to your non-visual users. Should the navigation appear early to give those users choices? Do you want to give them the ability to skip the navigation and proceed directly to the content? Remember that screen readers read the page in the order that the content appears.
Repetitive content can make such an experience frustrating and boring. Not something you want for your users. Next, learn how to make HTML content accessible. That in itself could be a title, so I don't have time here to list every technique to accessible design. But I do want to mention some of the most important steps. First, make sure all images have alternate text so that screen readers and other devices understand the subject matter of the images. Provide longer descriptions for images that have detailed content like pie charts or graphs. Next, learn how to make form elements accessible.
Trying to fill out and submit a form that lacks structure and has inaccessible elements is difficult and likely to frustrate more than a few users. There aren't many things that you need to do to form elements to ensure accessibility and they will easily fit within your normal document workflow. In addition to forms, make sure that you know how to make tables accessible. Making sure tables have captions and summaries, using structures such as thead and tbody, and associating table content with table headers through column or row associations are important table accessibility techniques.
Also, if your site makes heavy use of Ajax-driven interfaces, Flash content, or video, make sure you provide alternate content for screen readers or other devices. In the case of video, be sure to provide closed captioning for your viewers. Flash comes with a captioning component that can make adding simple captions to your videos a snap. Following these basic steps can help ensure that your sites meet accessibility requirements. Adopting an accessibility focused workflow it isn't hard to do. It's just something you should get in the practice of doing. If you're new to web design, by adopting this workflow early, you will just make it part of how you design sites.
Now, I should mention that tools such as Dreamweaver have accessibility options built into them. So make sure you explore the accessibility features of the tools that you used to build websites. Often, they will do the majority of this work for you. I also recommend strongly that you download one of the many popular screen readers such as Jaws, Thunder or a Microsoft's Narrator. Test your page in one of those screen readers and I think you'll find it changes your perspective on designing for accessibility. As you learn Web design, focusing on accessibility early in the process will ensure that your pages are available to the widest possible audience and that should be the goal of all designers.
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