English » Web Accessibility » Usability and Accessibility of Web Design

Usability and Accessibility of Web Design

What is Accessibility?

'Ease of use' expresses the essence of the term 'Accessibility.' Accessibility calls for developing environments, products, services that everyone can use.
There are often obstacles one must face before reaching his/her desired information or destination. When creating a Web site, it is important that these obstacles are removed. By mitigating the number of obstacles, it is possible to improve the accessibility of a Web site. In a department store for instance, there are rails for the elderly and persons with physical impairments. A slope is necessary for customers in wheel chairs, and mothers with carriages. And it would be best if there were Braille floor identifications for customers with visual impairments, as well as product and price information in both audio and tactile Braille formats.
When the word 'Accessibility' is used, individuals requiring nursing and barrier free products are often brought to mind. This image however, does not completely cover the full breadth of 'Accessibility.' When products and services are gentle to persons with disabilities and of old age, they become gentle to all persons. 'Accessibility' is for the benefit of all.

Have you ever experienced the difficulty of reading a document with tightly squeezed lines of sentences? With a little consideration, such a document can be recreated to become a document that everyone can read. By using Cascading Style Sheets, font size as well as spacing can be arranged with freedom, greatly increasing its 'readability.'
There are often questions of how prioritizing accessibility will negatively influence the design of a site. There are many ways to create an accessible site by maintaining its design status. Accessible and attractive sites are possible. This concept does not mandate that all pages of a site be accessible. What is important is the effort to increase the scope of a site's viewers by supplementing accessibility features.
As we review the sites of the Japanese government this year, we hope to spread the understanding of what it means to create a 'Web site that is gentle to those who see.'

6 Points to Create a Web Site with High Accessibility

  • Place an ALT feature on all Pictures.
  • Refrain from using Foreign Words.
  • Place TITLE Tags with Precision.
  • Choose Contrasting Colors for Background and Text.
  • Refrain from using Frames.
  • When implementing New Technology, always offer an Alternative.

What is Usability?

Behind objects that we use daily, are layers of careful thought in creating a product that is easy to use. Such care has been placed into products such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners, and even simple doorknobs. This is what is called 'Usability.' When the usability of a product or service is insufficient, consumers will not be satisfied. Dissatisfaction will lead consumers to see no value in a product or service. With products such as the aforementioned vacuum cleaner, by the time a user feels unsatisfied with the product, it is already paid for. With a Web site however, if the usability of the site is insufficient, the consumer will leave the site, never reaching the point of purchase. 'Usability' plays the role of the store sales person as well as the receptionist.

Accessibility and usability share many common goals. 'Accessibility' refers to the user's ability to 'use' and 'Usability' points to the 'ease of use.' As a result the nature of these two concepts are intimately related. An ideal Web site is one that can be used by all and is easy to use.

A forerunner of Web site usability in the U.S. is J. Nielson. His publication, 'Web Usability' is a well-known best seller. ' First think of what kind of information people are looking for,' commented Nielson on the Web site of the White House during the Bush presidency. As we look over the sites of the Official Residence of the Prime Minister as well as other Ministry sites in Japan, we would like to take into careful consideration 'what information citizens of Japan will be looking for.'

6 Points to Create a Web Site with High Usability

  • Clearly State the Mission of the Site to the User.
  • The Top Page should convey the Total Image of the Site to a User.
  • The Design and Structures of a Site should share Common Features.
  • Careful placement of information in the Appropriate Location.
  • The 'Next step' should be easy to understand.
  • Requested Feedback should be somewhat Predictable.

- Publication: 'New Media Monthly'May 2001 issue