accessibility and usability

Discussion in 'HTML' started by Barbara de Zoete, Nov 30, 2004.

  1. [F'up set to ciwas-d]

    I am getting more and more confused as to the meaning of the words
    'accessibility' and 'usability' *in the context of the world wide web*.
    What do these two words mean? How do they differ from one another? Where
    does the meaning overlap, if it does? Where do they perhaps conflict with
    one another, if they do?

    Can anyone please explain to someone who is not native speaking, nor
    fluent in English?

    TIA
    --
    Weblog | <http://home.wanadoo.nl/b.de.zoete/_private/weblog.html>
    Webontwerp | <http://home.wanadoo.nl/b.de.zoete/html/webontwerp.html>
    Zweefvliegen | <http://home.wanadoo.nl/b.de.zoete/html/vliegen.html>
    Barbara de Zoete, Nov 30, 2004
    #1
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  2. Barbara de Zoete wrote:

    > [F'up set to ciwas-d]
    >
    > I am getting more and more confused as to the meaning of the words
    > 'accessibility' and 'usability' *in the context of the world wide web*.
    > What do these two words mean? How do they differ from one another? Where
    > does the meaning overlap, if it does? Where do they perhaps conflict with
    > one another, if they do?
    >
    > Can anyone please explain to someone who is not native speaking, nor
    > fluent in English?


    Accessibility is concerned with design that accommodates the need of
    disabled people (usually). For example, if you are near-sighted or blind
    (and hence _listen_ to Web pages), you want the page to have properties
    that make it friendly to you.

    Accessibility is a subset of usability, I suppose. It is one aspect that
    makes a page easier to _use_, by all audiences. This leads to the
    definition of 'usability'. Usability can be explained in terms of ease of
    navigation (How do I get to...), good context (where am I inside the Web
    site?), etc.

    I know examples can help...

    I hope this helps,

    Roy

    --
    Roy Schestowitz
    http://schestowitz.com
    Roy Schestowitz, Nov 30, 2004
    #2
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  3. "Roy Schestowitz" <> wrote in message
    news:cohduf$r90$...
    > Barbara de Zoete wrote:
    >
    >> [F'up set to ciwas-d]
    >>
    >> I am getting more and more confused as to the meaning of the words
    >> 'accessibility' and 'usability' *in the context of the world wide web*.
    >> What do these two words mean? How do they differ from one another? Where
    >> does the meaning overlap, if it does? Where do they perhaps conflict with
    >> one another, if they do?
    >>
    >> Can anyone please explain to someone who is not native speaking, nor
    >> fluent in English?

    >
    > Accessibility is concerned with design that accommodates the need of
    > disabled people (usually). For example, if you are near-sighted or blind
    > (and hence _listen_ to Web pages), you want the page to have properties
    > that make it friendly to you.
    >
    > Accessibility is a subset of usability, I suppose. It is one aspect that
    > makes a page easier to _use_, by all audiences. This leads to the
    > definition of 'usability'. Usability can be explained in terms of ease of
    > navigation (How do I get to...), good context (where am I inside the Web
    > site?), etc.



    I would actually define usability closer to what you've described as
    accessibility. Accessibility simply being whether or not you can actually
    access the website.

    --Tina
    --
    http://www.AffordableHOST.com - Multi-Domain & Reseller Cpanel Hosting
    ++ 20% Discount Coupon Code ++: newsgroup
    Serving the web since 1997
    Tina - AffordableHOST, Inc., Nov 30, 2004
    #3
  4. Barbara de Zoete

    Karl Core Guest

    "Barbara de Zoete" <> wrote in message
    news:eek:psh9r8n0gx5vgts@zoete_b...
    > [F'up set to ciwas-d]
    >
    > I am getting more and more confused as to the meaning of the words
    > 'accessibility' and 'usability' *in the context of the world wide web*.
    > What do these two words mean? How do they differ from one another? Where
    > does the meaning overlap, if it does? Where do they perhaps conflict with
    > one another, if they do?
    >
    > Can anyone please explain to someone who is not native speaking, nor
    > fluent in English?
    >


    In its strictest form, accessibility is often defined as "whether a disabled
    person can gain access to the resource".
    Some have deemed accessibility as a sub-set of usability. I disagree, in
    that an accessible site can still be UN-usable and vice versa.
    In other words, one does not necessarily follow from another.

    Usability is "how easy it is to use something", whether it is a website or a
    mop. Many things you use in your daily life have had their design influenced
    by someone in the field of usability. I often use the controls on a car
    stereo as an example. At one time, tape decks had a "flip" button which
    would reverse the play so that you could play both sides of the tape. The
    stereo also had buttons labeled [<<] and [>>] which would "Fast Forward" or
    "Rewind" the tape. Problem is, this did a different thing depending on which
    side of the tape you were playing. This caused users headaches - a button
    should only have ONE action. Some smart usability person decided that the
    "fast forward" button should always fast forward no matter what side of the
    tape you're on.

    Hope this helped.


    --
    -Karl Core
    Please Support "Project Boneyard":
    http://www.insurgence.net/info.aspx?action=band&item=boneyard
    Karl Core, Nov 30, 2004
    #4
  5. .oO(Karl Core)

    >In its strictest form, accessibility is often defined as "whether a disabled
    >person can gain access to the resource".


    Why restrict it to the disabled? Many websites are inaccessible even for
    non-disabled users (lack of plugins or client-side scripting for
    example).

    Micha
    Michael Fesser, Nov 30, 2004
    #5
  6. "Tina - AffordableHOST, Inc." <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > "Roy Schestowitz" <> wrote in message
    > news:cohduf$r90$...
    > > Barbara de Zoete wrote:
    > >
    > >> [F'up set to ciwas-d]
    > >>
    > >> I am getting more and more confused as to the meaning of the words
    > >> 'accessibility' and 'usability' *in the context of the world wide web*.
    > >> What do these two words mean? How do they differ from one another?

    Where
    > >> does the meaning overlap, if it does? Where do they perhaps conflict

    with
    > >> one another, if they do?
    > >>
    > >> Can anyone please explain to someone who is not native speaking, nor
    > >> fluent in English?

    > >
    > > Accessibility is concerned with design that accommodates the need of
    > > disabled people (usually). For example, if you are near-sighted or blind
    > > (and hence _listen_ to Web pages), you want the page to have properties
    > > that make it friendly to you.
    > >
    > > Accessibility is a subset of usability, I suppose. It is one aspect that
    > > makes a page easier to _use_, by all audiences. This leads to the
    > > definition of 'usability'. Usability can be explained in terms of ease

    of
    > > navigation (How do I get to...), good context (where am I inside the Web
    > > site?), etc.

    >
    >
    > I would actually define usability closer to what you've described as
    > accessibility. Accessibility simply being whether or not you can

    actually
    > access the website.


    That's the plain meaning of the word. But in the context of the Web, and I
    suppose in user interface design in general, "accessibility" has taken on
    the specific meaning explained by Roy, euphemistic as it is, and that's how
    it's now generally understood.
    Harlan Messinger, Nov 30, 2004
    #6
  7. While the city slept, Karl Core () feverishly
    typed...

    > In its strictest form, accessibility is often defined as "whether a
    > disabled person can gain access to the resource".
    > Some have deemed accessibility as a sub-set of usability. I disagree,
    > in that an accessible site can still be UN-usable and vice versa.
    > In other words, one does not necessarily follow from another.


    I disagree. A page needs to be usable if it is going to be accessible. From
    section 2.2 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidlines (1.0);

    "Content developers should make content understandable and navigable. This
    includes not only making the language clear and simple, but also providing
    understandable mechanisms for navigating within and between pages. Providing
    navigation tools and orientation information in pages will maximize
    accessibility and usability." [
    http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/#context-and-orientation ]

    [...]

    > I often
    > use the controls on a car stereo as an example. At one time, tape
    > decks had a "flip" button which would reverse the play so that you
    > could play both sides of the tape.


    Eeh... I remember when you had to pop the tape out and turn it over! ;-)

    Cheers,
    Nige

    --
    Nigel Moss
    http://www.nigenet.org.uk
    Mail address not valid. , take the DOG. out!
    In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is very, very busy!
    nice.guy.nige, Nov 30, 2004
    #7
  8. Barbara de Zoete

    Liz Guest

    In message <>
    "nice.guy.nige" <> wrote:

    > From section 2.2 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidlines (1.0);
    >
    > "Content developers should make content understandable and navigable. This
    > includes not only making the language clear and simple."


    High aims indeed.
    But 'making content understandable' is irrelevant to many sites, and
    impossible for most.
    If someone has a site about nuclear physics or quantum mechanics or loads of
    other topics, do I get hot under the collar if I can't understand it? Is it
    reasonable to expect that I should be able to understand it? Answers on a
    pixel, please.


    It's clear and simple that the person who thought up that one hadn't
    done much work with people with even moderate learning difficulties: any
    content suitable for that audience would be tedious in the extreme for
    everyone else. Teachers don't write the same materials to suit the whole
    ability range, so why would web designers? I'm not sure about US newspapers,
    but here in the UK, the 'middle of the road' newspaper has a policy of
    making all its articles fit a 'reading age of 12 years'. Above that we have
    what were called the 'broadsheets', below that the Sun and the Star. Each
    written not only for an audience of particular political/ideological
    persuasions, but with a different intellectual profile in mind: no
    one-size-fits-all.

    I think I was teaching for about five years before I realised that plenty of
    children who seem to be able to read are only reading 'mechanically' - they
    haven't a clue what the words or phrases actually mean. When watching
    'mainline' films (="movies") many absolutely haven't a clue what it's all
    about. In fact, my school had a couple of actors following the 'bottom first
    years' (age c12) round for a day: it was certainly an eye opener for them!
    It may be theoretically possible to accommodate most (all?) sorts of
    physical differences in one site, but extremely unlikely to accommodate a
    wide range of learning differences and retain interest and stickability for
    both extremes.

    Did anyone ever show w3c the requirement that their site should be 'clear
    and simple'? (Does the w3c still have 'live links' to the page you're on?)

    Slainte

    Liz

    --
    Virtual Liz now at http://www.v-liz.com
    Kenya; Tanzania; Namibia; India; Seychelles; Galapagos
    "I speak of Africa and golden joys"
    Liz, Nov 30, 2004
    #8
  9. Barbara de Zoete

    Liz Guest

    In message <>
    Michael Fesser <> wrote:

    > .oO(Karl Core)
    >
    > > In its strictest form, accessibility is often defined as "whether a
    > > disabled person can gain access to the resource".


    > Why restrict it to the disabled? Many websites are inaccessible even for
    > non-disabled users (lack of plugins or client-side scripting for
    > example).


    We already had an example at the w/e of a guy claiming his site was
    accessible, when it probably wasn't.
    I've just been browsing my current 'recommended books' at amazon (uk)
    One of them is a book called "Building Accessible Websites" by Joe Clark,
    recommended by Zeldman in "Designing with Web standards"

    A User review says, inter alia:
    "The typefaces are too small and not very clear. I am very surprised that
    Clark has not considered that some readers' ... eyes are not what they used
    to be.
    ....info is not chunked into easy to read pieces or (with) proper
    headings...
    ....Clark says NOT to use Arial. Dyslexics would disagree with this. It is
    one of their favourite fonts".

    OK, this is a book, not a website, and the author may not have had full
    control over the design/layout, but it's not very encouraging in a book
    purporting to be about accessibility!


    On the other topic, the book I most like about Usability is Steve Krug's
    "Don't Make Me Think". It's a book which is clear and simple: some people
    might think it's too simple (every now and then I dip into the 'polar bear
    book' (forget it's name: Information Architecture or somesuch): that's a
    perfect illustration of the impossibility of being 'meaty' enough to satisfy
    some, but simple enough to be understood by the 'many'.

    Slainte

    Liz
    --
    Virtual Liz now at http://www.v-liz.com Kenya; Tanzania; Namibia;
    India; Seychelles; Galapagos "I speak of Africa and golden joys"
    Liz, Nov 30, 2004
    #9
  10. On Tue, 30 Nov 2004, Liz wrote:

    > But 'making content understandable' is irrelevant to many sites, and
    > impossible for most.


    Your point is well taken, but I think you're misinterpreting the
    intentions. The guidelines aren't advocating that content which is
    inherently challenging should be dumbed-down - to the detriment of
    those who *would* be able to understand it; they're asking that the
    content, whatever it might be, is expressed and presented in an
    understandable and accessible way that's consistent with its inherent
    level of difficulty.

    Sure: I'm not claiming that it's easy to do that. But at least it
    makes some kind of sense, whereas your interpretation of their agenda
    - as your own argument has shown - would set a task that is simply not
    feasible; indeed to a significant extent it would be self-
    contradictory.
    Alan J. Flavell, Nov 30, 2004
    #10
  11. Barbara de Zoete

    Neal Guest

    On Tue, 30 Nov 2004 22:39:40 GMT, Liz <> wrote:

    > In message <>
    > "nice.guy.nige" <> wrote:
    >
    >> From section 2.2 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidlines (1.0);
    >>
    >> "Content developers should make content understandable and navigable.
    >> This
    >> includes not only making the language clear and simple."

    >
    > High aims indeed.
    > But 'making content understandable' is irrelevant to many sites, and
    > impossible for most.
    > If someone has a site about nuclear physics or quantum mechanics or
    > loads of
    > other topics, do I get hot under the collar if I can't understand it? Is
    > it
    > reasonable to expect that I should be able to understand it?


    To take this a few steps further, for an illiterate and deaf person, all
    sites with text are inaccessible and cannot be repaired.

    To understand any site requires a prerequisite of education. What makes a
    site inacessible in this area is poor grammar, unnecessarily dense
    language, or other matters which can be reasonably corrected. This does
    not mean we must never have sites on technical matters, or on a finer
    point of history or sociology which requires a background of knowledge to
    understand.

    Just because you, with your scientific background, cannot understand a
    page does not in itself make the page not "understandable".

    > Answers on a
    > pixel, please.


    It's a big pixel. Sorry.

    > It's clear and simple that the person who thought up that one hadn't
    > done much work with people with even moderate learning difficulties: any
    > content suitable for that audience would be tedious in the extreme for
    > everyone else. Teachers don't write the same materials to suit the whole
    > ability range, so why would web designers?


    This is an important point. One page on Abraham Lincoln cannot satisfy
    both the 10-year-old looking for information for his first research
    project and the grad student seeking specifics for a thesis. Clearly one
    or the other, or yet another, target must be decided. However, the
    language should be clear and understandable for that target.

    I'm not sure the intent here is to make one content which is useful to
    everyone - in fact it's extremely likely your page will face a healthy
    percentage of internet users who will never have use for your site.

    > I think I was teaching for about five years before I realised that
    > plenty of
    > children who seem to be able to read are only reading 'mechanically' -
    > they
    > haven't a clue what the words or phrases actually mean. When watching
    > 'mainline' films (="movies") many absolutely haven't a clue what it's all
    > about. In fact, my school had a couple of actors following the 'bottom
    > first
    > years' (age c12) round for a day: it was certainly an eye opener for
    > them!


    As a teacher as well, comprehension must be a major component of any
    literacy education, of course. We live in a time where people don't have
    the time to read to their children, where everything goes so fast we
    cannot hope to keep up. This is not the place, however, to go into how we
    should teach literacy, except to say that the strategies have been
    improving and need to continue to improve.

    > It may be theoretically possible to accommodate most (all?) sorts of
    > physical differences in one site, but extremely unlikely to accommodate a
    > wide range of learning differences and retain interest and stickability
    > for
    > both extremes.


    Agreed - so the correct strategy must be to decide on a target and write
    for it. A site selling Hello Kitty stuff and an in-depth discussion of the
    character analysis of a Shakespeare play will certainly have little
    overlap in their target audience. (And I don't think either target would
    expect the other site to be a "comfortable" read.) A page comparing the
    concepts of Machiavelli to modern-day governments might be written to
    either target, depending on the intent of the authors.

    Essentially, what the above accessibility guideline expresses is a
    sensitivity to the readability issue, and a directive to do whatever is
    practical to make the copy understandable to as wide a target audience as
    is possible, while still not compromising the purpose of the page.
    Neal, Nov 30, 2004
    #11
  12. In article <cohduf$r90$>,
    Roy Schestowitz <> wrote:

    > Barbara de Zoete wrote:
    >
    > > [F'up set to ciwas-d]
    > >
    > > I am getting more and more confused as to the meaning of the words
    > > 'accessibility' and 'usability' *in the context of the world wide web*.
    > > What do these two words mean? How do they differ from one another? Where
    > > does the meaning overlap, if it does? Where do they perhaps conflict with
    > > one another, if they do?
    > >
    > > Can anyone please explain to someone who is not native speaking, nor
    > > fluent in English?

    >
    > Accessibility is concerned with design that accommodates the need of
    > disabled people (usually). For example, if you are near-sighted or blind
    > (and hence _listen_ to Web pages), you want the page to have properties
    > that make it friendly to you.


    To me that's just a subset of 'accessibility". When content is Flash- or
    javascript- or CSS-dependant, it is inaccessible to browsing
    environments that don't handle Flash or javascript or CSS. Equally, when
    content is sight-dependant (like an image without a useful ALT
    attribute), it is not accessible to people who can't see (and to
    spiders).

    W3C's WAI seems to have decided to use "accessibility" to only concern
    "people with disabilities" See <http://w3.org/WAI/>. While accessibility
    issues to such groups are certainly worth considering when designing for
    the Web, to me this is a too narrow view. It seems to me that very
    narrowness even leads to design mistakes, like offering 'text-only'
    versions of Web sites, instead of making 1 single Website that is
    accessible to all.

    > Accessibility is a subset of usability, I suppose. It is one aspect that
    > makes a page easier to _use_, by all audiences.


    I consider usability to come after accessibility. Something that is not
    accessible is not useable, but something that is accessible can be
    unuseable still.

    > This leads to the
    > definition of 'usability'. Usability can be explained in terms of ease of
    > navigation (How do I get to...), good context (where am I inside the Web
    > site?), etc.


    Agreed.

    --
    Sander Tekelenburg, <http://www.euronet.nl/%7Etekelenb/>
    Sander Tekelenburg, Dec 1, 2004
    #12
  13. In article <>, Sander Tekelenburg
    <> wrote:

    > To me that's just a subset of 'accessibility". When content is Flash- or
    > javascript- or CSS-dependant, it is inaccessible to browsing
    > environments that don't handle Flash or javascript or CSS. Equally, when
    > content is sight-dependant (like an image without a useful ALT
    > attribute), it is not accessible to people who can't see (and to
    > spiders).


    Forgive me, but I have no idea how a site can be CSS dependant. I'm sure
    I'm out of my league here. I'm missing something as usual.

    leo

    --
    <http://web0.greatbasin.net/~leo/>
    Leonard Blaisdell, Dec 1, 2004
    #13
  14. Barbara de Zoete

    Neal Guest

    On Tue, 30 Nov 2004 22:30:54 -0800, Leonard Blaisdell <>
    wrote:

    > In article <>, Sander Tekelenburg
    > <> wrote:
    >
    >> To me that's just a subset of 'accessibility". When content is Flash- or
    >> javascript- or CSS-dependant, it is inaccessible to browsing
    >> environments that don't handle Flash or javascript or CSS. Equally, when
    >> content is sight-dependant (like an image without a useful ALT
    >> attribute), it is not accessible to people who can't see (and to
    >> spiders).

    >
    > Forgive me, but I have no idea how a site can be CSS dependant. I'm sure
    > I'm out of my league here. I'm missing something as usual.


    Just one example:

    <div>
    <h1>Shadows</h1>
    <h1 class="shadow">Shadows</h1>
    </div>

    with CSS

    div {position: relative;}
    ..shadow {position: absolute; top: 2px; left: -2px; color: #ccc;}
    Neal, Dec 1, 2004
    #14
  15. Neal <> wrote in message news:<>...
    > A site selling Hello Kitty stuff and an in-depth discussion of the
    > character analysis of a Shakespeare play will certainly have little
    > overlap in their target audience. (And I don't think either target would
    > expect the other site to be a "comfortable" read.)


    On the other hand, some of the fan sites about TV shows (including
    kids' shows), created by and for the more obsessive fans, *do* get
    very in-depth in their character analyses, to an extent resembling
    that of Shakespearean critics. I'm not sure if Hello Kitty has ever
    gotten that treatment; the TV Tome section on it is relatively sparse:
    http://www.tvtome.com/tvtome/servlet/ShowMainServlet/showid-7999/

    Some other kid and teen shows have much more detailed sections,
    especially when you dig down into the episode reviews:
    http://www.tvtome.com/LizzieMcGuire/

    --
    Dan
    Daniel R. Tobias, Dec 1, 2004
    #15
  16. Barbara de Zoete

    kchayka Guest

    on 2004-12-01, Leonard Blaisdell wrote:
    >
    > Forgive me, but I have no idea how a site can be CSS dependant.


    Use Opera, or a mozilla browser with the Web Developer toolbar installed.
    With stylesheets (and images enabled), go to

    <URL:http://www.arngren.net/>

    Then disable CSS and reload.

    wow
    kchayka, Dec 3, 2004
    #16
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