I am working on a project to make the website, of a university program for people with learning disabilities, more usable by prospective students. Small groups of faculty and students were shown the first mockup last week. Listed below is their feedback and brief descriptions of a few possible remediation efforts.
- Feature the program prominently on the university site’s home page. Students could not find information about the program because a link to its home page is hidden within a drop-down menu.
- Display links in navigation menus rather than place them in drop-down menus.
- We plan to do so, perhaps indenting the links of subsection pages. (Unordered lists are good for that.)
- Within the left-navigation menus of the program’s pages, display a link to the program’s home page. When students got lost within the website, they said they wanted to start over by returning to the program’s home page.
- We will do so. We will also consider adding a button with an image shaped like a house, which students said they associate with a site’s home page.
- Do not depend upon breadcrumb navigation to help visitors navigate the site. Students and faculty did not notice the breadcrumb navigation until prompted. Faculty indicated it was useful once they were shown its function.
- Do not depend upon links scattered throughout the content. They were not immediately apparent to students when they were asked to find specific information.
- Do not depend upon a search box to help visitors. When asked to find specific information, neither the students nor the faculty thought to use the site’s search box. Doing so would be confusing anyway, faculty pointed out, because search results are derived from the university’s entire site, not just from the program’s portion of it.
- Do not position navigation menus on the right side of pages. Students and faculty had to be prompted to notice them.
- This is unsurprising. Web usability studies based upon eye tracking have shown people look at pages in an F-shaped pattern. One consequence is that they pay no attention to the right side of pages.
- Consider consolidating the number of links in the left menus. Only their first few links were read by the students.
- Consider reducing the number of choices on each page. For example, the large number of site navigation links were simply overwhelming to students.
- We may have to develop a template for the program’s section of the university site that presents significantly fewer navigation choices.
- Link course descriptions to professors’ profiles. We had set up course descriptions to be found by drilling down by year, then by curriculum, then by topic. That did not make sense to students.
- Use a larger default text size.
- Add a lot more pictures, particularly contextually-relevant ones to enhance comprehension of textual content.
- Closely associate images to their relevant textual content. Example: The list of faculty includes pictures of them, but it is unclear which photo is associated with which professor’s name and description.
- Provide faculty-specific contact information within their profiles rather than in a central location.
- Continue to use bulleted lists. Students found such content easier to read; faculty found it easier to scan.
- Embed videos, not just link to them.
- We may use Easy YouTube Player, which is designed for people with cognitive disabilities.
- Use a web form, not an email link, for visitors to submit questions and site feedback. Students indicated a web form would be easier for them. A faculty member pointed out that such a link will not work at all unless a visitor’s computer is configured to open email software once that link is clicked.
- Determine a way to make program contact info apparent so visitors will contact the program, not the university.
- Include content for current students, not just prospective students.
- Such content is now in a PDF. We will likely convert it to a web page so students do not need to have special software (Acrobat Reader) to view it.
- I am open to suggestions and encourage them.
- This blog post is the third in a related series. The previous one was “Struggling to Reduce Dense Content Into Chunks Without Requiring Multiple Clicks“.
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