Web page potpourri: a column devoted to informative alternative health resources on the internet
This particular column, unlike my usual Web Page Potpourri, focuses on resources for web page owners. The information below is worth consideration whether you currently have a web page, or are just thinking about getting one.
I focus on tools which can help you make your website more credible, more usable, and disability-accessible.
Stanford Web Credibility Research http://www.webcredibility.org/
We want to be believed! We want to be respected! Alternative medical practitioners and advocates are in an ever-evolving struggle for wider credibility. I consider webcredibility. org to be essential reading in this matter.
Stanford University’s web credibility team does research on what makes a web page credible. The team also offers web design guidelines resulting from this research. Even if you read nothing else on the site, do check out the 10 Guidelines for Web Credibility. Many of the guidelines are obvious, such as “Avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem.” Other guidelines require thoughtful consideration. For instance, consider whether your low-budget designer really can provide the professional look that research shows makes a credible website.
There are other interesting in-depth documents on the site. The newest report is How Do People Evaluate a Web Site’s Credibility? Results from a Large Study, co-authored with Consumer Webwatch.
Webcredibility.org guidelines are applicable to your web page, but in many ways relevant to print materials, as well. Put your best foot forward!
This resource page started out as a project of the National Cancer Institute, but the content is applicable to all websites. Especially helpful content are the guidelines and checklists which will assist you in making your site easier to navigate. The site supports the guidelines with research. Usability.gov also has links to information on accessibility, and resources for analyzing server log files, which are the records of website traffic.
This is the home page for the author of a superb book called Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. You can hire web usability experts who will charge many thousands of dollars (and their services are well worth that). On the other hand, on a lower budget, this book is a reliable guide. I might add that the book is far more informative than the small web page.
Bobby http:/bobby.watchfire.com/bobby/ or http://www.cast.org/bobby/
I have several blind friends who use the Internet. They have “screen reader” software which reads screen content aloud. Some web pages are easy for them to navigate, and some are truly impossible.
“Bobby” is a web-based tool that analyzes web sites for their accessibility to people with disabilities. Originally developed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), it’s now a product of the Watchfire Corporation. By all means, test your website with their free service, to determine what changes are needed to make it accessible. Simply provide the URL of your site, and you’ll get a report indicating items that should be corrected, along with their priority level according to several official accessibility standards.
The first thing you may find as you check your site is that you’ve forgotten to include “alt” tags. Blind people, for instance, can’t know your graphics are there unless you tell them. Simply add an “alt tag” containing descriptive text to all your graphics, as below.
This is especially critical when your graphics are used as links, such as in a navigation bar.
Watchfire has just launched a new site, WebXACT, a free online service which tests single web pages for accessibility, as well as for quality and privacy issues. WebXACT has a much cleaner interface than Bobby, though Bobby offers a visual copy of the website with a symbol locating the potential problems. I recommend using both.
Web Access and Other Resources for the Blind
On this site I’ve placed a pretty good set of links to more information on web accessibility, including links to organizations and products, and background on federal law.
A good web developer will consider visual impairments, hearing impairments, and even seizure disorders in planning the website design. (No flashing banner ads, please!) It will take some time to become familiar with the lingo of accessibility, but your website will be far more professional, and you’ll better serve your audience if you take the time to remove barriers to access.
Here is a brief checklist to consider as you develop your web site:
* What is the proposed content?
* What sources will provide content for the site?
* What will the editorial policy for the site be?
* How often will the material be updated?
* What will be the disclosure policy for attribution of content?
* Is there a conflict of interest policy?
* How will permissions be obtained for article reprints, research reports, etc.?
* How will the content of this website differ from other existing sites?
* How will you ensure that the website is credible?
* How will you address the quality of the user’s experience in accessing the site?
* How will your site ensure that the website is accessible by all users, regardless of physical disability?
* How will you evaluate the effectiveness of the website?
* What processes will you put in place to track traffic on the website?
3443 Guilford Terrace * Baltimore, Maryland 21218 USA * Phone: 410-467-3727 * Email: email@example.com
Marjorie Roswell is a web developer at a health policy organization in Baltimore.
COPYRIGHT 2003 The Townsend Letter Group
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