by Jean Hollis Weber
Australian Society for Technical Communication (NSW) Conference, 30-31 October 1998
a group of related HTML files
one HTML file (plus its associated image files, if any)
Home page (default, index)
the first page seen when accessing a Web site
- Audience and purpose of site
- Editing the content
- Editing for usability
- Can audience find site?
- Editing tips
Audience & purpose of site
In addition to the usual audience analysis questions, ask:
- Audience’s purpose in visiting the site?
- How will audience use the material?
- Read and interact online
Editing the content
- Use a style guide
- Copy edit as usual
- Edit for standard technical writing principles, including:
- User-centred writing
- Unambiguous, meaningful titles and headings
- Break paragraphs into lists
- Write newspaper style to assist skimming
- Put the most important information first
- Summarise the main points
- Link to details
- Use definition list style:
a short title (with link) followed by a sentence or two of summary
- Must load quickly
- Must provide
- Something of value to the audience
- Not just pretty pictures
- Must clearly indicate
- What’s on the site
- How to find it
Editing for usability
- Page length and organisation
- Finding information on the site
- Common problems
Is the site organised in a way that is
- Meaningful to the audience
- Not just to the organisation?
Some questions to ask:
- What are the users’ most likely questions?
- Are the answers easy to find?
- Are the navigation labels useful?
Is it always clear to users
- Where they are?
- How to get back to where they came from?
- How to get somewhere else on the site?
Are the navigation aids
- Easy to locate?
- Clearly and meaningfully labeled?
- Are the links helpful, logical, trivial, confusing?
- Is it clear where the links go and what the reader will find there?
- Does summary information tell readers which links they need?
Navigation to-do list
- Include a table of contents for the site
- Use unambiguous headings, meaningful out of context
- To make skimming easier, put links in a list rather than sentences
- Put a navigation bar on each page
Page length & organisation
Advantages of long pages
- Easier to skim, print, download, and search
- Faster to scroll and follow internal links than to retrieve another page
Advantages of short pages
- Pages load faster
- Get only the information you want
Finding information on the site
In addition to navigation aids:
- Include a table of contents (with links)
- Provide a traditional index (with links)
- Provide a search facility (with links)
Hardware and software used by target audience
- Desktop, laptop, palmtop machines?
- Latest versions or older?
- Windows, DOS, Mac, other?
- Monitor size and resolution?
- Which browser?
- Modem or other access method?
- Speed of internet link?
Any visual disabilities?
- Using print-to-voice readers?
- Need large font size?
- Colour blind?
Any relevant physical disabilities?
Accessibility to-do list
- Use layout that non-graphical browsers and text readers can interpret
- Avoid browser-specific features
- Use ALT tags on graphics
- Offer more than one view of the site, if you use tables or frames
- Reduce size of graphics files and use tags that reduce page loading time
Testing for accessibility
Test the site using different
- Screen resolutions
- Number of colours
- Font sizes (set by user in browser)
Test site on slower modem link
- Does text load before graphics?
- Does page take too long to display?
Test with graphics turned off
- Has any content been lost?
- Have ALT tags been used for graphics?
- Some content is not visible
- Text overlaps other text or graphics
- Graphics are off side of screen
- Graphics load very slowly
- Columns don’t line up
- Colour combinations are unreadable
- Text hard to read on background
- Titles, descriptions, author information missing or wrong
Can audience find the site?
To improve the use of search engines:
- Use META tags for keywords, title, author, descripton
- Include unambiguous keywords in titles and headings within the text
- First 100 words must make a good description
- Use a site map that shows all pages (and preferably the links between them)
- Print pages to examine for consistency and to mark up corrections
- View and test everything online
- Know enough HTML to examine the source when needed
- Insert editorial comments in the source
<!– xxxxxxxxx –>
- Edit keywords in a similar way to editing an index
- Check the title line on the browser
- Test for accessibility
- Use standard HTML and let the browser interpret it
- Do not specify colours for links
- Do not specify font sizes
- Do not use tags to achieve an effect
- Use indents with care, to avoid narrow “pillars” of text
- Don’t use spaces or tabs to line up text; most browsers will ignore them
- Minimise horizontal scrolling by
- Sizing figures to fit within 800 pixels
- Reworking tables to fit within 800 pixels
- Follow recommendations for accessibility
Get browsers, validation tools etc from CDs on magazines such as Australian Personal Computer or internet.au
Last updated 24 November 1998