Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Chapter 5: Library Website Design and Database Access

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Chapter 5: Library Website Design and Database Access

Article excerpt

It won't mean a thing if the site's got too much zing!

Enabling accommodations can be made within the physical library for special population; however, if websites and electronic databases are not designed for usability and accessibility barriers will still exist.

Web page designers and electronic database providers should keep in mind that some people are using screen readers and listening to the pages rather than seeing them. Or that some users may have difficulty separating information from decoration on websites where the designer made use of every available applet. Designers also should realize that some users may be using a slower connection, and most graphics take a long time to load.

Design websites for every use and every user. Website design should never create a barrier to the information.

A library website should be both accessible and usable

In their work Website Design with the Patron in Mind, website design and usability experts Susanna Davidsen and Everyl Yankee point out "a library's website is no longer an add-on service but has become the library's presence to more and more users ... [the design of which is as important] as that of the circulation desk or a children's room ... [ and] should be designed to steer patrons to quality information." (1)

Like the physical library, the library's website should allow all patrons to visit the library without experiencing any frustrations or difficulties. (2)

UsableNet, a vendor of Web testing and repair software, defines an accessible website as one which "can be perceived, navigated, utilized with a tool other than a mouse and can be easily understood ... whereas a usable website is one which is aimed at making the target population of the website happier, with a more efficient and effective website." (3)

In other words, an accessible site meets a set of technical performance requirements that enable assistive software to function. It does not guarantee, however, that all people will be able to of even want to use it. For example, some users may be stymied by language use on a site that is accessible, but a text-only site might turn off others because they need illustration.

As with the physical library with open doors, wide aisles, and a knowledgeable librarian to assist the patron, a usable site is one that patrons can enter and want to use because it has logical direction. The library's website should be valuable enough for patrons to bookmark on home or work computers. Visitors should always want to return to the site because they can easily find the information needed and feel the information was useful and trustworthy.

Defining access: World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

The Web is immediately recognizable as tool that can help people with disabilities independently access information that was previously unobtainable. It also is a tool that can be an equalizer between the information haves and the have nots.

Tim-Berners-Lee, inventor of the Internet, realized the Web also had the potential to create a greater gulf between these two groups so he founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This multinational and multicultured group establishes and supports guidelines that promote universal access.

One of the goals of the W3C is "to make the Web accessible to all by promoting technologies that take into account the vast differences in culture, languages, education, ability, material resources, access devices, and physical limitations of users on all continents." (4)

W3C works to reach its defined goal

The reach the goal of universal access the WC3 established a Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). WAI members work to: (5)

* Ensure Web technologies support accessibility

* Develop guidelines for accessibility

* Improve tools to evaluate and repair Web accessibility

* Develop materials for education and outreach

* Coordinate research and development

WAI members blend common sense with technology to establish Web design guidelines that are easy to understand and execute. …

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