The “What & Why of Usability” readings from Usability.gov give clear and concise outlines and guideline of what needs to be accomplished by writers and/or designers in order to create a document or interface with the maximum level of usability for users. They do this by covering multiple subjects such as content, accessibility, visuals, user experience and interaction and more. I will specifically talk about their readings on, “User-Centered Design Basics”, “Accessibility Basics”, and “Visual Design Basics” as I found them to be very interesting and applicable to a career in professional writing.
“User-Centered Design Basics” outlines the process which needs to be followed in order to create a document which is centered around the user’s needs. The reading defines the user-centered design process as, “The User-centered design (UCD) process outlines the phases throughout a design and development life-cycle all while focusing on gaining a deep understanding of who will be using the product.” To summarize the UCD process entails defining your audience and their needs for your product, specifying and then implementing the requirements of your business/client and the users into your design and writing to make the product most successfully received, and then testing what you’ve come up with on actual users. An example of this would be if you were working for a Marketing Company for example whose client is a small businesses looking for help with redesigning their website. In order to begin working on their redesign you would first need to follow the steps listed above by defining their audience, implementing any specific requirements they may have like a certain color scheme or special feature, and then applying those requirements to your design, and then testing them on real users to make sure they were successful. Only after all of this is done, most likely more than once, would your redesign be successful.
“Accessibility Basics” are explained in the beginning of this reading as, “Accessibility focuses on how a disabled person accesses or benefits from a site, system or application.” This reading encompasses the how and why accessibility is important to integrate into your designs and your writing. There are also a number of tips given to ensure this happens successfully such as, “Do not rely on color as a navigational tool or as the sole way to differentiate items” and “Functionality should be accessible through mouse and keyboard and be tagged to worked with voice-control systems.” Theses are both examples of design choices that are very important for disabled users and could be easily missed if you don’t keep accessibility in mind throughout your entire process. An example of this which I have used in class before, is the simple text enlarging bar at the top corner of a website, and a button to turn on voice reading which you can see in the top right corner of the image below.
The above image was taken from the website, Bestfriends.org. Usability.gov also has a text enlarging feature in the top right corner of their website but they do not have the voice reader feature like this website does.
As they are telling readers to design their websites to have screen readers accessibility, such as using clear heading to make it easy for a screen reader program to recognize different places in the document, I’m sure that theirs is accessible but perhaps not as easily accessible as it could be by inserting a simple button like the one shown above.
“Visual Design Basics” gives an overview of what makes a document visually appealing, and therefore successful. Some of the most important elements listed were contrast, which can be used to create emphasis and clarity. An example would be the use of contrasting colors in the image shown above. The Items which the website wants the reader to look at first are in bright orange, and the less important items are in a dark grey creating a large contrast which directs the readers attention. Visual design basics are an extremely important process to know well as a professional writer, because the most important thing about writing something is for other people to read it and visual design will enhance the capability and ease in which that is able to happen.
In terms of Accessibility, do you think that there should be a law placed which forces companies to unify their pages to all have upper right corner buttons like the ones used in Bestfriends.org and Usability.gov? Do you think this would solve some of the issues we were discussing about Web Accessibility Statements?
In an analysis of the website, Usability.gov would you say that they are obeying all of the guidelines which they have specified? What is working well, and what is not? Specifically do you think they have accomplished well the guidelines laid out in “Visual Design Basics.”
In a further analysis of this website and their content, do you feel that ethics should have been included in some of these sections? Specifically in the “Content Strategy Basics” reading.