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Re: should 'skip to content' be the first elementonthepage?


From: John Foliot - Stanford Online Accessibility Program
Date: Feb 16, 2007 9:50AM

Keith Parks wrote:
> But isn't part of the idea of designing to the standards that we
> don't have to try and figure out what users are expecting, or what
> percentage of users are expecting one thing, and what percent expect
> another?

No argument, and I am a HUGE standards advocate. However, as has been
repeated numerous times on this list, it is relatively trivial to create a
web page/site that is technically compliant to the "standards" and still be
inaccessible to any number of users.

The point I am trying to make is that there are also conventions that are,
or have, emerged that we as developers/designers should acknowledge. Some
of these conventions we need to be mindful of, and perhaps even actively
seek to change ("Click here" comes to mind), and others are some that we
should be aware of, and seek to include if for no other reason than there
exists a possibility that some users begin to expect it.

Not everyone may agree with everything Jakob Nielsen says or proposes, but
because he backs his ideas with quantitive research, I tend to believe he
knows what he is talking about. Jakob suggests (recommends) that all pages
(and most certainly the home page) include in the "...top right corner" a
search box that allows users to search the site. Is this a standard? Is it
a good idea? Is it a convention? Should we do it? Jakob's research
suggests we should, and I can see no real downside (outside of the fact that
for the blind, right side and left side are mute points). Another usability
proponent (Steve Krug - "Don't Make Me Think") also suggests that some
navigational schemes have emerged that "fit" users expectations, and that
for a successful site we should be working within these expectations, and
not trying to re-invent the wheel. It can be argued that without innovation
however, everything becomes a common shade of gray (and I believe this too),
but there is a time for Art and there is a time for Business - so deciding
on which category your site falls into is an important consideration.

> The rule says "A method shall be provided that permits users to skip
> repetitive navigation links." The link as the first thing on the page
> would likely skip a lot more than navigation.

Correct. And in most instances, the conventional method that has emerged is
"Skip navigation", or sometimes "skip to content". Is it the best method?
I don't know - the research does not exist (that I am aware of - can anybody
point out any?). However, in lieu of solid research, anecdotal evidence
suggests that some (perhaps many) users have come to expect it, some
(perhaps many) use it and appreciate it, and that others (perhaps many) are
annoyed by it or don't use it (although I am somewhat confused by this, as
it is but one link of many on a page, and does it *really* add to the
overall noise of a page?).

So... We don't have a "standard" way of providing "...A method shall be
provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.", but we
have an emergent convention. Why fight it? Where is the harm, what is the

> It seems like to fit the rule, the skip nav link ought to be
> immediately before the navigation elements, since it's not really
> about skipping *to* the content, but skipping *over* the navigation.

Agreed. Even here, the convention does not seem to have any hard and fast
rules, and so content developers need to *THINK* about what it is they are
doing, rather than blindly following a standard, convention, best practice
or "tip from a guy I know..."

See your $0.02 and raise you $0.02... <smile>


> My 2ยข,
> Keith
> ******************************
> Keith Parks
> Graphic Designer/Web Designer
> Student Affairs Communications Services
> San Diego State University
> San Diego, CA 92182-7444
> (619) 594-1046
> mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED>
> http://www.sdsu.edu
> http://www.sa.sdsu.edu/communications
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