WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: accessible tree menus


From: John Foliot
Date: Feb 28, 2009 12:35PM

Chris Hoffman wrote:
> Would having some sort of mechanism (oh, say, a _link_) that allows
> users to easily skip from one menu to another without having to read
> through every menu item help in this situation?
Fair question. Answer = depends.

If it is a frequently visited site, then yes, inter-page navigation,
including (oh say, a link) that skips over large blocks of navigation can
certainly assist non-sighted users. This is hardly new or novel; in fact,
it's the "skipnav" link that many developers add to be Section 508
compliant (even though a close reading of that spec does not actually
mandate this, only that a means to skip past a navigation block exist: "A
method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation

Thing is, before you skip over large blocks of anything, you need to know
*what* you are skipping over - and for non-sighted users the only way to
really know what that is, is to actually have to process it/them. In the
case of the mint site I referenced [http://bullion.nwtmint.com/], that
would be *all 80* of those links. (Other hints, such as using headings or
the summary or title attributes can also assist here, but
in-and-of-themselves are not complete solutions)

The bigger take-away here is that real accessibility is nuanced and
subtle, and that pure 'technique' alone neither ensures accessibility nor
is the only answer. Use your heads people, and remember that the goal is
users first, not technology. Think about structure, and yes usability,
not just for the mainstream user, but for all users - think hard when
making foundational choices. Try hard to avoid thinking in terms of
user-agents and adaptive technology, and instead think about how users
might interact with your web content in ways other than the way that *you*
interact - one truism that Seth did note in his initial response. Does
providing 80 links from your navigation mechanism really help users, or
confuse them by providing too many links all at once - would a drill down
navigation scheme work better? Remember too that site owners are often
hyper-aware of their content and structure, but first-time or infrequent
visitors are 'learning' your site as they go - they lack the luxury of
being involved with your site since its inception. First impressions are
key, and usability for all users is a big part of that first impression.