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Rethinking "Skip to Content"


From: Dagmar Noll
Date: Dec 2, 2004 9:12AM

Thanks to all who answered my questions about EX and EM.

Now I'd like to share something I've been thinking about regarding screen
readers and the "Skip to Main Content" (and its many variations) link. There
was a discussion here recently about how, exactly, this should be phrased. I
have a different idea on this, and would like some feedback.

The word "skip", whether used to imply bypassing a specific something, or
simply moving past a general something to something else, seems more
confusing than helpful. It seems to me that, to an individual using a screen
reader, a link helping them "skip" or "skip to" something has less meaning
than a link that helps them simply "Go to". Because different sites are
structured so differently, "skipping" isn't quite consistent. One knows well
enough what one is skipping in the case of a "Skip Navigation" link, but
what is one skipping to? And, in the case of the link "Skip to Content",
what, exactly is one skipping over? "Skip over navigation to main content"
seems to give a decent explanation of what is going on, but there's still
this skipping business.

My other problem involves the assumption that all visitors will want to read
the page content first, especially when the structure of a page lists the
content first (hence no "skip menu" link). I have read countless accounts of
studies where folks using screen-readers wanted content first, but I image
that there are many folks, especially repeat visitors with a particular
destination or area in mind, who want to get right to the menu.

Therefore, wouldn't it be more useful to include two links near the
beginning of each page read-out, called, "Go to page content" and "Go to web
site menu".

I know that many screen readers allow a user to jump from one link to the
next, which might make this a minor point. But if I am correct in my
assumptions, it also seems a small thing to do to make browsing the web that
much clearer.

Since I don't have access to a screen reader, I have had to do a lot of
reading up on them and use a lot of my imagination in figuring out how they
will render my pages. Therefore, I am very interested to know what others
with more experience think.

Best Regards,