Making Your Site Accessible Creates High Rankings

    June 30, 2003

A site review by Tiffany K. Edmonds of Dynamite-IT.

My recommendations for improving – in a nutshell would be: 1. Address the accessibility issues on the site. It will also help search engine rankings to do so.

2. Go with the Maroon/Black/Gray color scheme and carry that through the graphics used on the site as well. Graphics that do not match the site design scheme let the visitor know right away that they are 3rd party links of some kind. Use the graphics to enhance the site content and information, to break up long strings of text to make it easier and more compelling to read and not to convey messages or information.

3. Improve on the site navigation, which will also be a requirement for addressing the accessibility issues, by adding plain text alternative links on all site pages, a link to the homepage in text as well, larger fonts on the top of the page links. Consider a new submenu script that doesn’t use graphic buttons!

Now, addressing the questions specifically asked:

1. “What are others thoughts on providing visitors with detailed content as opposed to simplified images that break down content?”

I would suggest a balance in between. Too much detail on the homepage might lose the visitor’s interest if they are looking for one of your services in particular. At the same time, it is my opinion that simplified images alone may be ignored or passed over as “ads”.

I would suggest lead-ins that offer an attractive but not distracting graphic that is complimentary to the site’s colors and design with a heading text and intro text description of what the visitor will find or learn if they “click for more information.” Give the visitor the option to click to a page that has all of the details.

I believe that graphics should be used sparingly and to hold the readers attention, help break up text where there might need to be several paragraphs of text and enhance the overall site appearance. I believe that graphics should rarely be used to convey actual information alone.

2. “Considering the site navigation as a whole, what recommendations can people provide?”

This would be, perhaps, my biggest area of critique for this site. I find the navigation on this site to be confusing, or at least user UN-friendly.

Here is why:

Sometimes the DHTML menus can be useful for grouping sub pages under main page, giving the site visitor the ability to easily get to an inner page. When DHTML menus are used, however, it is always my recommendation that plain text alternative links to the main (top level) sections of the site be provided on the page as well, usually at the bottom of the pages. Further, when on a top level page – sub level pages should also be linked to with plain text links.

This site couples the DHTML menu’s with graphics, none of which have any ALT text. This is very detrimental to the site and for the site visitor that uses accessibility wizards. My initial guess on the first few minutes of review of this site is that it would fail on nearly every Accessibility issue. I will address this a little more later in the review.

More on the site navigation, the consistency is good, in that each page is consistently displaying the links at the top of the pages and the DHTML menu links. The size 1 text, however on the very tops of all pages is extremely difficult to read on the dark colors. This coming from someone with 20/20 vision. I viewed the site at 1024×768 and size 1 fonts are rarely an acceptable size font to use. It is just difficult to read and I would suggest only using that size font for copyright notices and disclaimers that may be needed on the bottom of site pages.

The text under the top of the page links, on the black background “affordable small business web site design and development solutions ” is impossible for me to read without highlighting with my cursor. It is less impossible when viewed at 800×600, but still way too small, IMO.

How does the site visitor get back to the homepage? There is no clearly marked link back to the homepage. I would suggest a clearly marked “Home” link on all pages. I realize that you can click the logo near the top, but I believe that many site visitors will miss that option and not know how to get back to the homepage.

On NN 4.7 – the sites DHTML navigation menus appear to be functional, but appear very different from Microsoft Internet Explorer 6. Large gaps of space between the submenu buttons.

NN 6 is apparently not pre loading the graphics, so the submenu – on mouse over buttons are not loading until the visitor holds the cursor over the button graphic for a couple seconds.

They have the site page set with 0 margins, but have not properly coded it for 0 margins in Netscape 4.7.

Netscape 6 is taking issue with rendering the table background image: worldmap_bg.gif. Since they are using an external style sheet I would highly recommend they omit the inline styles from the site pages, which Netscape often has a difficult time interpreting and add classes to the external style sheet for the table styles they have inline.

Lastly on the DHTML menu’s – WOW, I just took a look at the code for that menu system. I think this company and their site visitors would benefit greatly by replacing this particular script with one that is much less bulky in code. The page load time alone would decrease as a result. My suggestion would be one that uses text menu links instead of graphic buttons as well along with plain text alternative links across the bottom and/or sides of the site pages.

I have worked with and implemented several different types of DHTML menu systems like this, so I am confident that a much less weighty code could be used if the DHTML menus are important to them.

3. “Recommendations to improve the general layout of body content would help greatly.”

I find that fixed page/table width vs. % page/table width options both have pros and cons. I usually tend to design sites that use % widths so that the page can expand and contract gracefully and this site seems to achieve that very nicely.

If I were asked to redesign the site, I might add navigational links on a left column. That is where most surfers tend to look for navigational links. But as far as the question regarding the current layout and the ability for it to expand and contract vs. fixed width – I give 3 cheers for this site’s design ability to expand and contract!

4. “On any hosting/design site, what things do you expect to see first or have catch your attention first, that we may be lacking or could use improvement. ”

Very glad this was asked. As a would-be client looking for hosting or web design, I believe the first thing I am looking for is “What can this company do for ME?” I do not see anything on the homepage that tells me that right away, my attention is NOT grabbed and further, I get the feeling that I have clicked on a site that is so covered with ads that I am not sure which is an ad for a 3rd party solution, and which graphic is something that will lead me to something that will tell me who this company is and what they are offering ME.

I think my first impression was a little confused by the multi-colored graphics on the homepage, the logo/slogan line being UNDER the very top flush navigation bar and the front center graphics tinted in blue washed out looking “Web design, Web hosting, ecommerce” words on the graphic.

At first, I am wondering – is this an ad banner for some other company? Or is this part of this companies site design. I can’t read the tiny text above this on the black bar, so I am not sure at all if this graphic flows with the site and is part of the site services. My eyes are drawn all over the page, not knowing which graphic to rest on and read.

The top 3 graphics on the right also strike me as 3rd party banner ads. Firstly because that is where I am trained to look for banner ads on many sites, and secondly, the graphics do not blend well with the maroon and black colors of the page at the top of the page. I realize that I am ignoring everything on the page for all of the different graphics and my eyes are pulled back repeatedly to the bottom 2 graphics on the screen “Hosting for $6.00” and “Reseller hosting”. So – If I am looking for hosting, maybe I’ll click and hope those pages will provide me information.

If I were looking for design, I am sure I would have clicked to another site quickly.

The site design has great potential, but for the varied graphics that do not blend with what I believe the site colors are: Maroon, Black and Gray. I would strongly recommend completely revamping and rethinking the use of any of those graphics at all. They aren’t bad looking graphics alone – but do not harmonize with the site pages and distract so badly from any message or information.

None of the site graphics have ALT text, so immediately visitors who rely on accessibility wizards or who surf with graphics turned off are deprived of valuable information that this company is trying to convey through graphics (a fantastic point for why NOT to use graphics to convey messages or information). Even the 800 number is written in a graphic! Apparently, it is repeated, again in a graphic at the bottom of the pages in tiny text.

Another strong recommendation is to get the contact information and 800 phone number in plain text on the top and even the bottom of all the site pages.

Overall, This site has some good potential to be a very professional looking and effective website with just a few key changes or modifications.

Oh, and one question. Is their a purpose for the flag graphics on the bottom of the site pages? If so, at least state why in ALT text on those images.

Hope this review is helpful!


Tiffany K. Edmonds
Microsoft MVP

p.s. if you are wondering who the heck Tiffany K. Edmonds is – there is an “about us” link on It is nearly up to date – less a couple recently published articles on Microsoft.

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