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Why Accessibility Is Easy

discriminationDiscriminationAnti-discrimination legislation did not happen overnight. Indeed, the process of inclusion for citizens of all demographics has been on the agenda of governments, and human rights activists the world over for many years.

It’s not a new agenda, most policy makers and corporate watchdogs actively encourage the employment and inclusion of all people regardless of ethnicity, social or economic standing, religion, mental capacity or physical attributes. Some countries also enforce these policies to create a fair and socially responsible business climate. Private and public organizations likewise have long understood the importance of providing facilities for staff members and visitors with special needs, particularly in their legal place of business or operations. Not providing such amenities would likely result in litigation, and so, in many cases, these companies feel compelled to address any inadequacies as a high priority business agenda.

braille displayBraille DisplayWhat about the Internet?

Surprisingly many companies had not even considered the idea of ensuring their business’ Internet premise was also accessible. After all, why would a person that has vision impairment use the Internet? Well of course they would want to use the Internet, just as any sighted person would want to access such a vast and rich resource. Vision impairment is also only one of many other conditions that can potentially inhibit the use of information resources like the Internet. Many people who have difficulty using digital or interactive media may not necessarily be technically classified as having a disabling condition either. Thankfully, there are now various technologies to aid users with special needs in their use of media. Included in a large variety of assisting technologies are items such as screen readers or Braille machines for people with vision restrictions, subtitles for those with hearing difficulties, and speech recognition for those without the full use of their appendages. In spite of the existence of these tremendous technologies, the ability of a machine to accurately render content in a meaningful way often relies on that content being formatted with careful consideration of accessibility standards.

Why is this suddenly so important?

The issue was not really even on the corporate radar until a recent lawsuit mounted by the US National federation for the Blind (NFB) on behalf of claimants with disabilities, stated that they were being discriminated against because a well known company’s online content was only accessible by able-bodied people. The NFB had raised concerns with the Target corporation (a major US-based discount retailer which operates more than 1,300 stores in 47 states) more than ten months before, and stated:

“The website is no more accessible today than it was in May of last year, when we first complained to Target.”

The issue bubbles away in boardrooms even now as legal teams scramble to advise their clients on the best way to conform to changes in the Disability Discrimination Act, Section 508, and other such legislative decrees from various governments of the world.

disabled equalityDisabled EqualityWhose problem is this?

Website developers have long known about the technical requirements and specifications as determined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Any developer that has been in the industry for a length of time has already acknowledged and adapted to changing technological standards, both in hardware and software design. Why aren’t website companies just building accessible sites anyway? Yet many website developers felt that the stringent requirements of the Website Accessibility Initiative (WAI) would restrict their design capability too much, when in essence the real issue, was a reluctance to subject their working practices to higher standards that are easily measurable by anyone with a browser and a little bit of knowledge.

Their previously ‘easy’ way of doing things was in their opinion much quicker, cheaper, and visually more interesting. The truth however was that this new (and improved) way of doing things would require busy agencies to take the time to retrain. They do say that you ‘can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. In this case, there are now quite a few old dogs in the maturing digital media industry.

legal actionlegal actionAre there any other benefits besides avoiding legal action?

Actually not only is designing accessible websites easy, it makes a lot of sense on many different strategic levels. Consider the following insights as documented in the “Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites” (British Standards Institute 2006, ISBN_0 580 46567 5):

  • The Family Resources Survey [2] found that there are almost 10 million disabled people in the UK with a combined spending power in the region of 80 billion pounds per annum. Furthermore there are millions of other individuals that are affected by sensory, physical and/or cognitive impairments, including those resulting from the ageing process.
  • Research undertaken by the DRC “The Web: Access and inclusion for disabled people” [3] has confirmed that people without disabilities are also able to use websites that are optimised for accessibility more effectively and more successfully.
  • Content developed upholding World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines and specifications can be more easily transferred to other media, such as interactive TV, mobile phones and handheld computers.
  • Accessible content, for example where a text equivalent is provided for graphical elements, is highly visible to search engines, often leading to higher rankings.

digital mediaDigital MeadiaCertainly these benefits will be of interest to executives considering the perceived expense associated with building accessible interactive content, yet there are also other benefits in the form of corporate social responsibility and public relations.

What does the stakeholder need to do about accessibility?

Whenever a digital media project is commissioned by a company the only consideration to be made by stakeholders is to what level of compliance the content should adhere. There is a small amount of flexibility in this context because there are some elements within the standard which are considered compulsory, some which are recommended yet are not necessarily essential, and others which are desirable to create something which has the maximum possibility of being viewed by any user, regardless of their situation. Ultimately, a design or development company can adopt a more stringent approach depending on the design criteria set by executives.

Should the stakeholder be reading more about the standards?

There are a lot of technical and specification documents full of jargon that can be overwhelming to conscientious companies attempting to embrace the need for accessibility. In reality all of this content should instead be assimilated by the agencies that intend to create the content rather than the corporations who simply want to develop an interactive strategy.

business consultingBusiness ConsultingWhy is everyone trying to sell consultation about accessibility?

Given that there is suddenly some confusion amongst the corporate world as executives scramble to become legally watertight, many so-called consultancies have sprung up to exploit these vulnerable companies by charging great sums of money to analyse current websites or digital content for accessibility inadequacies. There are certainly tools available that can easily interrogate the code of a website and examine the structure to identify any obvious ‘rule-breaking’. Some consultants will go as far as to use these free tools to create reports on accessibility, when this is only one component of whether a website is usable and “friendly” for people with special needs. These same ‘consultants’ would like to also have large corporations paying them to help with search engine optimisation (SEO), which should not really be an issue if a website is built correctly in the first place.

What alternatives are there to external consultancy reports?

Actually, corporate executives may be surprised to know that money spent on consultancy reports could be better spent simply paying some users with actual disabilities to visit the website in question and offer constructive feedback through a usability workshop.

So what about Usability?

web devlopmentWeb DevelopmentIf the website is accessible, is it also a good website?

It is possible to check all the boxes of the W3C Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and yet have a layout and content that actually makes very little sense to users of the site. Usability on the other hand benefits everyone, which ultimately translates into a positive experience for all users as they interact with a company’s branded presence. A positive user experience logically leads to results, such as increased sales, brand interaction, positive word of mouth, and other business benefits.

Isn’t accessibility a bit complicated?

Although there can appear to be some complexity (and therefore consultancy work) involved in building highly accessible or usable content, this is actually a fundamental service which should rather come as a standard inclusion with any development proposal that is worth its salt. Indeed, commissioning an accessible website should be no different to commissioning any ‘ordinary’ website. They are certainly the same thing in the eyes of an accomplished website development company. It is really as simple as making sure the site is built correctly in the first place. This means a good foundation, standards compliance, craftsmanship, good project management, together with attention to detail and great build quality.

website designerWebsite DesignerBuilding a website is like building a house

The process could be compared to building a new house. As the homeowner you would want an architect and builder who are abreast of the latest trends, techniques, standards and processes to build your house. You would not expect them to charge you a consultancy fee on top of the house design and build fees. How would you feel if you then found your brand new home was illegal because it did not adhere to the current building code? The enforcement agents would instruct for your house to be razed to the ground. Likewise, building a new website in the new millennium should take all current design and technical specifications into consideration by default.

What if I have existing websites that need to become accessible?

As opposed to building, renovating an existing house can be considerably more problematic. What can seem like a single simple task may end up becoming five other quite complicated tasks. This can make budgeting quite difficult, and milestones seemingly without a definitive end. In the same way the processes used in the original construction of an older website will be dated and likely no longer compliant. This often means that major re-engineering may be required to bring the site up to the standards set in legislation. Sometimes, it can be easier to knock down the outdated house (or website) and start again. Are there any websites that can be easily updated to conform to accessibility requirements? Fortunately database driven dynamic websites have a distinct advantage over static websites when it is time to ‘renovate’. If the content is being loaded into a browser from a database, it is then also possible to modify the way that content is displayed (or rendered by aiding technologies) through page templates. These templates can be updated or replaced with greater ease to create an entirely new website that is completely accessible.

old building set in concreteOld Building Set in ConcreteWill renovating an old database driven website be expensive?

Perhaps most importantly, this renovation process need not be tremendously expensive as there is no complete website rebuild, nor the creation of hundreds of new web pages manually as in the case of a static website rebuild.

Which websites will require a complete rebuild?

If a site has been built statically, it could be compared to a building that was originally set in concrete with steel reinforcement. Unfortunately in these cases it is better to simply demolish and start again. Of course this also affords the opportunity to use the latest trends and building techniques to create something fresh and contemporary, perhaps even prize-winning. In these circumstances, the work (and therefore expense) involved in making the website accessible could be compared to a new build website project.

Recommendations for stakeholders

Certainly it could be said that if there is any one recommendation to be made in the design and building of websites, stakeholders should make sure that all content is dynamically driven from a database. By doing this the company can ensure that the site can be continually modified as Internet technologies and standards change. The content will at the end of the day always just be content. Businesses that are maintaining websites with a content management system (or CMS) will have this functionality built in already and are a step ahead of the game. That’s not so hard, all in all. So accessibility is not complicated after all, nor is it necessarily expensive.

website optimizationWebsite OptimizationThe foundation of a great interactive and accessible project that returns measurable results is starting with a great interactive strategy.

  • Define the market, milestones, means, and measurement methodology.
  • Direct the organization to ensure company-wide commitment, content, continuity, and contribution.
  • Design the technical and aesthetic solution.
  • Develop the content and assets in keeping with the latest thinking in website design and construction.

Deploy optimised and accessible content, and then enjoy the added advantages of creating a resource that people all over the world can enjoy…regardless of their accessibility constraints.

For a free quotation, or to discuss your website requirements, please contact us today.

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Web design: Keep it clean

less is moreLess is MoreWhen designing your website, remember one thing: Less is more. Some people make the mistake of filling up every pixel on their web page with a different image or graphic or piece of text. Not only does this usually look bad, but it greatly diminishes the chance that the visitor will be able to find a focal point. People don’t like being confused when they visit a web site. They like simple.

column structureColumn Structure

Information overload

Try to not use more than three columns in your layout. Some websites can get away with one column, others need two or three. A good web designer will be able to develop a strategy for successfully laying out their website content in only a few columns.

Colors that complement

Try to avoid using more than 5 colors on your website. Develop a color scheme and stick to it. A great site that has heaps of working color schemes is at http://www.colorschemer.com. They also have a program called ColorSchemer that makes choosing colors a cinch. No, we don’t work for these guys - we just love their website and software! One of their recent blog posts was about our company’s obvious favorite color - blue!

Content is king

Make sure that the content on your pages is informative and to the point. Many web surfers have short attention spans and will lose interest if your web page content isn’t concise and clear. On the other hand, if you have a lot of informative, valuable information, post as much of it as you can. The web needs a lot of good content to make up for all of the bad website content out there.

too many imagesToo Many ImagesUse images wisely

The same can be said for website images - don’t abuse them. Not only do too many images look tacky and unprofessional, but they can significantly slow down the loading of your website. As mentioned a moment ago, web surfers have short attention spans. If your website takes longer than 5-10 seconds to load, you risk losing visitors. Make sure that your images have been optimized in Adobe Photoshop or other image editing software. Optimized images will load much more quickly than images that are saved without any optimization.

Web pages that suck

Web design talent is not something everyone has been gifted with. Someone went so far as to prove this fact by creating a website called Web Pages That Suck.com. On this site you will find many examples of, forgive us for saying, terrible websites. Those who created these sites obviously did not read their Web Design 101 book. We actually found this site helpful, when many of us first began our website design careers. You can learn a lot from other people’s mistakes. Try your best not to end up on that website.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free quotation, or more information.

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Why Have An Article Website?

Article submission website listArticle Posting WebsiteKnow the fact

Presumably, you already know what internet is all about. It’s all about content. With free quality content, you can easily attract the masses. Some may consider this an investment while some may treat it as a hobby.

If you are wondering why some may treat it as an investment, what is there to invest in? Well, basically, having your own article website can often be the most powerful marketing weapon. You can increase your product sales or even attract many advertisers to place advertisements (Banners, text links) on your website should the site grow. Visitors will stay on your web site longer, because there are lots of articles to read. This gives you additional opportunities at getting more clickthrough’s to your affiliate programs. You could feature links to your affiliate programs on each page you have articles.

While for hobby purpose, some just want to share their knowledge.

free Article Submission WebsiteArticle Submission WebsiteIn either case, you as the writer, will be treated as a professional by the public within your article categories range.

Now you have a brief idea of the benefits in having an article website. So how do you go about creating one? Let's imagine in the case where you have established a very popular article resource site, consisting of some excellent graphic designers and some award-winning writers. How can you make sure each of the individuals does their job well, and focuses on only their section of professionalism? For example, most designers ensure that your article website content looks great. This is what they do best. Writers on the other hand, write excellent articles but can't draw well or build websites.

Hence, you need to allow everyone to concentrate on what they are best at, and bring their output together to provide the website as a pleasant place for your visitors. The answer? Vezine Content Management application software is what you need.

Brief introduction to Vezine

As you may already have referred to Vezine's website, it is an online content management software that helps you create a full article website easily. Vezine allows you, the owner or administrator (as you call it) manage not only articles, but also allows you to handle your writers, designers and files or images uploaded for any individual articles as well.

search engine friendly optimizationSearch Engine Friendly OptimizationIn addition, Vezine recognizes that Search Engine Friendly Optimization is especially important. Without optimization, your listing in the search engine will not be in a good position.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be easily enhanced within your Vezine's administrator panel. The most common optimizing options are friendly URL and meta keywords and descriptions for each individual articles. You can already see an example here in this site.

So, as earlier on, we are talking about having individual professionals to each handle their own job well. For this, Vezine allows you to create multiple Groups. For example, you may want to create a Writer group. Allow this group to access only the Articles Management section and throw all writer's account into this group and have them login into the admin panel. Once logged in, they will be restricted with a limited access. Allowing them to only create articles but not tamper with the website templates and designs.

Of course, do the same by creating a Designer group, whereby you should only allow them to access the Templates Management section of the administrator panel. This is how and what you should consider if you want to create a successful article resource website.

There is more to it than meets the eye for this application, hence it is out of the scope for this article to provide a detailed explanation for each feature. Check out: http://www.vezine.com/features.php for more information that may surprise you.

Having a successful article website

Now, if you have decided, or have already run an article resource website, you will most likely want to stand out among other popular sites within your categories.

articlewritingArticle WritingThe most obvious point you should bear in mind. is to keep your article content fresh and updated. Using free content available in the market is not advisable. Try to come up with something unique and perhaps do some comparison, like what interesting or popular topics your competitors do not have, which you can consider creating for your site. You can easily know this by doing some market research in various community forums. Just remember, quality content is king!

Another point to note is to spice up some interesting RSS feeds to the public. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It is an XML-based format for content distribution that contains a list of items, each of which is identified by a link. Each item can have any amount of metadata associated with it. RSS allows the user or their traffic to see your site topics without going out of their way to visit it. While this seems bad at first glance, it actually improves your site's visibility; by making it easier for your users to keep up to date with your site - allowing them to see it the way they want to - it's more likely that they'll know when something that interests them is available on your site.

RSS feedRSS FeedsYou can easily do so with Vezine, create as many feeds as you want to. An example can be found here in this site, located at your right hand side (Latest News). Once someone clicks on the topic title, she/he will be redirected to the site where the original content is (Full Story).

Of course, in order to attract an audience to use your feeds on their website, you will need to convince them with fresh and updated content often as mentioned above. Hence, whenever new articles are being published by you or your writers, your audience's websites who are using your feeds, will also have the latest articles topic listed. This is one of the benefit of RSS.

Optionally, have designers to design a nice professional looking theme for your Vezine. Navigation usability do play a big role in this, so choose someone whom you are sure have knowledge in this. Refer to The Art Of Vezine for an idea on how to design themes for your Vezine.

Conclusion

Now that you have a brief idea on what the benefits are of running an article resource site, and an overview of Vezine, you can start right away. Get yourself a Vezine license and pick up experience as you go and be patient.

content article writingContent Article WritingTry to focus more on the quality of your article content, instead of giving too much attention to your SEO. Remember, word of mouth by the public is also another way to boost your web site's reputation.

If writing articles is not within your professionalism, try and get a few writers to help. Perhaps even pay them (Remember I said investment?). Or, you can take this chance as a challenge and write a few articles about what you know or do best.

No matter what,if you have or decided to run an article resource site, do remember the points stated in this article. There are lots of great articles or tutorials here in Vezine.net, supplying you with various tips on using Vezine and how to do the job faster.

Read them up and best of luck!

For more information or a free quotation, please contact us

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What Could Be Worse ?

What Could Be Worse Than Your Viewers Not Seeing Your Site Display Properly?

correct htmlCorrect HTML

What if they never get to your site to see it?

If you want your site listed on search engines then make sure that you have correct HTML code. Many search engines cannot properly catalog or index a site that has HTML errors. This can greatly reduce the amount of traffic your web site receives from search engines.

The lowest form of "browser" out there is the search engine. The search engine is about the equivalent of a version 2 browser. It can't read flash, DHTML, JavaScript, dynamic pages, - even having trouble at times with frames. Search engines may have difficulty crawling, indexing, and extracting the content of your site if you have broken HTML.

Search engines score a page by looking for relevant terms in key HTML components in specific places within a document. These key components are titles, descriptions, visible text, alt image tags etc. If they don't find them because of typos or other mistakes, the spiders may leave without reading the content of the page.

Poor document structure like a META tag placed in the BODY section of the page instead of the HEAD section - can cause the spider to ignore the tag and cost you a good ranking.

search engine optimization conceptSearch Engine Optimization ConceptWhat if you were tired and under deadline to get a new page up, (Not at my job!) you might type TILTE instead of TITLE for your TITLE tag. TITLE tags are very important to search engines. If you made this one little error the search engine will ignore all of the content of the title tag.

If you create the page properly and have content that contains your keywords it "should" get read and picked up by the search engines. (off page factors like inbound links excluded) However if you have a simple error like an open tag

seo processS.E.O. ProcessInternet Explorer is very forgiving of mistakes in code. By building only for IE you are creating for the most error forgiving browser ever. Thinking that a search engine will "browse" your site like Internet Explorer 6 is a dream. If the site won't display right in Netscape, Firefox, Opera or an old version of IE chances are good the search engines can't read it either.

So next time you get frustrated with having to design for Netscape, Firefox, Opera and IE, just bust out your favorite HTML editor and settle in for a long night of code checking.

Your marketing department will thank you!

Contact us for a free quotation today

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What is Good Content

content is kingContent is KingHaving good content is an essential in the evolvement of any website. A lot of businesses like to keep it simple; they advise visitors of what their company is about, they explain what they have to offer and a way to communicate with them.

On the other hand, some have trouble with the content and don’t know where to begin. The following article will give you a few pointers on how to write quality content for your webpage.

1. Entertain

Entertaining your visitors is always a good thing. For instance, if your site is merchandising hairstyles, you might want to post various hairstyle pictures, give tips on how to have healthy hair, have a forum where visitors can post comments and photos, etc.

Entertaining your clients is a good way to get their attention.

2. The Business

People are always interested in hearing what’s new about your website. So keep your content interesting and up to date and clients will keep coming back for more.

3. Your Knowledge

marketing strategiesMarketing StrategiesPut up information and articles on your website that demonstrates that you know what you’re talking about. Show that you are familiar with your company and product.

If you can pass as an expert in the field of your industry, it can increase the reliability of your business as a whole.

4. The Product

A website is the best place to offer elaborate products that would require learning on the part of the client. It’s important to tell them about the benefits instead of the features without confusing the visitors with technicalities; a “Frequently asked questions” section is a great way to solve this problem.

5. The Big Picture

thumbs upThumbs Up - All GoodDon’t forget about your marketing strategy, your business plan and your goals. Remember how you plan to place yourself and your business in the marketing world.

6. The Competition

Always ask yourself this question: What are my competitors contributing that I am not? If your competitor is offering something that you are obviously lacking, don’t be afraid to look at what it is. Just remember to not copy it, but instead build on it and make something original.

In conclusion, following these few simple does not guarantee you a successful website but it is a good start for anyone who wants to have good content.

Contact us for more information, or a free quotation.

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