Maximizing Readability by Focusing on Structure
Many Web sites use tags for aesthetic purposes rather than for the appropriate purpose. For example, the <h1> heading tag often is used erroneously to make text large and bold rather than as a major section head for content. The desired visual effect may be achieved, but it creates a problem for screen readers. When the screen reader software encounters the <h1> tag, it may verbally inform the user that a new section has been reached when it is not the case, which may confuse users. Only use the h1 in accordance with its XHTML specifica-tions (e.g., as headings to introduce important sections of a document). Instead of using h1 to make text large and bold, use CSS (discussed in Chapter 6, Cascading Style Sheets) or XSL (discussed in Chapter 20, Extensible Markup Language) to format and style the text. For further examples, refer to the WCAG 1.0 Web site at www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10. [Note: The <strong> tag also may be used to make text bold; however, screen readers emphasize bold text, which affects the inflection of what is spoken.]
Another accessibility issue is readability. When creating a Web page intended for the general public, it is important to consider the reading level (i.e., the comprehension and level of understanding) at which it is written. Web site designers can make their sites easier to read by using shorter words. Designers should also limit slang terms and other non-tra-ditional language that may be problematic for users from other countries.
WCAG 1.0 suggests using a paragraph’s first sentence to convey its subject. Stating the point of the paragraph in its first sentence makes its easier to find crucial information and allows readers to bypass unwanted material.
The Gunning Fog Index, a formula that produces a readability grade when applied to a text sample, evaluates a Web site’s readability. More information about the Gunning Fog Index can be obtained from www.trainingpost.org/3-2-inst.htm.
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