Web Usability Standard 1.1: Clearer requirements

On 01 July 2013, the Web Accessibility Standard 1.0 and Web Usability Standard 1.0 replaced the NZ Government Web Standards 2.0. Since then, as departments and others work to apply the new Standards, there have been questions about what exactly certain requirements mean, particularly where the Web Usability Standard is concerned. This has helped identify those requirements whose language isn’t as clear as it could be, and which could lead to confusion or implementations that don’t actually meet the requirements’ original intent.

Update to the Web Usability Standard

To address these concerns, and with the help of the Web Standards Working Group, an update to the Web Usability Standard was issued today. The Web Usability Standard 1.1 clarifies the intended meaning and application of specific requirements in the following sections:

What has changed?

Links to contact info, copyright, and privacy

The Web Usability Standard 1.0 required that each website’s home page include links to the contact page, copyright statement, and privacy statement. Most people will have interpreted these requirements as they were intended, and implemented three separate links named something like “Contact us”, “Copyright”, and “Privacy”. However, the way the requirements were written left the door open for a site to meet them in a couple of ways that were not intended.

The requirements did not provide clear instruction on what any of these links should use as link text. Effectively, as far as the requirements specified, the link text could be anything at all.

Similarly, a single link named “About this site” on the home page would meet the requirements as long as it linked to a page that contained the requisite contact information, copyright and privacy statements. While it is perfectly consistent with the Standard to include the site's contact, copyright, and privacy information on a single page, the text “About this site” does not clearly indicate that such a link will take the user to such information, whereas three discrete and clearly named links would.

The Web Usability Standard 1.1 now includes more explicit requirements for these links:

2.2.2 A link to the website’s “Contact us” or similar web page must be visible on the website’s home page, and the link’s text must unambiguously indicate its target as being the website’s “Contact us” or similar web page.

2.3.2 A link to the copyright statement required by section 2.3.1 must be visible on the website’s home page, and the link’s text must unambiguously indicate its target as being the copyright statement.

2.4.2 A link to the privacy statement required by section 2.4.1 must be visible on the website’s home page, and the link’s text must unambiguously indicate its target as being the privacy statement.

The exact link text that must be used in each case is still not absolutely specified, but the new wording is much clearer about what is expected for each link.

Third party copyright

The intent of section 2.3.2 in the Web Usability Standard 1.0 was always that the website’s general copyright statement would either:

  • clearly indicate the source and copyright status of third party material, or
  • indicate how the source and copyright status of third party material is made clear in the site, e.g., either below or in the context of individual third party material.

Unfortunately, this was not evident from the requirement itself. To address this, the third party copyright requirement in the Web Usability Standard 1.1 reads as follows:

Each website that contains third party copyright material must state, either within the copyright statement required by section 2.3.1 and/or within or near to each item of third party copyright material:

  • the source and copyright status of such material in a way that avoids ambiguity as to which content items are subject to third party copyright;
  • that the website’s re-use licence does not apply to material that is subject to third party copyright; and,
  • that permission to re-use third party copyright material cannot be given by the New Zealand Government organisation responsible for the website.

Printable text in black and white

Section 2.6.3 of the Web Usability Standard 1.0 required that [w]eb page content should be printable by default as black text on a white background. As written, that requirement says that all content on a web page should be printable as black text. However, not all content on a web page is text, so there is some potential for confusion. The point of the requirement is to maximise contrast and readability of text for those who prefer or need to print things out.

Section 2.6.3 in the Web Usability Standard 1.1 now reads A web page’s text content should be printable by default as black text on a white background.

Note that it remains a “should” requirement. It’s not absolutely mandatory, but organisations need to understand the implications of not meeting the requirement before doing so. Certain colours will print in a rather light grey when printed in greyscale, which can be harder to read for everyone. The safest approach is to strip all colour from text and ensure that text prints in black on white.

Of course, there will be instances where coloured text is useful for conveying certain things to users (as long as colour isn’t the only way they are conveyed). This is why the requirement is not mandatory. The point is to make considered choices that acknowledge the potential impact on users. If you use a print style sheet that applies colour to specific passages of text, make sure that if the same content is printed in greyscale, the contrast is sufficient to provide a generally accessible and usable print experience.

No change to implementation schedule

The Web Usability Standard 1.1 does not introduce any new requirements. It only clarifies what was always intended by the requirements that have been updated as described above. For this reason, there is no change to the Web Usability Standard’s implementation schedule. That is, organisations’ publicly available websites must conform to the Web Usability Standard 1.1 by 30 June 2014.

Acknowledgements

Thanks go to the Web Standards Working Group for their continuing work on the Web Accessibility and Web Usability Standards and associated guidance. The current members of the Working Group are:

  • Barnaby Carter-Scofield (Department of Internal Affairs)
  • Frances Hopkins (Radio NZ)
  • Neil Jarvis (Royal NZ Foundation for the Blind)
  • Jason Kiss (Department of Internal Affairs)
  • Andrew Leggott (Ministry of Health)
  • Julia Mosen (Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand)
  • Britta Offergeld (Royal NZ Foundation for the Blind)
  • Jo Orange (Ministry of Education)
  • Shelley Purvis (Inland Revenue)
  • Julius Charles Serrano (Catalyst IT)
  • Narelle Smith (Ministry of Social Development)
  • Rowan Smith (Department of Internal Affairs)

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