Some useful links for usable websites, blogs and contented readers

Primarily as a freelance website designer, and becoming more immersed in the role of ‘blogs’, I’ve become more aware of some of the ease in which blogs provide an easier way for communication and can serve a real valid purpose compared to just having a static information site.
I’m receiving an increase in requests from organisations and groups, small and large who all want to blog as a way to tell their story or share their message on the internet. Communicating with users and supporters via the internet is fast becoming a mainstream activity for many organisations.

As mentioned in a previous post, with my frustration of testing a YouTube video on my site only to find that the code provided didn’t adhere to web standards; I was beginning to feel that at times, much of the changing ways in which we are communicating with the web was affecting usability and accessibility and the fact that it often compromised web standards.
So here are two really useful links where you can obtain a wealth of information to help.

The first is about tips for blogging with usability and accessibility in mind, and the second is about better writing through design, and how to create a voice for your text. Both links are really useful for all, whether you have a website or a blog, there are some great pointers to help your site and message work better.

When beginning to work with an organisation on their new or updated website design, I help them to identify that it isn’t just the design that counts.
Clear and usable information is key to the success of a site in partnership with clear and relevant design.

Blogging with accessibility and Usability in Mind

At the recent BlogHer conference in Chicago, Skye Kilaen from All Access Blogging and Virginia DeBolt ran a session on standards and accessibility, and there is a useful article with some great tips and pointers on blogging with accessibility and usability in mind.
As well as downloads of the presentations and an informative set of links, Skye and Virginia remind us about these key points which I’d recommend to anyone writing content for the web:

  • Break Up Your Post Into Paragraphs
  • Make Your Link Text Meaningful
  • Headings are Headings, Lists are Lists, Quotes are Quotes
  • Background, Text, and Links – Check Your Link Colors, You May Need to Redecorate
  • Don’t Open New Windows Without Warning People
  • Label Your Images
  • Resist Visual CAPTCHAs (those verification codes when you want to comment!)
  • Make Your Content Easy To Find
  • Check Those Widgets – some widgets need a little work before they’re accessible.

As a designer who is passionate about usability and accessibility it was refreshing to see this coming to the fore and aimed at bloggers.
Check out the full page at All Access Blogging.

Better Writing Through Design

The next article which resonated well for me when supporting groups with their websites is a recent article on A List Apart on Better Writing Through Design.
At the early stages of beginning to work with an organisation on their new or updated website design, I help them to identify that it isn’t just the design that counts. Clear and usable information is key to the success of a site in partnership with clear and relevant design.

Writer Bronwyn Jones, delivers a great upbeat article with lots of useful pointers, and reminds us again of those key messages that we all know but sometimes blur in our haste to get things online quickly. I really liked her piece about creating a writing style for your reader, and you the writer as the narrator for the story.

Often website content in non-profit organisations that I know, is pulled together by many people (especially when creating a multi-partnership site!). The site then delivers many voices which can confuse a reader.

In many of the small organisations that I work with when designing or offering advice and support, I’ve found that it’s the Administrator is often tasked with the ‘chore’ as they (sometimes not just that team member but the whole organisation!) see it to update their website, and is often not confident in what to write. It is important that who ever updates your site, receives support, encouragement and understands the value of writing clearly and in a usable way, and that other team members and volunteers support them in that role too.

Websites are increasingly used more by new users of your service and by potential funders and supporters before they make that first contact with you, so it is really important that you deliver a good first image of the work you do. Who ever manages the website content in your organisation will be more empowered about the role, enjoy their task and write better content if they have if they receive the support they often need.

Good design is important but only compliments your messages, but as saying goes -“Content is King!”
I know that in the organisation that I manage in my day job, we spent alot of time developing and working with a particular ‘voice’ and style of writing. This investment of time has paid dividends in gaining increased support and interaction from our users and members. It also increased recognition of our work by partners and funders.

I’ll leave you with Bronwyn’s closing quote from the article, which I think is great.

“Great web design reflects the way we interact, and the primary vehicle for that interaction remains text. We share, we chat, we comment, we tag, and we do it all via the written word. The web is One Big Conversation. Let’s talk.”