Javascript Assignments

When you try to put a value in a variable you try to assign the value to the variable. To assign it, you have to use an assignment operator to get the job done. For example, use the equals to create an assignment, such as siteName = “HTMLcenter”.

Besides the equals sign, the other assignment operators serve as shortcuts for modifying the value of a variable. For example the shortcut for x = x + 5 is to use x += 5. If you don’t like the short way, just use the long version, it will not change the outcome, just a little more to type.

Assignments

ASSIGNMENT

x = y

x += y

x -= y

x *= y

x /= y

x %= y


WHAT IT DOES

Sets x to the value of y

x = x + y

x = x – y

x = x * y

x = z / y

x = x % y

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Javascript Alert

Alert boxes are used to provide the user with important information. When users enter your site and you want to make sure that they sign your guestbook, you can use an alert box to remind them. Keep in mind, that overusing this function can get very annoying and your visitors might decide not to come back.

Alert Box Example:

<html>
<head>
<title>Alert Boxes</title>
<script>
<!-- Hide Script
	alert("My Own JavaScript Alert Box!")
//End Hide Script-->
</script>
</head>
<body>
<noscript>
  This page uses JavaScript.
  Please enable it or upgrade your browser.
</noscript>
</body>
</html>

alert(“My Own JavaScript Alert Box!”), that’s the code for your alert box. Put any text inside the quotation marks in alert() and it will pop up next time you load the page.

The JavaScript alert box will always say “JavaScript Application” and there’s no way to code around it. We suppose it’s a security feature so that a site owner can’t trick visitors into something using an alert box.

You might have seen that we used the <noscript> tag above. That’s because in non-JavaScript browsers (JavaScript turned off or not supported) a message will show up saying “This page uses JavaScript. Please enable it or upgrade your browser.”.

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Hello World!

“Hello World!” is generally the first program you learn to write when you start with a programming or scripting language. Are you are new to JavaScript? In this tutorial you will learn how to use the document.write function to place text on a page using JavaScript. This tutorial will also show you, how to hide your scripts from older browsers and how to place comments in your scripts.

Hello World Example:

<html><head><title>Hello World</title></head>

<body>

<script>

 document.write("Hello, World!")

</script>

</body>

</html>

Our script is in between the <script> tags; <script> tells the browser to expect our JavaScript, </script> tells the browser to expect HTML again. You can have as many scripts as you want in your source code, this also means you can therefore run multiple scripts on the same page.

document.write(“Hello, World!”) is your JavaScript. It takes the document window and writes “Hello, World!” into it.

Of course your script can not be interpreted by old browsers, such as Netscape 1.x, Internet Explorer 3.x and earlier, and the America Online browser before version 4. While well working browsers are told to ignore what they do not “understand”, we use a technique to make sure.

Script Listening 1.2:

<html><head><title>Hello World</title></head>

<body>

<script><!-- Hide Script

 document.write("Hello, World!")

//End Hide Script-->

</script>

</body>

</html>

This will look like a comment to older browser and they will simply ignore it and not produce an error. In case you want to display a message to your site?s user if his browser doesn?t support JavaScript, add your message into the <noscript> tag.

The more advanced your scripts get, the more it becomes necessary for you to write comments inside your scripts. For example we could forget what a certain statement means and in order not to need to look it up in a book or here at HTMLcenter, you can write a comment next to it which explains what it does. If you distribute your scripts on your website, you could use comments to write a short notice, that tells who it was written by and where to find it, and other scripts.

Script Listening 1.3:

<html><head><title>Hello World</title></head>

<body>

<script>/* Script name: Hello, World!

   HTMLcenter - JavaScript Tutorial

   Date: 03-07-1999

*/

<!-- Hide Script

 document.write("Hello, World!")

// document.write prints text on the screen

//End Hide Script-->

</script>

</body>

</html>

There are two different ways to write comments. You can use “/*” and “*/” if the comments are more than one single line, instead of writing “//” at the beginning of each. We use “//” if your comments fit on one single line.

This is the end of our “Hello World” tutorial. You learned how to print a message on the screen, how to hide your scripts from older browsers or browsers that have JavaScript turned off, and you learned how to write comments inside your JavaScript. We suggest that you check out our next JavaScript tutorial and keep on scripting!

Please note, that if any of the HTML tags, you have read while going over this tutorial confuse you, or you are not quite sure about their meaning, please check out our HTML tutorials (Basics) at HTMLcenter.

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PHP Form Validation – Part II

This tutorial is a second part of PHP Form Validation tutorial I wrote some time ago. In this part I want to show you how to do email address validation using PHP programming language. PHP is running on a server-side, and this means all validation will be caried out on the web server without dependency on user client-side (web browser, javascript support etc.). It is a good security practice to double the efforts and validate an email on the client side as well. But this time its all about PHP.

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Why Usability?
This tutorial brought to you by Webnauts Net

The Usability Expert Jakob Nielsen says: “On the Web, usability is a necessary condition for survival. If a web site is difficult to use, people leave. If the homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people leave. If users get lost on a web site, they leave. If a web site’s information is hard to read or doesn’t answer users’ key questions, they leave. Note a pattern here? There’s no such thing as a user reading a web site manual or otherwise spending much time trying to figure out an interface. There are plenty of other web sites available; leaving is the first line of defense when users encounter a difficulty.” -

Full Story: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030825.html

Is your web site usable?

There are several definitions for usability, but basically products which have the following 6 characteristics, can be considered as usable.

  • Quick and easy to learn

  • Efficient to use
  • Allows rapid recovery from errors
  • Easy to remember
  • Using is enjoyable
  • Aesthetically pleasing

Does your product have the above characteristics?

User and Provider benefits:

Usability increases benefits for both parties: the User and the web site Provider.

Users benefits:

  • Users are satisfied, instead of being frustrated when interacting over the web site.

  • They achieve their goals effectively and efficiently.
  • They cultivate confidence and trust in the product.

In other words, satisfied users, become loyal, going on using the web site, and also recommend to others.

Providers benefits:

  • Reduced development time and costs.

  • Reduced support costs.
  • Reduced user errors.
  • Reduced training time and costs.
  • Return on Investment.

Usability Can Save Your Company!

John S. Rhodes, Editor and Webmaster at WebWorldPro says: “Data indicate that usability offers a better return on investment than almost any other business action. When times get rough, usability shines. The benefits are huge. Usability is a weapon that can save you money, improve your competitive position, and improve customer loyalty. Now is the time to invest in the research.” -

Full Story: http://webword.com/moving/savecompany.html

After all, making your web site usable, you will make your visitors and your wallet more comfortable and happier!

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Web Credibility
Web usability: It’s old news

If you’ve been developing websites on Mars for the past few years then you’ll be forgiven for not knowing about web usability. You’ll still be creating splash intro pages, having pages with massive download times and using more images than you can shake a stick at. Well, back in Earth these days have long gone and today web usability rules the web development world. For those of you who have been on Mars please read some of the things that Jakob Nielson has to say and try to catch up.

As for the rest of us Earth-based developers, well we’ve learnt a whole bunch about usability and we’re all using it as best we can in our websites. Right, guys? After all, web usability does have huge benefits.

Now that usable websites have become so commonplace, especially among the major web players, it’s time to start looking to the future. Suddenly, a usable website isn’t going to be enough to separate us from our competitors (apart from those using the developers who’ve been based on Mars). There is a solution. It’s two words long. Enter our new best friend…

Web credibility.

What is web credibility & why is it important?

According to BJ Fogg, the world’s leading researcher on web credibility, web credibility is about making your website in such a way that it comes across as trustworthy and knowledgeable. Don’t just take my word for it – read his book if you like. This book is so good that even Jakob Nielson himself (he’s the self-appointed web usability guru for all you Mars-based developers), dedicated a whole alertbox to it.

Fogg will tell you, as can I, and numerous other organisations, that a credible website can reap huge benefits on to your website and your business. So, here’s a few statistics to prove this point:

  • Just 52.8% of web users believe online information to be credible (source: UCLA)
  • Four in five users say that being able to trust the information on a site is very important to them in deciding to visit a website (source: Princeton Survey Research Associates)

So, web credibility’s pretty important then. But how do you implement it on to your website? Fear not, all the answers lie within the realms of this article. Now, before I go further, I must stress that most of this stuff falls under the category of ‘it’s obvious once you know it’. You know, like if someone sets you a puzzle and you can’t do it but when they tell you the answer it’s really obvious. Web credibility is all common sense – you just don’t tend to think about this stuff. So without further ado, here are five guidelines for making a credible website.

1. You must prove there’s a real organisation behind your website

Anyone can put up a website promising to deliver the ‘best service at the lowest prices’. Web users must be able to believe there’s a real organisation behind your website. A few things you can do are:

  • Make it very easy to contact you
  • Link to external websites that reference your organisation
  • Provide staff bios
  • Show photos of the office, staff, products etc.

This basically says that you should have a really good contact us and about us section. Don’t bury your contact us link in some obscure place in the website or on the page. Make out like you really want your site visitors to get in contact with you. In fact, I won’t talk anymore about your contact us page because Miles Burke’s has already written an excellent article about it, The Lost Art of Conversation – Encouraging Contact Online.

As for the about us section, don’t underestimate its importance. Don’t be afraid to show who you are (stand tall and be proud!), what you stand for, what your goals are, and a bit about your history (of the organisation, not you). People will read this stuff – it certainly won’t be the first thing they’ll read on your website but it could be the last thing they read before deciding whether or not to do business with you.

Can you think of other ways you can prove your organisation’s real? Have a look at a website you visit quite often – what is it about this website that you trust?

2. Your website needs to provide ‘sensitive’ information

A website is akin to a one-way conversation between you and your site visitors where you have 100% control over the dialogue. If site users perceive you to be lacking in credibility then you’ll be unable to defend yourself. As such, you must ensure that you answer any questions your site visitors may have, for example:

  • What is the purpose of your organisation?
  • How much does your product cost?
  • What happens if I’m not happy with your service
  • What will you do with my email address once I give it to you?

There are about 35 million websites on the Internet – by 2014 there’ll be an estimated 150 million, not including personal websites. With so many people online and so many websites competing with yours, if you can’t persuade Internet users to be loyal to your website then someone else will.

3. All statements should be backed up by third-party evidence

"We helped our clients achieve an average of 70% growth last year." Really? Well prove it! Every single point you make on your website must, without fail, be backed up with hard evidence – preferably from a third-party website. How else can a reader know for sure that you’re telling the truth?

Client testimonials, for example, are great – they’re even better if the testimonial links to the client’s website. You can improve them even more if the name of the person making the testimonial is linked to their bio on their website. You could notch up even more credibility points if the testimonial itself is on the client’s website and you link to it!

If you’ve won any awards or belong to any industry bodies, then proudly display these emblems too. Even better, have them link to the external website. Better still, would be a direct link to the section of the website showing your membership details or a list of the award winners.

4. There has to be proof that the organisation is growing and has clients

An organisation that can prove it has clients and is experiencing growth instantly achieves credibility. By showing you’ve offered your services plenty of times before, and expect to do so in the future, your organisation comes across as being firmly established within your industry. You can prove this by providing:

  • A client list
  • Testimonials
  • Case studies of your work
  • A latest news section
  • A jobs page
  • Free newsletter
5. Your website needs to have an air of professionalism and confidence

Your website is your organisation’s online representation – it’s essential that it matches up in quality to the rest of your marketing materials. Even if you don’t think your website’s important to the success of your organization, (potential) clients will make judgments about your organisation based on your website.

So, what is the number one most important aspect of Web credibility? The about us section? No. Quality of outbound links? No-siree. Studies have consistently proven that the most important criteria of Web credibility is… the way the website looks. That’s it.

It’s been suggested that this is due to the short amount of time we spend on websites so we tend to rely on initial judgements. Make sure that you create a great first impression by having a crisp, professional layout with sharp graphics. Other good things to do are:

  • Provide some free information to prove your expertise
  • Ensure there are no dead links
  • Send out an automated confirmation e-mail when someone contacts you

There are many more! Just visit any website you perceive to be professional and confident and see what they do.

What next?

Have a look at your website and check to see if it does all this stuff. A handy program to check that there are no broken links is Xenu’s link sleuth. You can also check out Stanford University’s 10 guidelines for credibility and the best online resource to keep up to date with web credibility, the Consumer WebWatch.

This article was written by Trenton Moss. He’s crazy about web accessibility and usability – so crazy that he went and started his own web accessibility and usability consultancy, Webcredible, to help make the Internet a better place for everyone.

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Web Accessibility and Learning Difficulties

Accessibility is about making it as easy as possible for all members of society to fully take part in that society. It is about removing barriers. It is about inclusion and empowerment. It is about creating the sort of world that we all want to live in – a message that should resonate with us all.

Where the UK government stands

This year, the UK government gave “a clear commitment to ensuring that all government websites and online services present no barriers to use for those with disabilities” (source: Connecting the UK). It has also promised “a renewed focus on the use of e-inclusion as a route to social inclusion” (source: Office of the Deputy Prime Minister).

Where are we now?

Accessibility’s profile within the Internet industry has never been higher, which is a good thing for all those people who have benefited from the improvements that have been made to a large number of websites.

Unfortunately, most people’s understanding of accessibility relates exclusively to visually-impaired users – to the point, in fact, where these two terms are often used interchangeably.

Well, it’s time that we all realised that there are other groups of users out there who need – and deserve – support.

Where should we be?

The Code of Practice for part III of the Disability discrimination Act defines a disabled person as:

“Someone who has a physical or mental impairment which has an effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”

People with learning difficulties have received a particularly raw deal (it’s estimated that some 2 million people in the UK have learning difficulties). This audience group is even mentioned specifically in the Code of Practice:

  • “5.22 – In many cases, a service provider will need to consider providing auxiliary aids or services to improve communication with people with learning disabilities.”
  • “5.28 – For example, a customer with a learning disability may be able to access a service by the provision of documents in large, clear print and plain language or by the use of colour coding and illustrations.”

Some advice

Webcredible’s analysis of usability testing sessions involving participants with learning difficulties has led to our suggesting these guidelines when designing for these users:

  • Your website should behave as consistently as possible, and have a consistent appearance/look-and-feel (e.g. all links and buttons should look and behave in the same way)
  • Avoid using words in their non-literal sense (e.g. “it’s raining cats and dogs”)
  • Avoid using abstractions (e.g. provide a link to a telephone number rather than to ‘Contact us’ )
  • Provide clearly signposted, simplified summaries of pages’ content at the top of the page
  • Provide an audio version of a site’s content
  • Break information into small, simple chunks and illustrate them visually wherever possible
  • Always provide an obvious way for users to get back to simpler content if they find themselves on a page above their reading level
  • Increase the spacing between lines of text
  • Increase the spacing between paragraphs
  • Increase the distance between the text and the underline in links (you can use the CSS border-bottom property to underline links and achieve this)
  • Increase the target area of navigation links (again, you can do this with CSS)

This article was written by Tim Fidgeon, Head of Usability at Webcredible. He’s crazy about usability and runs Webcredible’s web usability training and is passionate about user centered design.

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WCAG 2.0: W3C accessibility guidelines evaluated

The second version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is in final working draft and will soon be officially released. Version 1 of the guidelines came under much criticism for being vague, full of jargon and extremely difficult to use. The W3C has been working on version 2.0 of the guidelines for over 5 years now, but has it been worth the wait?

What’s good about WCAG 2.0?

There have certainly been a number of improvements made to the new guidelines. This is of course to be expected – after 5 years you would expect some improvement! Some of these improvements include:

Outdated guidelines removed

A number of guidelines from WCAG 1.0 are well out-of-date. Unfortunately, web developers still implement these out-dated guidelines because they don’t know otherwise. Rather than go on an accessibility training course and learn ‘real-world’ accessibility, many web developers and manager tick boxes against guidelines.

Some of the out-of-date WCAG 1.0 guidelines, which have been removed from WCAG 2.0 include:

  • 1.5 – Provide equivalent text links for links within client-side image maps
  • 5.6 – Provide abbreviations for table header labels, if you use these
  • 9.5 – Use accesskeys (keyboard shortcuts) for important links
  • 10.3 – Don’t use tables with more than one column for layout
  • 10.4 – Make sure form fields aren’t empty by default
  • 10.5 – Ensure different links have non-link text between them

(Please note, the above isn’t the exact wording of the guidelines – each of the original guidelines has been translated from the official W3C guideline into more easy-to-understand language.)

The above guidelines have all been removed from WCAG 2.0, so shouldn’t be adhered to.

Good real world techniques provided

The document, Techniques for WCAG 2.0 replaces the previous techniques document, and is actually much better. It provides a list of common failures, which the previous version didn’t, and actually offers some excellent examples of common errors.

The other major improvement in this techniques document is that the examples provided are far more real-world. The WCAG 1.0 techniques document used text such as PortMaster 3 with ComOS 3.7.1 in their examples, but who has any idea what this means? The new document is far better in this respect, using examples such as phone numbers and calendars, for example.

The techniques document also provides some clever recommendations, which accessibility guideline box-ticking developers wouldn’t perhaps have thought have. For example:

  • How to open a link in a new window using unobtrusive JavaScript
  • Displaying decorative images through CSS
  • Combining text and its adjacent image in the same link
  • Providing a heading at the beginning of each section on the page

…And many more! Do have a good look at the WCAG 2.0 techniques document as there’s lots of useful guidance here using quite easy-to-understand examples.

New guidelines included

A number of new guidelines have been brought into WCAG 2.0. Some of these guidelines are totally new whereas others were hinted at, but not specifically stated, in WCAG 1.0. Some examples include:

  • Providing text-based error messages for forms
  • Ensure all pages have a descriptive title
  • Background noise can be turned off

For a full list of brand new guidelines that don’t map to any version 1 guidelines, have a look at the W3C‘s Comparison of WCAG 1.0 checkpoints to WCAG 2.0.

What’s not good about WCAG 2.0?

So there certainly have been some improvements made to the W3C accessibility guidelines. But is it all good news? Have the problems associated with WCAG 1.0 been eliminated for this version 2 of the guidelines? Well not quite, as there are still a number of problems…

Verbose and jargon-filled language

One of the main criticisms aimed at WCAG 1.0 was the complexity of the language used. Have things improved? Hardly! Pretty much every paragraph is littered with jargon that the average web developer or web manager would be left with no clue as to the meaning.

Clearly aware of the level of jargon, the W3C have made complex terms green underlined links, linking to definitions. This is all well and good in theory, but when most sentences are broken up with one or two links it makes reading these sentences quite difficult.

Even worse though, is that the definitions are just as jargon-filled and difficult to understand as the term being defined! For example:

  • Authored unit – Set of material created as a single body by an author
  • Programmatically determined – Determined by software from data provided in a user-agent-supported manner such that the user agents can extract and present this information to users in different modalities
  • Specific sensory experience – A sensory experience that is not purely decorative and does not primarily convey important information or perform a function
  • Web unit – A collection of information, consisting of one or more resources, intended to be rendered together, and identified by a single Uniform Resource Identifier (such as URLs)

Ironically, there’s even a definition provided for the word ‘jargon’!

Furthermore, it seems that some jargon used in WCAG 1.0, which webmasters have gotten used to, has been replaced with equally incomprehensible words. For example, we no longer have Priority 1, 2 and 3 to aim for – instead we now have success criteria level 1, 2 and 3.

Awful usability

Another major criticism of the WCAG 1.0 guidelines was how difficult it is to find specific guidance and answers. It doesn’t take too long to discover that the WCAG 2.0 guidelines quite clearly offer the same low level of usability.

Reasons for this poor usability include:

  • The level of jargon and complexity of language is truly phenomenal (as outlined above)
  • The text is littered with links making it very difficult to read
  • The two main documents, Understanding WCAG 2.0 and Techniques for WCAG 2.0 are 164 and 363 pages long in total (when doing a print preview)

If only the W3C carried out basic usability testing of how people actually use (or are unable to use) these guidelines! What they’d undoubtedly find is that users won’t understand most guidelines and will end up blindly clicking links to find out how to meet these guidelines.

As with WCAG 1.0, clicking on most links from the WCAG 2.0 guidelines simply takes users into the middle of massive pages full of difficult-to-understand text. The text, of course, is densely littered with links. Users will probably click on a link again in the desperate hope that they’ll somehow find some text that clearly and succinctly explains what they need to do. They’ll usually be disappointed.

Organising the massive amount of content available is certainly not an easy task – but why not, as a start, split up these massive documents into more manageable and less intimidating sets of smaller documents? Then, carry out some usability testing, refine, and test again.

Useful guidelines gone

Although there are a number of useful, new guidelines in WCAG 2.0, a number of important guidelines from WCAG 1.0 have been removed or are only vaguely referred to. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • 3.1 – Avoid embedding text within images.
  • 3.2 – Create documents that validate.
  • 3.3 – Use CSS and not tables for layout.
  • 3.4 – Ensure text is resizable.
  • 12.3 – Divide large blocks of information into more manageable groups where natural and appropriate.
  • 13.8 – Place distinguishing information at the beginning of headings, paragraphs, lists, etc.
  • 14.1 – Use clear and simple language.

(Please note, the above isn’t the exact wording of the guidelines – each of the original guidelines has been translated from the official W3C guideline into more easy-to-understand language.)

Particularly worrying is the removal of the final three guidelines, all of which relate to the accessibility of content. A major part of any website’s accessibility, and one that’s often overlooked, is the site’s usability and how the content is written and structured.

Accessible content is crucial for all special needs users, particularly those with learning difficulties and dyslexia. Perhaps the reason these guidelines have been removed is because content guidelines are fluffier and harder to measure than technical accessibility guidelines. Whatever the reason, this is not a good step for accessibility.

Technology neutral and the concept of the baseline

WCAG 1.0 states quite clearly that alternatives to JavaScript, PDFs and Flash must all be provided, as assistive technologies such as screen readers can’t access these. Although this was generally true in 1999, it’s not the case now, and nowadays JavaScript, PDFs and Flash can all be made accessible to most assistive technologies. (Remember, ‘can be’ is not the same as ‘are’.)

Version 1 of the accessibility guidelines became quite outdated rather quickly. To prevent this from happening to version 2 of the accessibility guidelines, the W3C have attempted to make WCAG 2.0 technology-neutral. Sounds sensible as now the guidelines won’t become outdated so quickly, right?

In practice, what this means is that the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are extremely vague. So vague, in fact, that they’re almost unusable as they talk in such generic terms.

Additionally, the concept of the baseline has now been introduced, where by webmasters can claim which technologies they assume are supported by site visitors’ browsers. So, if you build a website entirely in Flash and say that Flash is part of your baseline, your website can conform with all the guidelines despite the fact that some people won’t be able to access your site at all!

Discussion

So, was the wait worth it? We’ve waited over 5 years for WCAG 2.0 and certainly a number of improvements have been made. Worryingly though, the guidelines continue to be very difficult to actually use, further discouraging webmasters from reading them. The extra vagueness of these new guidelines certainly doesn’t help either.

The W3C just doesn’t seem to get it: People don’t generally want to read through hundreds of pages of text to find out how to implement accessible solutions – they just want answers and specific guidance. For most people, accessibility is just one small part of their job and they don’t have time for all this.

Webmasters are also now being asked to choose a baseline for their website but how do they even begin to go about doing this!? How would you as a web developer explain the concept of a baseline to senior management? How do you decide what you should do so as to comply with any legal requirements? Unfortunately there’s no correct answer to either of these questions.

Solution?

A solution could be that the W3C simply provides specific guidelines for what web developers and managers actually have to do. Much of this information is already there on their website, but it’s hidden away in the enormous and intimidating Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document. This document could be broken down into manageable chunks, added to and refined, and focus on providing specific, real world guidelines.

Guidelines should be relevant and specific to today’s technology, but would be updated on an on-going basis so as to make sure they don’t become too dated. Why did we have to wait over five years for version 2.0? Why couldn’t we have received versions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and so on during this time? This would surely have prevented WCAG 1.0 becoming out-dated as quickly as it did?

Most importantly though, the whole WCAG 2.0 section on the W3C website needs to have usability testing carried out on it. The benefits of usability testing are pretty well known by now, and it’s quite clear that the W3C has very little idea how real users are interacting with the website. By carrying out ongoing usability testing, the W3C can learn about its users and ultimately aim for an easy-to-understand and intuitive website.

This article was written by Trenton Moss. Trenton’s crazy about web usability and accessibility – so crazy that he went and started his own web usability and accessibility consultancy to help make the Internet a better place for everyone. He’s extremely good at accessibility consulting and spends much of his time doing DOM scripting & accessible JavaScript.

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Usability Testing with Children

Usability testing with children is similar in many respects to usability testing with adults. In order to get the most out of the sessions, and ensure the child is comfortable and happy, there are a few differences that you need to be aware of.

Stress of new people and surroundings

Children are far more likely than adults to find encountering new places and people stressful. You should always remember this, so try to find as many ways as possible to relax the child. Some things you could do are:

  • Allow a significant period of time – at least 10 minutes – to meet the child. This is critical in putting them at ease before beginning the session. Some easy things to talk about might be computer games, cartoons, sports or school. Trying to make all the equipment used during the session match that which the child uses at home/school (phone up their parents/teachers beforehand to check).
  • Try to be as comforting and reassuring as possible. It’s especially important to make it clear to the child that you want their views on the site and that you’re not testing them.
  • Plan for the fact that younger children may prefer their parents to remain in the testing room with them. Make sure that parents know that they should stay out of the child’s line-of-sight and not help or distract them.

Asking for help

Children are far more used to asking for – and receiving – help than adults, so it’s very important for the moderator to:

  • Clearly explain at the beginning of the test that you want the child to use the site on their own
  • Make a sustained effort to deflect any such questioning during the session itself

Good ways of deflecting questions can include:

  • Answering a question with a question (e.g. What do you think [you should do now]?)
  • Re-stating that you want the child to use the site ‘on their own’
  • Asking the child to have ‘one last go’ before you move on to something else

Children get tired, bored and discouraged more easily

Children (especially of younger ages) are less inclined – and/or able – to apply themselves to a single task for a prolonged period. Some ways to work around this are:

  • Limiting sessions to 1 hour or less.
  • Taking short breaks during sessions if the child becomes tired or irritable.
  • Ensuring that sessions cover the intended tasks/scenarios in a different order – this will make sure that the same scenarios are not always tested by tired children, who are less likely to succeed/persevere.
  • Asking the child for help so as to provide them with motivation (e.g. asking ‘Could you please find out for me how to…’, or by actually pretending to not be able find/do something on the site).
  • Keeping up a steady stream of encouragement and positive feedback (“You’re doing really well and telling us lots of useful things – it will really help make the site better. Keep it up!”).

The importance of non-verbal cues

Children can’t always be relied upon to verbally articulate their thoughts/feelings, either due to their:

  • Not being articulate enough
  • Being too shy
  • Not wanting to say the wrong thing and displease an adult
  • Saying things they don’t believe just to please the adult

This makes it particularly important that the usability expert be sensitive to children’s non-verbal cues, such as:

  • Sighs
  • Smiles
  • Frowns
  • Yawns
  • Fidgeting
  • Laughing
  • Swaying
  • Body angle and posture

Physical differences

A couple of very obvious – but easily forgotten – differences which need to be taken into account are:

  • Chair and table settings – Make sure you have a chair/table setting that allows the child to comfortably use the equipment during the session.
  • Microphone positioning – Children tend to have quieter voices than adults, so microphones should be placed slightly nearer to the participant than normal.

Levels of literacy and understanding

It is critical to ensure that a session’s participant has an accurate understanding of the scenario being presented to them. Some ways to do this include:

  • Asking participants to re-phrase scenarios/goals in their own words.
  • Asking participants to repeat a scenario (i.e. what they are trying to achieve) if the task has gone on for some time and you suspect they may have forgotten it.

This article was written by Tim Fidgeon, Head of Usability at Webcredible. He’s crazy about usability and runs Webcredible’s writing for the web training and is passionate about user centered design.

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Usability Page Breakdown

You know exactly what your organisation does and what your website offers its users. This information has probably become second nature to you, but first-time visitors to your site won’t know this. As such, make sure you don’t forget to tell them what you do.

As soon as new site visitors arrive at your website the first thing they need to know, before anything else, is what you do. You can talk all you like about how great you are, but unless you spell out what you actually do, they won’t even know what you’re so great at! This oh-so-overlooked yet such basic of information can be communicated to your site visitors in a number of different ways:

Page title

Don’t just use the page title to tell me who you are; tell me what you do too. If your company is called Bloggs Ltd don’t only place the words, ‘Bloggs Ltd’ in the page title as there’s plenty of room for more information. If Bloggs Ltd sells widgets, a good page title might be: ‘Bloggs Ltd – Buy widgets online‘.

Note in this example, ‘Buy widgets online‘ was used to describe what Bloggs Ltd does, and not ‘Widget seller’. When describing what it is you do be sure to speak the language of your users, and don’t talk from your point of view. From your point of view you sell widgets, but from their point of view they want to buy widgets online, so do bear this in mind when authoring the page title.

The page title is the first thing that appears on screen, and especially on dial-up modems can be the only thing that displays for the first 10 seconds or so. For many web users this is the first piece of content they’ll read on your site.

The page title is also very important for search engines, which place more importance on the page title than any other on-page element. Descriptive page titles are also essential for blind web users utilising screen readers, as it’s the first thing that gets read aloud to them upon arriving at the page.

Tagline

A good tagline is one of the most important usability features on any website. A good tagline should be explanatory and not vague, clear and informative and about four to eight words in length. A tagline is different to a company slogan, in that the former describes what the organisation/website does whereas the latter is designed to evoke certain feeling or create a brand.

‘Priceless’ and ‘I’m loving it’ are slogans by Mastercard and McDonald’s respectively – they differ from taglines because they don’t describe what the organisation does.

Taglines are so important because no matter on what page site visitors enter your website, they’ll always be able to quickly gain an understanding of what your organisation and website offers. This can be especially true for site visitors coming into internal pages from search engines – by telling these site visitors what you do through the tagline, they may be more likely to explore your site beyond the initial page on which they enter.

Taglines are also good for search engine optimisation, as they appear on every page right at the top of the page, an area on to which search engines place importance.

Main heading

The main heading on the homepage is one of the first pieces of text web users notice, especially on clean well laid out websites. Sticking a ‘Welcome to our website’ may seem to be friendly and welcoming to you, but to task-driven site visitors it doesn’t help in any way shape or form. A quick summary of what you do and/or what the website offers, in just four or five words can be highly effective (and very search engine friendly too!).

Opening paragraph

Perhaps the most important place on the homepage to tell your site visitors what you do, the opening paragraph must be short, succinct and straight-to-the-point. Just one sentence is enough to put across this most basic yet fundamental of information.

When writing this opening paragraph, remember to front-load the content (this rule actually applies to every paragraph on the website). Front-loading means putting the conclusion first, followed by the when, what, where and how.

Don’t write a story with a start, middle and conclusion – generally speaking on the web, we scan looking for the information that we’re after so put the conclusion first. This way, site visitors can read the conclusion first, which in this case is what your organisation actually does. If they want to know any more, they can then continue reading or jump to another section of the page. (To see front-loading in action, read any newspaper article.)

Exceptions

So, does every website need to tell users what the organisation does in these four different places? Well, not necessarily. We all know what Mastercard and McDonalds do, so it could definitely be argued that websites for household names need not explicitly say what they do. What these sites should do instead is tell us what the website offers, and this message can (and should) be put across in any of the above four ways – how else will site visitors quickly be able to find this out?

Conclusion

People are going to visit your site who don’t know what you do. Before you can even begin selling to them you must tell them what your organisation and website does. In addition to fulfilling site visitors’ immediate need (finding out what you do) you’ll also be boosting your search engine rankings. If your organisation is a household name, then instead of explaining what you do, it may be wise to tell site visitors what they can do on your website.

This article was written by Trenton Moss, founder of Webcredible, a web usability and accessibility consultancy. He’s extremely good at usability testing and running CSS training courses.

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