Content Strategist

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      Content Strategist commented  · 

      I'm sure the videos were added to the home page with the best of intentions -- perhaps to promote background information that the public should know. Perhaps you're thinking of the website as a conversation with your constituents. That's a useful model for getting it right. But that conversation has to be about what your constituents need, not about the stuff you wish they knew. Focus on your constituents first. And realize that they are many different audiences -- not just "Public" and "Industry" -- with unique needs. Serve them well.

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        Content Strategist commented  · 

        Check the tabs at the top of the Comments view, Anon. The default used to be "Top," where this one is, indeed, first. Now, the default is "New," so you see the latest comments first.

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      • 39 votes
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          Content Strategist commented  · 

          Dan's right, but look for someone who uses content strategy in their approach to developing that information. You need to work from the bottom up, reviewing content in terms of the purpose it serves. Be sure that each audience you serve has a clear destination page on your site and that each program's content is parceled out in ways that ensure that each audience can get whatever that program has that it needs — without having to filter through a bunch of the rest of that program's content that, to that audience, is simply noise.

          It isn't an overnight thing. But real improvement won't start at the top. And do whatever it takes to disabuse whoever it is that loves Flash animations on your home page that they don't meet the needs of the people who use the FCC's website.

          Information does.

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        • 23 votes
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            Content Strategist supported this idea  · 
            Content Strategist commented  · 

            Yes. Absolutely. And this site fails many other areas of Section 508. For example:

            Color contrast
            In the footer, where the text is *very* small, the color contrast ratio between foreground and background is 2.7:1. It needs to be at least 7:1.

            Near the top, you ask us to Take Action in a font that is barely large, so a background ratio of 3:1 is acceptable. The ratio for "Take Action" itself is 6.2, so you conform with 508 (or will, when it is refreshed) there. But to find out what "Take Action" means, I have to read three little bitty words to its right. The contrast ratio for them is 2.4:1. And the same colors are used in the High Contrast version of this site. (Perhaps it isn't really high contrast, but is just there to demo the possibility?)

            Finally, speaking of the High Contrast version, to even find it, I have to first find and click the tiny text that says "Display Options" at the top of the page. Its contrast ratio is only 4.2:1 Just as you don't put "Spanish" in a link that goes to a Spanish translation of the site (so the intended audience will recognize it, you put "Español" there), you should use the highest contrast possible in your link to the high-contrast version of your site. (Come to think of it, why are "Español" and "Translate" under "Display Options"? I don't consider the language used to be a "display" feature.)

            Timed features don't give the user enough time.
            I'm in the top 1 or 2 percentile in terms of reading speed. I can't read, let alone comprehend and absorb the message of, each item in your slideshow before it disappears. With no ability to control the rate of change, people with cognitive disabilities will be lost. I would suggest that you turn off the rotation of items. Instead, leave the series of selection buttons and display a randomly selected item to each visitor. Frequent visitors will see every item without having to wait for them to cycle. Some of your less-frequent visitors will see only one, unless they figure out how to change images — but if they are not in a hurry to do some business, they will probably click the buttons out of curiosity and see the whole sequence. If they don't, then what's the most important thing: That they see everything you have to pitch, or that their website (they are the taxpayers and citizens of this nation) helps them get their job done efficiently?

            Images need appropriate alt text.
            The alt text for your logo should not be alt=alt. Instead, it should be "FCC" or "FCC logo."

            But worse yet is the photo above "Digging for More Broadband Deployment." That photo is also a link to the story, but it has no alt text. Using a screen reader, I can tell that the link is there, but I can't easily tell where it goes. If you will wrap the image and the heading for the story in the same link tag, the problem will almost be solved. To finish the job, you'll just have to set alt="" in the image tag. Because it conveys no information beyond that conveyed by the heading, alt="" is appropriate.

            But you cannot have the image as a link of its own with no alt attribute or with alt="", because then you will have an empty link on the page. Nor should you make it a standalone link with alt="Digging for More Broadband Deployment," because then it would seem like a pair of redundant links. Finally, you shouldn't have the image as a link of its own with alt="Something other than the wording of the heading," because then you would have two links with different wording that both point to the same destination. That would be very confusing — especially with them side by side, I might wonder if one was intended to go to some other destination.

            So that pretty much gives you two choices:
            -1- Don't make the image a link, or
            -2- Wrap the image and the heading in the same link tag and use alt="" as the alt attribute of the image tag.

            Give your page a heading 1.
            Because this is your site's home page, "Federal Communications Commission would be appropriate.

            Finally, have someone who uses a screen reader and who is familiar with Section 508 test your site. Then work with a developer who is also up to date on 508, CSS3, and ARIA and have them solve the problems the person with the screen reader encounters.

            Develop a statement of your commitment to accessibility, tell a bit about the strategies you've used to make your content accessible, and promise to correct any shortcomings that are brought to your attention. Link to it from your footer with a link that reads, "Accessibility." And check with the folks at the GSA to be sure of the expected URL for that page. I believe it would be fcc.gov/accessibility, but check with them first.

            In short, obey the law. Make your site accessible to everyone.

          • 32 votes
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              Content Strategist commented  · 

              Um, no. As participants in a year-long series of usability tests I did for proposed designs for another site said about this type of layout, you've featured fluff at the top and hidden the substance.

              It's important to remember that this is not *your* website. You maintain this website for its owners, the people of the United States. When we come here, we are not looking for entertainment or a sales pitch. We are coming here to carry out business. And many of us won't find what we need for two reasons:

              -1- You've designed a false bottom into the page. Whether the concept of "the fold" is canon or myth is heavily debated. I happen to fall on the "myth" side. But regardless of where a UX professional stands on that debate, it's hard to argue with repeated results in usability tests that people tend to stopp scrolling when they hit a false bottom — that is, when something in the design suggests that the page has ended. The enclosed frame of the rotating image is such a false bottom. In my browser, the bottom of that frame is at the bottom of the window when the page opens. There are no vertical structures encouraging me to scroll down the page. I've seen this time and again in usability tests: Under those conditions, most people won't scroll. You have a lot of useful stuff down the page, but they'll never find it.

              -2- Above that false bottom, almost all the real estate is stuff about you — as I said earlier, the kind of stuff people who come here to engage with you would consider to be "fluff." In the usability tests I have conducted with similar designs, even when people scroll past fluff, and even when eye tracking shows that their eyes are looking at stuff below the fluff, most people don't really see it. That is, the link they need could be plain as day down there, their eyes could move to it, and it still wouldn't register with their brain that they had just found the link to the information they needed to get or the task they needed to complete.

              Yes, it's pretty. No, it won't work. At least not for most of your customers.

              Make their website work for them. Please.

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