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Feature image How to Make Your Website Easier to Navigate

The more complex and shall we say “artsy” a website’s design is, the harder it can be to navigate. Have you ever watched a complicated or confusing commercial waiting for it to get to a point, but it never comes? You sit there anticipating a product name, sales pitch, something to give you a clue and you get nothing. Navigating a website with my visual impairment is a bit like watching a cliffhanger commercial. I spend so much time waiting for the right button or information to appear that I often miss everything else while focusing on my goal.

Websites often vary greatly in navigation. Some have logical flows, and some have jumbles of links smattered across various pages. You might think that if people are determined enough, then they’ll find the information they are looking for eventually. I’m here to tell you that sometimes people give up. While I’m speaking as a visually impaired person who will look for information elsewhere if the website is tough to navigate, in my formerly fully-sighted days I reacted in much the same way. Don’t make people search endlessly for the point or information they are looking for, help us out!

Website Navigation

Let’s first define what I mean by navigation in this post. I’m talking about the way a person gets around your site and finds the information that they need. I’m going to use the example of a restaurant website for the purposes of illustrating my point, because I assume most readers have visited a similar website before.

When people visit a restaurant website they are probably looking for a few details like opening dates and hours, menus, directions, and contact information to make a reservation. To help make these things easy for users to find, a good website will have a clear and easy to find navigation menu on their homepage with links to the information. They wouldn’t have a page full of useless information with clickable links that take you to irrelevant pages, because this would frustrate potential customers and lose business for them. If someone can’t figure out how to make a reservation quickly or can’t learn about the types of food a place serves, they’ll move along.

Now consider that the person who needs the information is blind. They go to a restaurant’s website and are hit will a wall of text that their text-to-speech program has to read, none of which helps them find the information they need. Pretty frustrating, right? While it might seem extreme, you need to build your website to be accessible to all of your users. Some of these users will need accommodations to quickly and easily navigate your site.

How to Make Your Navigation WCAG 2.0 Compliant

First, it’s important to understand what the WCAG 2.0 navigation regulations recommend:

  • Limiting the number of links per page
  • Providing mechanisms to navigate to different sections of the content of a Web page
  • Making links visually distinct
  • Highlighting search terms[1]

Getting around a website can be tricky, and navigation provides users with helpful signposts and visual distinctions. Otherwise, a website can be alienating and the user won’t be able to find the information they need. Things like making links visually distinct and highlighting search terms allows the user to quickly interact with the content on the site that is important to them.

You may think that mechanisms to navigate the page is a bit unclear (I did when I first read it) but WCAG 2.0 guidelines provides techniques to create these mechanisms.[2] One tool they recommend is to include a “search” function on your site. This way the user can easily find the content they care about just by searching for it. They also suggest adding a sitemap to allow your users to find the content they need. A sitemap is a logically organized list of the pages or content that the website contains.

Navigation Accommodations

What do people with disabilities usually use to help them with navigation? Well, as I mentioned above, text-to-speech reads web pages to people. This means if there is no clear navigation, they’ll be a bit lost. If the text is clear and logically organized, then the user will be able to understand and access content more quickly.

If a user has a mobility issue, then using a mouse or a trackpad is probably not going to work for them. This type of fine motor movement is difficult for a lot of people, and keyboard navigation is an effective solution if websites are built to accommodate it. Keyboard navigation is also utilized by many blind and visually impaired users, so there are plenty of people who require a site to be built with keyboard navigation in mind. If the website is illogically structured or overly complex, then it will be a navigation issue for many users. The WCAG 2.0 guidelines provide a good explanation of what website owners need to consider for keyboard navigation.

UserWay Can Help

Installing the UserWay widget will give users an easy way to navigate any links on your site so you can comply with the “making links visually distinct” guideline. If they click a button on the widget’s interface, every link with be highlighted for them. Installing the widget doesn’t mean you need to change your website’s code either, so it’s a fast way to start complying with WCAG 2.0 navigating guidelines.

Get Your Navigation Game On-Point

Making your website easy to navigate is important if you want to comply with WCAG 2.0 standards. You will be helping your users by considering how they navigate your website and making changes to improve the process. Simple fixes like adding a search function and making links visually distinct will go a long way in improving your website’s accessibility and helping your users to interact with your content.

Are you a user who needs help navigating websites? Let us know if you’ve found any sites that are simple for you to navigate in the comments below!