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Visual Design

Finding 32: The "Change Column Layout" icon was uniformly confusing

The "change column layout" icon near the top of the WAI homepage uniformly mystified participants. Its visual design did not suggest its function, and participants frequently stopped their Web site exploration to wonder about its meaning and purpose. When they clicked on it, and saw that it re-organized the page columns, their reactions were neutral or negative. One participant suggested that this feature "might be helpful" but wasn't sure "exactly why."

Finding 33: Participants described the WAI Website as "bland" and "non-profit" looking

When we asked participants to describe the WAI Web site's visual appeal, they reported that it was "bland," "text-heavy" and that it lacked visual appeal. They stated that its visual presentation was serious, which was a positive thing, but that it had the look of an "educational institution Web site" and appeared "low budget."

Finding 34: Participants stated that the Web site was hampered by stylistic inconsistencies

Participants stated that the Web site "clearly" had pages and sections that were designed by "different people." They pointed to pages where styles, colors, and organizing principles differed significantly and suggested that the Web site should maintain a unified look and organizing structure across all pages.

Finding 35: Participants struggled with issues a style guide might address

We observed participants' explorations of the Web site, and in particular their ability to locate the same information more than once. In response to those observations, we suggest that the difficulties they encountered may be significantly improved through the consistent application of some visual design tenets.

Summarizing and simplifying the text found on the WAI site would enable the inclusion of specific visual treatments for headers, sub-headers, and content. A more effective use of columns, indents, and highlighting elements, consistently applied across the Web site, might prove highly effective. Participants stated that the WAI Web site should exemplify the tenets it was espousing, and as such should be a showpiece of simplicity and clarity.

Finding 36: Participants found the presentation of the WAI and W3C Logos confusing

On pages where the W3C and WAI logo are presented together at the top of the page, participants expected that clicking on either name would return them to the WAI homepage. They did not expect the W3C part of the logo to be linked to a different location. We observed this structure causing confusion on the part of participants. Creating a clearer distinction between the two link options, or only providing the WAI logo may prove beneficial to participants' Web site navigation.

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