Understanding WCAG 2.0

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Understanding Guideline 2.4

Guideline 2.4: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.

Intent of Guideline 2.4

The intent of this guideline is to help users find the content they need and allow them to keep track of their location. These tasks are often more difficult for people with disabilities. For finding, navigation, and orientation, it is important that the user can find out what the current location is. For navigation, information about the possible destinations needs to be available. Screen readers convert content to synthetic speech which, because it is audio, must be presented in linear order. Some Success Criteria in this guideline explain what provisions need to be taken to ensure that screen reader users can successfully navigate the content. Others allow users to more easily recognize navigation bars and page headers and to bypass this repeated content. Unusual user interface features or behaviors may confuse people with cognitive disabilities.

As described in The Motive Web Design Glossary, navigation has two main functions:

  • to tell the user where they are

  • to enable the user to go somewhere else

This guideline works closely with Guideline 1.3, which ensures that any structure in the content can be perceived, a key to navigation as well. Headings are particularly important mechanisms for helping users orient themselves within content and navigate through it. Many users of assistive technologies rely on appropriate headings to skim through information and easily locate the different sections of content. Satisfying Success Criterion 1.3.1 for headings also addresses some aspects of Guideline 2.4.

Advisory Techniques for Guideline 2.4 (not success criteria specific)

Specific techniques for meeting each Success Criterion for this guideline are listed in the understanding sections for each Success Criterion (listed below). If there are techniques, however, for addressing this guideline that do not fall under any of the success criteria, they are listed here. These techniques are not required or sufficient for meeting any success criteria, but can make certain types of Web content more accessible to more people.

  • Limiting the number of links per page (future link)

  • Providing mechanisms to navigate to different sections of the content of a Web page (future link)

  • Making links visually distinct (future link)

  • Highlighting search terms (future link)