This post is the first in a two-part series about Accessibility and Information Architecture by Deque Director of Consulting Methodology & Quality, Glenda Sims. Part II will be published on February 27th.
Information architecture (IA) is the blueprint for web design. The purpose of information architecture is to analyze, organize, and label information on websites so that real people (not involved with the design and development of the site) can actually find what they need. So what does IA have to do with accessibility? Let's listen to what users say about sites built on purposeful information architecture versus weak information architecture:
Solid information architecture:
- Well organized
- Good navigation
- Easy to find what I'm looking for and complete my task
Weak information architecture:
- Hard to use
In other words, solid information architecture is the foundation for usability because a site organized based on the way users think and labeled (link text, titles, headings) in the vocabulary of the user will, be default, make sense to the key audience.
Now I want you to consider that accessibility is actually just an extreme use case for usability. For example, when a person with a sight disability is missing visual clues and consuming the site with a screen reader, usability problems that exists for all users are magnified and become more apparent.
Everything you do to make your site consistently organized and labeled in an intuitive and logical way helps both the usability and the accessibility of the site.
If you are interested in exploring the details, there are five success criteria in WCAG 2.0 AA that relate to information architecture.
- WCAG 2.0 A 1.3.1 Information and Relationships
- Heading Structure
- WCAG 2.0 A 2.4.2 Page Titled
- Meaningful page title
- WCAG 2.0 AA 2.4.5 Multiple Ways
- Site-wide search
- Links to navigate to related web pages
- Table of Contents
- Site Map
- WCAG 2.0 AA 2.4.6 Headings and Labels
- Heading Structure
- Labels on Form Fields
- WCAG 2.0 AA 3.1.2 Language of Parts
- Identify changes in language with in the content
- W3C Accessibility Responsibility Breakdown for Information Architects http://www.w3.org/community/wai-engage/wiki/Accessibility_Responsibility_Breakdown#Architecture
- InterACT with Web Standards - http://www.amazon.com/InterACT-Web-Standards-holistic-approach/dp/0321703529
- Understanding WCAG 2.0 http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/Overview.html#contents