The Web Standards and Accessibility Development Guide
The Guide, which is intended for both expert users and those with minimal web experience, includes both quick reference points and more detailed explanations of web development topics (such as font usage, text size, use of Flash technology, etc.), as well as examples of how to properly apply them to Queen's web pages.
To date, the University's many web sites have been developed on a decentralized basis, often with little technical support available to web administrators. As a result, the quality and accessibility of the various faculty, school, departmental, service, club, and personal sites vary with the expertise, time, and resources afforded by each group. Additionally, the vast majority of the University's sites have not been developed in full compliance with web standards as identified by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium or other accessibility-related standards.
As a result of this decentralized growth, many of Queen's web pages and the valuable information they contain for students, prospective students, students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, and the public at large are, either in part or as a whole, inaccessible because of the user's computer platform or browser version, or because of a physical or learning disability.
For example, a user with vision problems using adaptive technology or a person with arthritis or a broken arm may struggle when selecting a check box on a web form. A condition as common as colour-blindness can render a web interface indecipherable when particular colour combinations are used. And a user trying to access a web site through a PDA can be stymied if the site is not navigable when its graphics are disabled. An accessible web site will allow all these users to easily access a site, regardless of their individual situations.
By following the standards and recommendations laid out in this Guide as well as those of the Queens Visual Identity Guide, and by choosing to implement your website within WebPublish, not only will Queen's faculty, staff and students be following through on Queen's shared commitment to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), but they will also be creating sites that are in keeping with the standard of excellence that prevails in other areas of the University.
A common look and feel to Queen's web sites allows for easier navigation through the site, regardless of which department is administering the particular pages being visited. Adherence to the standards and recommendations in the Guide also contributes greatly to the common look and feel that we are building for Queen's web. At the same time, the standards and recommendations still allow for a great amount of freedom and personalization for all faculties, departments, and other groups or individuals.
This Guide was initially developed in 2005 in consultation with WATS and made possible through the financial support of the Queen's University Technology Sponsorship Fund. The Guide continues to be updated on a regular basis.
Who is this guide for?
This guide has been developed for all Queen's University employees and contractors responsible for creating and delivering web content through the Queen's web properties. It has been structured under the premise that the reader has one or more roles within the creation process:
- The Content Writer: the person responsible for writing and crafting the message on each web page. This person may be a communication officer, administrative assistant, faculty or staff member, etc. Very often the content writer will be using a software tool such as a text editor (Microsoft Word) or spreadsheet application;
- The Visual/Artistic Designer: the person responsible for developing a visual interface or facade to accompany the message. Usually this person will be using some form of graphics application such as Photoshop, Flash, or Fireworks;
- The Technology Developer: the person responsible for assembling the various components required for the modern web page, including, but not limited to, graphics and text content. This person may be using tools such as macromedia's Dreamweaver, Microsoft FrontPage, Adobe GoLive, or other specialized web editing tools.
This guide was written with the assumption that the reader has some previous experience and expertise in his/her role(s). While every effort has been taken to make this information user-friendly, this guide also employs factual and actual terminology when required, in keeping with its dual role as a standards document. When appropriate, brief samples of HTML source code are provided for illustrative purposes, however this document is not a complete how-to guide; please consult the W3C web site for comprehensive instructions and the most up-to-date standards.