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Web Accessibility Made Easy:
Consistent Navigation and Presentation

May 27th, 2011

This blog post in the “Web Accessibility Made Easy” series discusses why it is important to keep the navigation and presentation consistent.

Consistency

In spite of the importance of consistency for navigation and presentation, not all Web sites on the internet have a consistent navigational structure or presentation. This can be a severe disadvantage for users with physical or cognitive disabilities. For those with cognitive disabilities, remembering the location of links or sections of a Web can be very taxing. If these locations change from page to page, the extra cognitive processing required to relocate links or web page sections may inhibit users from task completion. Similarly, people with other impairments (fine motor, vision, or dexterity issues) may find it physically exhausting if links constantly change position on a Web page.

Consistency also benefits those without disabilities. Because of the vast array of information available on the Internet and the wide variety of Web site design methods, the cognitive load on people without disabilities is great. If the navigation and presentation remain the same throughout a Web site, the cognitive load is lessened for all users and the time it takes for users to locate their desired content is significantly reduced. Consistent navigation and presentation, also known as user interface, is a big topic in the world of usability. Renowned usability expert Jakob Nielsen has written a book on this topic, Coordinating User Interfaces for Consistency (http://www.useit.com/jakob/constbook.html). With the advent of templates and content management systems, consistent navigation and presentation is becoming easier to maintain and more prolific throughout the Internet.

The Guideline

IU Web Accessibility guideline


4.   Presentation and navigation style shall remain consistent throughout the document.

Wrap Up

Maintaining consistent navigation and presentation is not hard to do and is beneficial for both users with and without disabilities. It provides better usability and efficient navigation for all users. Take steps to help improve user experiences by ensuring all navigation and presentation of content on your Web site is consistent.