Smc Home Based Business by dco18752

VIEWS: 33 PAGES: 45

More Info
									 Usability Review and Recommendations
                  for the
Redesign of the San Mateo County Website

         Phase 1 – GUI Inception




                        Author:
                    Lewis Samuels
             Independent Usability Contractor
                 710 Horseshoe Hill Rd.
                   Bolinas CA 94924

                    415 868 9620 tel
                    415 868 0433 fax
               lewis@discoversurfing.com
San Mateo County                                                                          Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                                          Phase 1 – GUI Inception



Table of Contents

USER IDENTIFICATION AND STATEMENT OF BASELINE
REQUIREMENTS ........................................................................................... 4
User Identification ............................................................................................................ 4
  User Groups ...................................................................................................................... 5
  Levels of Expertise ............................................................................................................ 6

Baseline Requirements ..................................................................................................... 7
  Internet Experience ............................................................................................................ 7
  Computer Experience ........................................................................................................ 7
  Platform............................................................................................................................ 7
  Browser ............................................................................................................................ 7
  Screen Resolution .............................................................................................................. 7
  Page Length ...................................................................................................................... 7
  Page Size .......................................................................................................................... 7
  Language .......................................................................................................................... 7
  Reading Level ................................................................................................................... 8


USABILITY REVIEW OF THE CURRENT SAN MATEO
COUNTY SITE ............................................................................................... 9
Analysis, Scope, and Techniques ..................................................................................... 9

Site-Wide Usability Issues .............................................................................................. 10

Page-Specific Usability Issues ........................................................................................ 11
  Home - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/ ............................................................................. 11
  What’s New - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/new.htm ....................................................... 12
  Board of Supervisors - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/ctybos.htm ....................................... 13
  Job Opportunities - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/ctyjob.htm ............................................ 15
  About San Mateo County - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/about.htm .................................. 16
  County Departments - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/ctydept.htm ...................................... 18
  Community Interest - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/comint.htm ........................................ 20
  Local Cities and Counties - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/loccity-counties.htm .................. 21
  Related Sites - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/related.htm .................................................. 22
  Site Index - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/site.htm............................................................ 23
  Search - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/search.htm ............................................................ 24




Page 2 of 45                                                                                              Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                                          Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                                        Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                                        Phase 1 – GUI Inception




SITE COMPARISONS FOR USABILITY ............................................. 25
Scope, Analysis, and Technique of Usability Reviews ................................................. 25

Site: AlaWeb...................................................................................................................... 26

Site: MiamiDade.gov.......................................................................................................... 27

Site: PA PowerPort ............................................................................................................ 28

Site: The Official Site for Charlotte Mecklenburg ............................................................. 29

Site: City of Seattle ............................................................................................................ 30

Site: City of Sydney ........................................................................................................... 31

Site: Fairfax County, Virginia ........................................................................................... 32

Site: Alameda County ........................................................................................................ 34

Site: County of San Diego .................................................................................................. 35

Site: County of Santa Clara ............................................................................................... 36

Site: Riverside County ....................................................................................................... 37

Usability Recommendations for the San Mateo County Site ...................................... 38
  Features of other sites to be avoided.................................................................................. 40


SUMMARY OF SECTION 508 REQUIREMENTS ................. ERROR!
BOOKMARK NOT DEFINED.40

Web Site Identification ................................................................................................... 42
 HTML-Only:................................................................................................................... 42
 HTML-With Images: ....................................................................................................... 42
 HTML-With Multimedia or Flash Sites: ............................................................................ 42

Tools for Section 508....................................................................................................... 43

Resources for Section 508 ............................................................................................... 43

Summary of Requirements ............................................................................................ 44




Page 3 of 45                                                                                           Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                                       Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                    Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                    Phase 1 – GUI Inception



User Identification and Statement of Baseline
Requirements
Designing for usability demands early and continual focus on the user and their needs. This is
referred to as User Centered Design. The first step of the User Centered Design process is to
identify the users of a site and gain insight into their characteristics. Often, multiple user groups
will be identified. The experience level and expectations of each user group may be different.
However, the goal of a usable site is to accommodate the needs of less experienced users while
providing functionality for those with more experience.

User Identification
Information on users of the San Mateo County Site (referred to as the SMC site throughout this
document) and their needs has been extrapolated from a number of sources. These include:
     The most recent US Census data for San Mateo County.
     Focus group data from the Fairfax County, Virginia website redesign project.
     User group characteristics extrapolated from numerous other county websites.
     General user characteristics of the US public.

The most salient feature of the SMC site is that it is a government site, intended to be accessible
to all users. Therefore, the SMC site must cater to the needs of users who lack computer
experience, lack domain-specific knowledge of county government, and have a low-literacy level.
In addition, as mandated by federal law in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the SMC
site must give equal accessibility to the disabled. Please see the accompanying section of this
document, Summary of Section 508 Requirements, for information on the needs of these users.

Although users of the SMC site will have vast differences in their skills and knowledge, they will
share characteristic goals. The majority of users will be task-oriented, visiting the SMC site not
for entertainment or leisure, but to accomplish a specific set of goals. Therefore, we can assume
that most users will not be concerned with how flashy the site is, or if the SMC site is on the
cutting edge of design. Instead, they will be searching for a user experience that centers on ease
of use, speed of services, and a demystification of the intricacies of county government.

It may be helpful to envision a visit to the SMC site as a visit to the local DMV. As a user, you
dread the prospect of long waits, unhelpful employees, and of all the forms and legal language.
You are simply looking to accomplish the tasks you came to do, and move on with your day. How
happy would you be to find an office with no lines, and meet employees who are helpful,
explaining how to handle all the forms in simple terms that you can understand? The SMC site
has the opportunity to offer its users an online version of this pleasant experience. Building such
a site comes down to understanding the users and their needs.




Page 4 of 45                                                                     Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                 Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                     Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                     Phase 1 – GUI Inception




User Groups
The users of the San Mateo County Website can be separated into four distinct user groups:


1) Residents of San Mateo County
These users live in the county and visit the site out of necessity, or because of an interest in local
events and politics. Their goals and expectations will be diverse, ranging from accessing forms
for creating a small business to paying a parking ticket. Assuming that the users of the SMC site
reflect the demographics of the county, many will have English as a second language, have a low
literacy level, or have a high school education or less. Many users will be using dial-up
connections, old browsers, and small monitors to view the Internet. Their level of computer
experience will vary greatly.
As residents of SMC, this user group will most likely have a higher level of subject expertise with
their local area than other user groups. However, they may have a very low level of subject
expertise concerning local government and county services.


2) Business Users
Business users are those who do business in San Mateo County or plan to start doing business.
On average, these users may have more domain-specific knowledge than other users, in addition
to a higher literacy level. However, their needs will not differ greatly from those users who are not
doing business. A higher percentage of business users will have high-speed Internet
connections. Business users will be even more likely to have specific tasks in mind when visiting
the SMC site. Their actions will be goal orientated, and they are likely to be searching for specific
information as opposed to browsing.


3) Visitors to San Mateo County
Those planning a visit to SMC are more likely to be browsing the site for general information on
the part of the county they plan to visit. They will be more interested in links to other useful sites,
such as lists of lodgings, events, services, etc. It is possible that many of these users will have
English as a second language. However, as opposed to other users, they are visiting the SMC
site out of interest as opposed to necessity. This indicates a higher level of computer and
Internet experience—these users are turning to the Internet for information, as opposed to print
media. A visitor‘s level of subject expertise concerning the county of San Mateo might be quite
low. Therefore it should not be assumed that this user group has knowledge of the cities of SMC
or their geographic locations.

4) Employees of San Mateo County
These users are likely to have a greater level of domain-specific knowledge concerning the
county and its departments and services. They are more likely to visit the SMC site on a regular
basis, developing the skills and familiarity to become expert users of the site. These users may
access parts of the site that are not open to the general public, via password protection. County
employees‘ computer and Internet experience will be variable.




Page 5 of 45                                                                      Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                  Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                  Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                  Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Levels of Expertise
The four user groups of the SMC site can be further separated into levels of expertise. As
previously mentioned, the SMC site should aim to be usable for the less experienced, while
remaining useful for the more experienced users.

1) Experienced Users
     Knowledgeable concerning computers and the Internet.
     May have expertise in the subject that they are using the SMC site to gain information on.
       For instance, an architect might have expertise in filling out building permit applications.
     Primarily concerned with the functionality offered by the site—how it can streamline
       processes by putting them online, and let them accomplish their goals with less effort.
     Although more experienced with website paradigms, these users still need a clear
       navigational structure.
     Want enough information on a subject to allow them to make their own decisions.

2) Average Users
     Familiar with computers and the Internet, but not expert in their use.
     May possess some domain specific knowledge.
     Actions are task oriented.
     Need explanatory content to help them understand the purpose and functionality of
       different sections of the site.

3) Less Experienced Users
     May have very little computer or Internet experience.
     May have very little domain specific knowledge regarding the tasks they need to perform.
     Depend upon explanatory content to help them understand the purpose and functionality
        of different sections of the site.
     May have trouble understanding the terminology used throughout the site.
     Need access to some type of Help function when they get confused.




Page 6 of 45                                                                   Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                               Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                 Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                 Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Baseline Requirements
These requirements detail the baseline user experience and platform considerations that the
SMC site should be designed for. The goal of these requirements is to make the SMC usable for
as many users as possible. Requirements for Section 508 compliance are included at the end of
this document.

Internet Experience
The SMC site should be designed to accommodate users with very little Internet experience.
Accordingly, the designers should not assume that users are familiar with conventional navigation
elements, download formats, browser use, etc.

Computer Experience
The SMC site should be designed to accommodate users with very little computer experience.
This means that explanatory content should be included to help users with services that require
computer experience. Challenging tasks for users with little computer experience might include
downloading and printing forms.

Platform
The SMC site should accommodate as many platforms as possible, including Windows 3.X, 95,
98, 2000, ME, and NT. Macintosh, Linux, and Sun OS should also be accommodated. At this
time, it is not recommended that the site accommodate users on PDAs, cell phones, or other
hand-held devices.

Browser
It is suggested that the SMC site support Internet Explorer 3.0 and above and Netscape 3.75 and
above. Other browsers, such as WebTV, Opera, and AOL should be checked for compliance.
Instructions should be included on how to download newer browser versions for users who are on
older versions.

Screen Resolution
The SMC site should accommodate screen resolutions of 800 x 600 without horizontal scrolling.
Review of 5 recent studies suggests that between 30% to 50% of general users are viewing at
800 x 600. Only 5% to 7% of users had screen resolutions of 640 x 480. All other users were
viewing at higher resolution.

Page Length
When vertical scrolling is necessary, all global navigation elements should be kept above the fold
(within one screen view). Page lengths should generally not exceed three page views for users
viewing at 800 x 600. Longer content should be broken into multiple pages.

Page Size
The majority of users will not have high-speed Internet connections. Therefore, total page size
should be limited to support quick load times. Studies have shown that most users have an
attention span limited to 10 seconds. It is suggested that pages be kept under 30k whenever
possible, which would allow loading within 10 seconds at 28.8 Kbps.
When page sizes must be larger, it is important that crucial content be loaded first. Users can
wait for images to load if they are able to read relevant HTML text while waiting.

Language
It is suggested that the SMC site support both English and Spanish speaking users. If Spanish
cannot be supported for the current redesign, a link should be provided for Spanish speaking

Page 7 of 45                                                                  Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                              Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                  Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                  Phase 1 – GUI Inception


users, offering alternative access to information via direct contact with Spanish speaking county
employees.

Reading Level
The content on the SMC site should support low literacy users as well as those with a higher
literacy level. This is because many users will have English as a second language, or have an
educational background limited to elementary school. Support for low literacy users is provided
by clear, consistent, and logical navigation that enables users to predict and organize the content
to be read. Using enlarged or bold type in headings, bullets, and outlines will also help users to
follow the organization of the site. Clearly written content that uses simple, consistent language
will better support varying literacy levels.




Page 8 of 45                                                                   Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                               Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                   Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                   Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Usability Review of the Current San Mateo
County Site
This review is intended to detail major usability problems with the current San Mateo County Site.
Identification of these usability issues will help the design team avoid making the same mistakes
during the redesign process. It is important to note that the aim of this usability review is not to
find fault in hard work that has been done on the current site, but to identify key aspects of the
design that could be revised to improve ease of use.


Analysis, Scope, and Techniques
Usability Review of the San Mateo County (SMC) site involved analysis of the homepage and all
primary links. Tertiary links and external sites were analyzed in part, but the entirety of the SMC
site was not reviewed. The focus of the usability review was centered on the information
architecture and content provided on the current site, as opposed to the actual services offered
and the graphic design. (Information Architecture refers to the hierarchical organization of pages
and content on a website.)
Review of the SMC site involved the usability consultant performing a cognitive walkthrough of
the site. In a cognitive walkthrough, the usability consultant plays the role of an average user
interacting with the site. All attempts were made to keep in mind the goals and knowledge-level
of an average user, and identify aspects of the design that might cause confusion. The usability
consultant also used established usability guidelines and principles to identify problems with the
SMC site.




Page 9 of 45                                                                    Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                   Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                   Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Site-Wide Usability Issues
The primary usability issue with the SMC site is that it is not designed with users‘ needs in mind.
Instead, the information architecture seems to reflect the internal structure of county departments
and services. This is problematic in that the majority of users are not familiar with the intricacies
of local government. For instance, consider an average user who is forming a business and
needs to get a business license. This user would not necessarily realize that the County Clerk,
Assessor, Recorder, and Elections Office handles business licenses. Instead, they would attempt
to find information relating to their task. Currently, the SMC site is organized by department,
meaning a user would need to know that the County Clerk, Assessor, Recorder, and Elections
Office handles the needs of small businesses. Without this knowledge, the user would not know
how to achieve their goals while visiting the site. The usability of the SMC site would be greatly
enhanced by a restructuring of the Information Architecture, focusing on the needs of the users.

Another primary usability issue with the SMC site is that it lacks consistency in global navigation
and look and feel. When a site has a consistent navigational structure, users become familiar
with how to use the site. Each visit to a new page helps build skills by re-introducing the user to
the same primary links and choices. Global Navigation can be viewed as the rules of the game.
When the rules keep changing, it‘s very hard to learn how to play.

Inconsistencies in the look and feel of a site are similarly troubling to a user. Most websites
employ reoccurring graphical motifs that allow the user to ―get to know‖ the site. When the look
and feel changes, an average user may assume that they have been transferred to a new site.
The SMC site has numerous divergent looks and feels as the user travels from department to
department. This is an effective message to users that the county is not a cohesive organization.
Some users may doubt that sections of the site with a separate look and feel are actually official
parts of the SMC site.

 Another crucial usability issue with the SMC site involves the lack of explanatory content
provided on each page, and the tone and quality of the content that is provided. For the majority
of users, county government is a subject in which they will have limited expertise. Therefore, it is
crucial that explanatory content be provided throughout the SMC site that explains the role of
each page, department, or service in language that an average user can understand. As
reviewed above in the User Identification and Statement of Baseline Usability Requirements,
many users of the SMC site will have low-literacy standards. For others, English is a second
language. Therefore, all content must be clear, concise, and use as simple a set of vocabulary
as possible. This means that new content must be written for each page of the SMC site, with the
needs and skill level of the user taken into account.

Finally, one of the SMC site‘s most pressing usability concerns is the lack of Help available for a
confused user. Help links can take the form of FAQ‘s, email links, lists of phone numbers, or a
specific Help section of the site. Whatever the form that Help takes, its goal is simple and crucial:
To provide an avenue for confused users to have their questions answered, and move on to
achieve their goals.




Page 10 of 45                                                                    Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                    Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                    Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Page-Specific Usability Issues
The following section details the usability issues uncovered during review of each of the primary
pages of the site.


Home - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/




        Very little information is provided in the main content area. Only photos, a site title, and
         scrolling text are included to introduce the SMC site to the user. The homepage offers a
         website its best chance to introduce its services and information to all users. In addition,
         a homepage should provide the user with information on how to use the site. The SMC
         homepage does not accomplish these crucial tasks.

        The only content present on the homepage is hidden in scrolling text. Scrolling text is
         distracting and requires far more cognitive effort to read than normal text.

        No search function is included on the homepage. Sites that offer a large amount of
         content, such as the SMC site, should have a basic search function on every page of the
         site.




Page 11 of 45                                                                     Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                 Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                    Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                    Phase 1 – GUI Inception




What’s New - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/new.htm




        The What’s New page does not have the same global navigation links (located in the left
         hand vertical column) as the homepage does. This loss of global navigation requires the
         user to return to Home to gain access to the primary links of the website. This extra page
         view wastes the user‘s time and prevents the SMC site from having a consistent scheme
         of global navigation.

        The Home link is placed at the bottom of the navigation column, breaking convention with
         its usual location at top of all navigational elements.

        There is no explanation of what the Subject links contain, except for their title. A short
         summary of the contents of each link and its relevance is necessary. Instead, the user is
         presented with only a title such as Internet Service Delivery Study. The meaning of this
         link is not obvious from its title. If the user clicks on the link, they are sent to a new
         section of the site, which has no global navigation, no logo to let them know that they are
         still on the SMC site, and a different look and feel. There is no explanation of the content
         provided.

        Frames are used in sub-sections of What’s New. Frames are no longer favored in web
         design due to their poor usability.



Page 12 of 45                                                                     Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                 Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                   Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                   Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Board of Supervisors - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/ctybos.htm




        The global navigation is again misleading and limited to a subsection of the links
         available on the homepage. More confusingly, two links are included below the Board of
         Supervisors link. The appearance of these links (County Departments and Job
         Opportunities) makes them appear as if they are sub-sections of the Board of
         Supervisors page. This is because the graphical buttons are indented beneath the Board
         of Supervisors link, suggesting hierarchy.

        Important links, such as the List of Board Meetings, are below the fold, requiring the user
         to scroll extensively before they find these links.

        The three links stating Go to List of Board Meetings do not take the user to a new page.
         Instead, they take the user to the bottom of the page they are already on. This is a good
         indication that the List of Board Meetings is an important navigational element that should
         not be hidden at the bottom of the page. Including a link to the bottom of a page only
         confuses matters.

        The title of the page, Board of Supervisors, is represented by a GIF image file. This
         image is 122 pixels high. These image files require longer load times, and more waiting
         for many users. In addition, for a user viewing on a 640 x 480 monitor, over ¼ of vertical
         screen real estate used by this file. This space would be much better employed
         conveying useful information, such as links available from the page.

        There is no organization of the content and links available on the page. It appears that
         they have been simply laid out vertically in the order they were put online.

        The red New links draw inordinate attention to new content.



Page 13 of 45                                                                    Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                   Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                   Phase 1 – GUI Inception


        The content available when you click on the name of a Supervisor is useful and well
         organized. Unlike other sections of the site, this content is written without the assumption
         that the user has domain-specific knowledge of the Board of Supervisors. Instead, these
         pages simply explain key facts such as the contact info for each Supervisor, the areas
         they represent, and their biography. However, these useful pages are undermined by a
         lack of global navigation or logos that indicate they are part of the SMC site. The only
         link to the SMC homepage is hidden at the bottom of each page.




Supervisor page: Note lack of global navigation and inconsistent look and feel.




Page 14 of 45                                                                    Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                   Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                   Phase 1 – GUI Inception


Job Opportunities - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/ctyjob.htm




        Lack of consistent global navigation.

        Use of large image file for page title.

        No content is provided on this page – only links. Providing a short description of the
         pages that each of the three links leads to would help the user make their choice.

        Although all three links on the Job Opportunities page lead to pages of the SMC site,
         these pages do not share the same global navigation as the rest of the site. This
         suggests to a user that they are no longer on the same site. Though all three pages are
         part of the Job Opportunities part of the site, none of them have return links to the Job
         Opportunities page

        Both the San Mateo County Employment Opportunities and the Non Profit Agencies,
         Housing Authority, and Other Employment Opportunities links lead to lists of job
         opportunities. However, the employment information on these two pages is displayed
         completely differently. Similar features should be displayed in a consistent manner, so
         that the user only has to learn how to use one display method, instead of two.




Page 15 of 45                                                                    Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                     Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                     Phase 1 – GUI Inception




About San Mateo County - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/about.htm




        General information about SMC is not readily available on this page. This is the section
         of the site that a user with little knowledge of SMC would go to. For instance, if you were
         a tourist or businessman planning to visit the area, you would click on this link hoping to
         learn more about SMC. If a user did click on the About SMC page, they would be faced
         with three choices and no information: Message from the County Manager, San Mateo
         County 2000 Annual Report, and Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Fiscal Year
         ending June 30, 2000. Which one of these links would you choose to learn more about
         the area? The answer is not obvious.

        As on the Job Opportunities page, no explanatory content is provided – just three links.
         For instance, one link is titled Message from the County Manager. There is no way to
         know what this message might be without clicking on it. When the user does select this
         link, they find a welcome message and introduction to the SMC website. Why isn‘t this
         message on the About SMC page, or even on the homepage of the site? There is no
         reason to hide a welcome message to the site three clicks down, under the innocuous
         title of Message from the County Manager. To confuse matters further, the heading on
         the page is What’s New. This betrays the user‘s logical expectation that a sub-navigation
         on the About SMC page would be a part of that section of the site, not the What’s New
         section.

         The San Mateo County 2000 Annual Report section of the SMC site has good usability
         features. Its major drawback is that it has a different look and feel from the rest of the
         site. However, its best feature is the inclusion of simple, concise explanatory text for
         each heading in its table of contents. For instance, when the user selects Board of
         Supervisors, they are given general contact info and the following text:
         “The Board of Supervisors establishes legislative policy for the efficient administration of
         County government and ensures the delivery of services required for the general health,
         welfare and public safety of the residents of San Mateo County.”
         This is the type of explanatory text that should be included throughout the entire SMC site
         for the benefit of users without domain-specific knowledge. This text should appear on
         the general Board of Supervisors page.

         Another feature of the San Mateo County 2000 Annual Report section of the site that
          improves its usability is the format of the left hand global navigation. These links are in
          HTML format, as opposed to the GIFs used for the navigation on the SMC home page.

Page 16 of 45                                                                      Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                  Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                    Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                    Phase 1 – GUI Inception


          The HTML links load quicker, are simpler, and easier to read. Most importantly, they are
          consistent throughout the San Mateo County 2000 Annual Report section of the site.
          This allows the user to develop a familiar relationship with the navigation of this section
          of the site.
         The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report section of the site shares the same
          usability problems of many other areas of the SMC site. It has a different look and feel
          than the SMC home page, offers the user no global navigation, and has a large slow-
          loading image using most of the screen space. As reviewed above, these features
          reduce the usability of the site.




San Mateo County 2000 Annual Report: Note HTML navigation in left hand column.




Page 17 of 45                                                                     Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                 Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                     Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                     Phase 1 – GUI Inception


County Departments - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/ctydept.htm




        The County Departments page has usability problems that have been detailed above:
         inconsistent and inadequate global navigation, a large GIF title occupying valuable
         screen space, and a lack of explanatory content to help the user understand their
         options.

        The County Departments page has an extensive number of sub-navigational elements,
         making it difficult to use. These links are in alphabetical order, by county department.
         This feature makes it difficult for users to find the content that they are searching for. The
         county services have been organized from a departmental perspective, as opposed to


Page 18 of 45                                                                      Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                  Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                    Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                    Phase 1 – GUI Inception


         the perspective of the users. But it is the users who will dictate the ultimate success or
         failure of the SMC site.

        A good example of organizing county services from a user‘s perspective is available on a
         sub-section of the SMC site, the Assessor, Clerk, Recorder, Registrar of Voters page.
         The links available on this page are My Life, My Business, My Government, My
         Community, and Our Office. If a user went to the County Department page with the goal
         of getting a Business License, which link would they be likely to choose? The user would
         be challenged to decide which county department provided this service. In comparison, if
         they went directly to the Assessor, Clerk, Recorder, Registrar of Voters page, they
         would almost certainly click on the My Business link, which would provide them with the
         information they needed.

        An example of the opposite type of information architecture is available on the Tax
         Collector/Treasurer page. No information is provided about the links available, and
         links feature titles such as Secured Property Taxes and Unsecured Property Taxes.
         These links are organized from the county‘s point of view, not the users.




The Assessor, Clerk, Recorder, Registrar of Voters page. Note global navigation organized for
the users’ needs.




Page 19 of 45                                                                     Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                 Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                   Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                   Phase 1 – GUI Inception


Community Interest - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/comint.htm




        The Community Interest page has usability problems that have been detailed above:
         inconsistent and inadequate global navigation, a large GIF title occupying valuable
         screen space, and a lack of explanatory content to help the user understand where links
         will take them.

        Some of the links available as sub-navigation, such as Job Opportunities, are global
         navigation elements. They should be included with global navigation links and not with
         sub-navigation links.

        There is no logical consistency to the subjects and links included on the Community
         Interest page. Many links have appeared elsewhere in the site.

        Who is to say what is of Community Interest? It is difficult to categorize content under
         this heading with any certainty.

        The Community Interest page employs small graphical triangles that take the user to the
         top of the page. These triangles are not used consistently throughout the site, and
         therefore are not obvious in their use.

        The Commission on Disabilities site, available as a link from the Community Interest
         page, is an example of a site that discriminates against all users with small monitors.
         Unless viewed at a resolution of 1024 x 768, the user must use horizontal scrolling to
         read content.




Page 20 of 45                                                                    Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                    Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                    Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Local Cities and Counties - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/loccity-counties.htm




        The Local Cities and Counties page has usability problems that have been detailed
         above: inconsistent and inadequate global navigation, a large GIF title occupying
         valuable screen space, and a lack of explanatory content to help the user understand
         where links will take them.

        This page is nothing more than links to other sites. It provides no information on the
         geographic layout of the local cities within SMC, the character of the cities themselves, or
         why users might need to visit these other sites.

        The links to other sites open in the same browser window as the SMC page. When links
         lead to other sites, they should open in a new pop-up window. Otherwise the user may
         lose track of how to return to the SMC site.




Page 21 of 45                                                                     Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                 Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                  Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                  Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Related Sites - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/related.htm




        The Related Sites page has usability problems that have been detailed above:
         inconsistent and inadequate global navigation, a large GIF title occupying valuable
         screen space, and a lack of explanatory content to help the user understand where links
         will take them.

        This page is nothing more than links to other sites. It provides no information concerning
         why users might need to visit these other sites, or what helpful content these sites
         provide.

        When links lead to other sites, they should open in a new pop-up window. Otherwise the
         user may lose track of how to return to the SMC site.




Page 22 of 45                                                                   Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                               Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                     Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                     Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Site Index - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/site.htm




        The Site Index page has usability problems that have been detailed above: inconsistent
         and inadequate global navigation, a large GIF title occupying valuable screen space, and
         a lack of explanatory content to help the user understand where links will take them.

        This page, in its current form, is useless. It is nothing more than a word-for-word
         restatement of the global navigation links provided on the homepage. A site index is only
         useful if it expresses the information architecture in a way that simplifies the relationships
         between links.




Page 23 of 45                                                                      Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                  Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                   Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                   Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Search - http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/search.htm




        The Search page has usability problems that have been detailed above: inconsistent and
         inadequate global navigation, and a large GIF title occupying valuable screen space.

        The search function is simple enough that it should be included on every page of the site.
         There is no need for a separate page.

        The search results are returned on a page that lacks the look and feel of the SMC site
         and any global navigation.

        The inclusion of the Tips for searching page is a good usability feature. However, the
         contents of this page are not geared towards an average user. Instead, the page states
         ―These tips will get you started with basic query language and acquaint you with the full
         power of Microsoft Index Server.‖ The vast majority of users are only concerned with
         finding the information they are searching for. They most likely do not care about the full
         power of Microsoft Index Server.




Page 24 of 45                                                                    Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                    Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                    Phase 1 – GUI Inception



Site Comparisons for Usability
This section of the document is intended to aid in the redesign of the San Mateo County Website
by surveying the usability of other sites that provide county, city, or state government services.
By reviewing the positive and negative usability aspects of these other sites, guidelines can be
formed to aid in the design of a usable San Mateo County Site. The redesigned SMC Site should
offer an equal or superior level of usability to the sites reviewed in this document. The goal is to
incorporate positive usability aspects of similar sites, while avoiding the negative usability aspects
of the same designs.


Scope, Analysis, and Technique of Usability Reviews
The sites reviewed in this document were chosen by the Content Organization Workgroup for
their superior organization, navigation, and services.
The Usability Consultant used established usability guidelines and cognitive walkthroughs to
identify positive and negative usability aspects of each site. It should be noted that review of
each site centered on the homepage and primary pages available from it. The Usability
Consultant did not attempt to survey the whole of the site. In addition, review focused on the
information architecture, general Internet features, and explanatory content of each site. The
depth of information and services provided by the site was not reviewed. Rather, each review
concentrated on the ease of use of the site, and how well its services and information were made
available to the user.
Each review includes the site name, URL, key positive usability aspects, and key negative
usability aspects.




Page 25 of 45                                                                     Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                 Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Site: AlaWeb
URL: http://www.state.al.us/2k1/




Positive Usability Aspects:
    Search function included on homepage.
    Help links available from home page.
    HTML navigation means users spend less time waiting for pages to load.
    A link is provided to Contact Info for all State Agencies. This provides a direct channel
        for users to contact real people when they need help.
    Consistent branding and global navigation: The AlaWeb logo, search function, and quick
        links are provided on all pages of the AlaWeb site.

Negative Usability Aspects:
    Information Architecture is centered on the structure of the state government and
       politicians. It should be centered on the needs of the average user and the services that
       AlaWeb provides.
    An image file occupies much of the upper left portion of the screen, with navigation
       placed below. Users scan pages as they read – left to right, starting at the top of the
       page. This means users with smaller screen resolutions predominantly see an image,
       instead of the site‘s navigation.
    Placement of links on the homepage is not consistent with paradigms of navigation.
       Unlike many other sites, left hand columns are not used to organize links into a logical
       hierarchy. Instead, links are placed all over the page, making it difficult to scan for
       information.



Page 26 of 45                                                                 Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                             Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                 Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                 Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Site: MiamiDade.gov
URL: http://miamidade.gov/




Positive Usability Aspects:
    Consistent branding and global navigation.
    Search function included on homepage.
    Search Results page includes global navigation and branding.
    HTML navigation means less waiting for pages to load.
    Information Architecture effectively categorizes the links on the home page: The
        Horizontal navigation bar makes a distinction between four types of users: Resident,
        Visitor, Business, and Employee. All other links are separated into 3 vertical columns of
        categories: E-Gov Services, News, and Government. This organization of offerings is
        user-centric, clear, and helpful.
    QuickFind drop-down menus allow more experienced users to find services or
        departments without having to click through multiple pages.
    Welcome link at the top of the News category includes info on how to use the site.
    Accessibility is provided for disabled users.

Negative Usability Aspects:
    Links to other sites are not opened in a separate browser window. This makes it easy for
       users to lose their place in the county site when they visit other sites.




Page 27 of 45                                                                  Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                              Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Site: PA PowerPort
URL: http://www.state.pa.us/PAPower/




Positive Usability Aspects:
    Search function included on homepage.
    Blue horizontal bars separate the homepage into distinct sections, making it easier for the
        user to find information. These sections follow the portal model, providing users with
        general info for the area, such as weather, lottery numbers, and regional news.
    The PA Navigator links are user-centric, accounting for different user types. They include
        About PA, Business in PA, Citizens, Government, Learning in PA, Living in PA,
        Technology in PA, Visiting in PA, Working in PA. These categories were formed with user
        groups and their goals in mind, instead categorizing by state departments.
    The global navigation (PA Navigator) is available in a pop-up window.
    The site allows users to personalize content depending upon their needs.
    A separate link is provided for E-government services, separating these services into
        Business, Citizen, Driver and Vehicle, Community and Education. This makes it easy for
        users to find these online services without having to search through general departmental
        pages.

Negative Usability Aspects:
    The design is somewhat cluttered.
    A large image file takes up too much screen space on the homepage.




Page 28 of 45                                                                 Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                             Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                              Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                              Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Site: The Official Site for Charlotte Mecklenburg
URL: http://www.charmeck.nc.us/




Positive Usability Aspects:
    Encourages feedback from users on how to improve the site.
    Get Involved section encourages participation in local government by users.
    Provides avenue to contact with real people on the Frequently Called Numbers page.

Negative Usability Aspects:
    No informative content is provided on the homepage—only links.
    Search function is not on the homepage.
    Graphical navigation elements mean slower load times.
    No consistent global navigation.
    Important navigation elements (such as the link to home) are placed on the bottom of
       each page, meaning users have to scroll to find primary links.




Page 29 of 45                                                               Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                           Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                               Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                               Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Site: City of Seattle
URL: http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/




Positive Usability Aspects:
    Search function included on homepage.
    Site follows the portal model, with a large number of links available from the homepage,
        separated into distinct sections.
    Sections are categorized in a user-centric method, with Living in Seattle, Doing Business,
        and Visiting Seattle being primary sections.
    A link to a User Survey is included prominently on the homepage. This shows users that
        they are important to the site‘s designers, and helps gather info on usability issues.
    Drop down menus in the navigation bar provide easy access to Services and
        Departments without using an excess of screen space to list the choices.
    Four foreign languages (Spanish, French, Japanese, and Chinese) are supported, with
        links available from the Visiting Seattle section.

Negative Usability Aspects:
    Graphical global navigation bar increases load times.
    Global navigation bar on homepage has different services than it does on all other pages.
       This inconsistency may cause confusion for some users.
    Sections of the site have divergent branding and navigation. This is prone to confuse
       users.




Page 30 of 45                                                                Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                            Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Site: City of Sydney
URL: http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/




Positive Usability Aspects:
    Search function included on homepage.
    Site follows the portal model, with a large number of links available from the homepage,
        separated into distinct sections.
    Sections are categorized in a user-centric method, with the main sections being Visitors,
        Residents, Business, Council, History, City News, and What’s On.

Negative Usability Aspects:
    No effective form of global navigation is consistently used throughout the site. Instead,
       drop down menus are included on the right hand side of every page except the
       homepage. These menus have too many choices, organized alphabetically, making it
       hard for the user to find the information they need.
    Requires horizontal scrolling for screen resolutions of 800 x 600 or less.




Page 31 of 45                                                                 Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                             Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                   Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                   Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Site: Fairfax County, Virginia
URL: http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/index.htm




Positive Usability Aspects:
    Search function included on homepage, with links to an advanced search feature.
    Consistent branding and global navigation.
    Prominent link to Using this Site is included on homepage. This acknowledges that the
        site, like any powerful tool, needs to be learned how to be used.
    User-centric information architecture separates site navigation into categories for Living
        Here, Doing Business, Visiting, Government, and E-services. This acknowledges the
        primary user groups who will be using the site.
    Breadcrumb navigation and titles are included on every page. These help to inform the
        user as to exactly where they are in the site at any given time.
    The backgrounds of the 4 primary sections of the site are color-coded to help the user
        distinguish between them.
    Explanatory text is included on almost every page of the site.
    Contact Us link supplies user with a list of county phone numbers and email addresses.
    Subject pages include sidebars with links to related resources and relevant agencies.
        This is an attempt to organize information by subject, across categories of the site, giving
        the user easy access to the information they need.
    All county departments and services have pages with the same consistent look and feel.
    Links to other sites open in pop-up windows, preventing the user from losing their place
        in the county site.




Page 32 of 45                                                                    Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                              Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                              Phase 1 – GUI Inception


Negative Usability Aspects:
    The homepage features a somewhat confusing layout that features circles, breaking from
       general portal convention. This is a minor problem once users become accustomed to
       the layout style.




Subject Page of the Fairfax County Site. Note use of page title and breadcrumbs to orient
users.




Page 33 of 45                                                               Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                           Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                               Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                               Phase 1 – GUI Inception


Site: Alameda County
URL: http://www.co.alameda.ca.us/




Positive Usability Aspects:
    Search function included on homepage.
    Site follows the portal model, with a large number of links available from the homepage,
        separated into distinct sections.
    Consistent branding and global navigation, on all pages under the homepage.
    The user is provided with prominent links to local transportation options.

Negative Usability Aspects:
    Some links look like banner ads, using distracting photos and brightly colored fonts.
    The link categories on the homepage are numerous and confusing. For instance, what is
       the difference between Forms Center and Document Center?
    The information architecture is centered on the structure of county government, as
       opposed to the users‘ needs. Too much emphasis is placed on the importance of the
       Board of Supervisors.




Page 34 of 45                                                                Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                            Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                  Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                  Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Site: County of San Diego
URL: www.co.san-diego.ca.us




Positive Usability Aspects:
    A Help link is provided as a global navigation link.
    An HTML footer is included that restates global navigation.
    A link to a user survey is available from the homepage, encouraging users to participate
        in redesign of the site.
    Breadcrumb navigation and titles are included on every page. These help to inform the
        user as to exactly where they are in the site at any given time.

Negative Usability Aspects:
    No search function in included.
    There is no consistent branding and global navigation throughout the county site. For
       example, although the Board of Supervisors page is part of the county site, it has a totally
       different look and feel. This creates confusion by preventing the user from learning a set
       navigational format, and also makes it unclear which pages are actually part of the county
       site.




Page 35 of 45                                                                   Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                               Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                               Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                               Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Site: County of Santa Clara
URL: http://www.co.santa-clara.ca.us/




Positive Usability Aspects:
    Search function included on all pages.
    Site follows the portal model, with a large number of links available from the homepage,
        separated into distinct sections.

Negative Usability Aspects:
    Placement of Global Navigation is not consistent throughout the site.
    The homepage is cluttered and features inconsistent representation of links. For
       example, Employment Opportunities is placed on a large blue button, while no other links
       are placed on buttons.
    The search function creates confusion by making users choose between a Full Site
       HTML Search and a PDF search. Users unfamiliar with these technical acronyms will be
       confused by these choices. Sites should avoid using technical terms unless absolutely
       necessary.
    The information architecture is not user-centric. For example, the Main Menu features
       links such as Board of Supervisors, County Executive, and Agencies/Departments. It is
       unlikely that users would consider their needs in these categories.
    Requires horizontal scrolling for screen resolutions of 800 x 600 or less.




Page 36 of 45                                                                Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                            Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                               Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                               Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Site: Riverside County
URL: www.co.riverside.ca.us




Positive Usability Aspects:
    County Departments are made available in a drop down menu, freeing up screen space.

Negative Usability Aspects:
    Flashing and scrolling text are used to catch the user‘s eye. For instance, one of the
       global navigation buttons flashes ―FIRE/ OFF/ YOUR/ RESUME/ ONLINE/ TODAY!!!
       AND SEE OUR/ ONLINE/RECTRUITMENTS‖ one word at a time. This button could
       have said ―Job Opportunities‖ instead.
    The information architecture is not user-centric. For example, the Main Menu features
       links such as Other Resources and Did you Know? It is unlikely any users will know what
       to expect from these links.




Page 37 of 45                                                                Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                            Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                    Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                    Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Usability Recommendations for the San Mateo County Site
After reviewing other sites in the domain of local government services, the following usability
aspects are recommended for inclusion in the SMC Site:

        Consistent branding and global navigation throughout the SMC site.
         This means that the same primary set of links should be available from every page of the
         site. In addition, all pages on the SMC site should have the same look and feel.
         Consistency is a key aspect of usability, as it allows users to familiarize themselves with
         a site as they use each page. If a site is not consistent, then users are forced to relearn
         how to use the site each time they visit a new page.

        Information Architecture and navigation organized for the users’ needs.
         Users of the SMC site can be separated into four groups: Those who live in SMC,
         Business Users, Visitors to SMC, and Employees of SMC. The information architecture
         and global navigation of the SMC site should reflect these user groups, with links to
         sections named for each user group or their needs. This will allow users to easily
         navigate and find the information they are looking for, instead of confusing them with the
         names of county departments.

        The inclusion of explanatory content on all pages of the SMC site.
         When choosing what to click on next, the title of a page is often not enough information to
         go on. Adding a sentence or two that explains to the user (in their terms) what to expect
         will help them navigate the site and learn about its services.

        A link from the homepage to a list of all E-Gov Services available online.
         A distinction should be made between informational content and actual online services
         (such as Pay Your Parking Ticket Online). Many users will be visiting the site to
         accomplish a specific task online, as opposed to in person. These users will appreciate a
         direct link to a list of online services.

        The use of drop-down menus to allow easy access to the large number of county
         departments.
         The large number of county departments makes it difficult to list them all on each page of
         the site. However, it would be helpful to have each department available by one click. A
         drop-down menu listing all county departments would allow experienced users to quickly
         access county departments, without taking up too much room on each page of the site.

        Page titles at the top of every page.
         Page titles help the user know where they are in the site, and what the function of the
         current page is.

        Use of breadcrumb navigation on every page.
         Breadcrumb navigation refers to the inclusion of a line of text that shows the user how
         they got to the current page. For instance, it might say:
          ―Home -> Visitors -> Local Cities -> Redwood City.‖
         This will help to inform the user as to exactly where they are in the site at any given time.



        Search function included on every page of the site, with an option for advanced
         searching.
         Usability guidelines dictate that any site with a large amount of pages or content should
         supply a simple search function on every page of the site. This allows users to search for
         information they need without waiting for an additional search page to load. In addition, it

Page 38 of 45                                                                     Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                 Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                    Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                    Phase 1 – GUI Inception


         is recommended that an advanced search page be available, allowing an experienced
         user to narrow their search to certain sections, services, or documents.

        Use of HTML navigation whenever possible.
         HTML links load much faster than graphical links. The more HTML navigation that a
         page uses, the less users will have to wait for pages to load.

        The inclusion of an HTML footer that restates global navigation.
         The inclusion of a footer restating the primary links of the site will be helpful when users
         scroll to the bottom of longer page, losing access to the global navigation at the top of the
         page. They will then be able to use the HTML links at the bottom of the page.

        Links to other sites should open in pop-up windows.
         When links to other sites open in the same window as the SMC site, users will often
         forget to use the Back button on their browser. Without using the Back button, they will
         be unable to return to their previous place in the SMC site. Opening new sites in a
         separate pop-up window will prevent the user from losing their place in the county site.

        Help links available from every page.
         No matter how well a site is designed, some users are bound to be confused. These
         users should have a consistent link to Help from every page of the site.

        A prominent link to County Contact Info.
         If users do not find the information they need online, they should be able to contact the
         appropriate county department by phone, email, or in person.

        A link from the homepage to information on how to use the site.
         The SMC site will offer a large amount of services and content, making it a powerful tool.
         Like any other tool, a user must be taught how to handle it. A page describing how to
         use the site will help users learn.

        The use of an online survey to encourage feedback from users.
         An online survey is a convenient and powerful way to hear the voice of the user. The
         more information gathered on users and their interaction with the SMC site, the easier it
         will be to design for their needs in the future.

        Support for foreign language users—in particular those who speak Spanish.
         If the users of the SMC site reflect the make-up of the county, not all will be English
         speaking. Support should be provided for these users.

        Accessibility for the disabled as well as the inclusion of special content to help
         disabled users.
         This feature will both improve usability and insure that the SMC site is in compliance with
         Section 508. Detailed information on complying with Section 508 is included in a
         separate document.




Page 39 of 45                                                                     Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                 Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                     Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                     Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Features to Avoid
        Information Architecture that is centered on the structure of the county
         government and its departments.
         Many users will be unfamiliar with the structure of the county government and its
         departments. If the site navigation is based on county departments, many users will have
         trouble finding the info they are looking for.

        Inconsistencies in global navigation and branding.
         As previously discussed, inconsistencies make it very difficult for a user to learn how to
         use a site. It‘s just like changing the rules in the middle of a game.

        The inclusion of large image files for decorative purposes.
         Pictures and graphics should be used with restraint due to the long load-times associated
         with them. Many users will be on slow modem connections, and will be more interested
         in information than images.

        The use of graphics as links.
         Graphical links load much slower than HTML links. This means more waiting for users
         with dial-up connections.

        Cluttered design.
         When too many links and images are placed on each page it is difficult for the user to
         visually scan the page for what they are looking for. When lots of links are placed on a
         page they should be distinctly separated into sections.

        The use of scrolling or flashing text or images.
         Scrolling or flashing text is a distraction to users, and requires more cognitive effort to
         read. Often, the text being displayed ends up getting more attention than it deserves,
         only because it keeps catching the user‘s eye.

        The use of technical terminology or acronyms.
         The SMC site should provide content that all users can understand. This means the less
         alphabet soup, the better.

        The use of frames, unless absolutely necessary.
         Frames should be used only when other design solutions are not adequate. Splitting a
         page into frames can be confusing for users since frames can break the fundamental
         user model. Frames can yield unexpected results, particularly when using the "Back"
         button. Frames make a Web site difficult to use, and can prevent users from emailing a
         URL to others.




Page 40 of 45                                                                      Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                  Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                  Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                  Phase 1 – GUI Inception



Summary of Accessibility Requirements
Accessibility for disabled users can be insured by following the standards put forth in Section 508
of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 508, which can be viewed in it‘s entirety at 508 statute
html or 508 statute pdf, requires that Federal agencies' electronic and information technology be
accessible to people with disabilities. This statute mandates that access be provided to both
disabled federal employees and members of the general public at large. Section 508 establishes
requirements for any electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or
used by the Federal government.

Many of the requirements set forth by Section 508 allow for the designers of web sites and other
information systems to use their judgment in authoring for accessibility. The diversity of content,
media, and authoring environments dictates that no two systems will use the same techniques in
providing accessible content. This document provides a general outline of Section 508 and some
techniques used to be in compliance with its standards. To ensure full compliance with Section
508, the agency or department that will directly monitor a particular information systems‘
accessibility and Section 508 compliance should be consulted.

In essence, Section 508 requires that standards be followed in the authoring of web pages and
other information systems. These standards allow users with disabilities to employ assistive
technology to aid in access to information and content. There are numerous types of assistive
technologies available. From screen readers to voice browsers to brail interpreters, the pace of
assistive technology is accelerating along with other emerging technologies. To create an
accessible design that caters to all the particular assistive technologies would be impossible. The
resulting mantra of the accessible designer is: ―stick to the standards.‘ By providing standards,
Section 508 allows designers to concentrate on creating the best possible accessible designs.
The adherence to standards also allows the creators of assistive technology to develop new
products that will be able to access more of the information present on the internet.




Page 41 of 45                                                                   Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                               Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                   Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                   Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Web Site Identification
The first step in following Section 508 standards is to identify the type of website that is being
made compliant. There are three primary types of sites. These site types are listed in the order of
the ease of accessibility modifications and design. Although text-only sites can be readily made
to comply with Section 508, most sites require more than text. Designers are challenged to make
sites that comply with Section 508, are usable, and ascetically pleasing. However, all types of
sites can be made to be accessible.



HTML-Only:
These are simple text-based sites written in Hyper-Text Markup Language. HTML is the most
common of Web-authoring languages. HTML-only Web sites are often called ―text-only,‖
because they are devoid of any multimedia or digital images. HTML only sites are generally
require little modification to comply with section 508. The summary of Section 508 included
below provides a more comprehensive listing of compliance issues, but there are a few general
issues to be aware of:
     If tables are used for text layout or navigation, the order in which the browser
         renders the tables can make a page read out-of-sequence or force a
         user to view redundant navigation items before content.
     If CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is used, either for positioning or font
         appearance, the page must be usable with CSS turned off in the browser.


HTML-With Images:
These websites use a mix of HTML and digital images such as GIF, JPEG, and a host of other
digital formats. These images are easily inserted into the HTML code, so viewers can
download the images as part of the page. These sites tend to be ―static ‖ in nature (as opposed
to dynamic or interactive sites with a database of images that can be readily customized to user
preferences). In addition to the issues with HTML only, this type of site must also be aware of
image usage:
      The use of the ‗alt‘ tag for all images. If a spacer image is used, or an image coveys no
          specific information or image, the ‗alt‘ tag is set ― ― (or space).
      Further specifications are outlined in the summary of Section 508 below.


HTML-With Multimedia or Flash Sites:
These sites tend to be more complicated and may host a variety of digital assets. The assets will
vary, depending on file formatting and/or the authoring tools used to create the media. However,
most include a mix of video, audio, Macromedia Flash files, and visual presentation tools. Some
web designers choose to make Macromedia Flash-only Web sites, which are authored in
Macromedia Flash and play on the Internet as a Macromedia Flash movie with embedded
multimedia. Some data-driven Web sites also fall into this category--sites that are created by
using a template authored in one of many computer languages (such as HTML, XML, or Java to
interface with a set of digital assets that are tagged and placed in a database, then ―served up ‖ to
the user on demand.) Though certainly not impossible, multimedia sites are oftentimes
difficult to bring to compliance. Other than following the specifications in the summary of Section
508 below, a last-resort method for compliance for a multimedia site, perhaps completely
authored in flash, would be a text alternative site. The text site must reflect the same content as
the non-text site. Updates must also be simultaneous and reflect the same content.




Page 42 of 45                                                                    Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                    Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                    Phase 1 – GUI Inception


Tools for Section 508
Bobby 3.2: Bobby is available as a free downloadable application that allows you to check
multiple local files or entire Web sites at one time for accessibility. The application runs the same
page checking code as the online version. (http://www.cast.org/bobby).

Dreamweaver accessibility plug-in: A powerful program to test websites and make them
accessible. You can identify potential accessibility problems on selected pages by running tests
specified by the 508 regulations defined by the US Federal Access Board and guidelines defined
by W3C/WAI. You can quickly find any problems, fix them and get additional information. More
information is available on those guidelines and online services for web testing at
http://www.usablenet.com/
SSB InSight LE for Adobe GoLive: InSightLE from SSB Technologies automatically identifies
accessibility violations in Web pages created in Adobe GoLive and ensures compliance with
standards mandated by the federal government's Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The
download is free.




Resources for Section 508
www.cast.org/bobby - Bobby is a free service provided by CAST to help Web page authors
identify and repair significant barriers to access by individuals with disabilities.

www.w3c.org/wai - WAI, in coordination with organizations around the world, pursues
accessibility of the Web through five primary areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools,
education and outreach, and research and development.

www.usdoj.gov/crt/508 - Section 508 homepage.

www.section508.gov/ - A government site devoted to Section 508 information and resources.

www.access-board.gov/ - The Access Board is an independent Federal agency devoted to
accessibility for people with disabilities. It operates with about 30 staff and a governing board of
representatives from Federal departments and public members appointed by the President.




Page 43 of 45                                                                     Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                 Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                    Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                    Phase 1 – GUI Inception




Summary of Requirements
The following list summarizes the multiple stipulations associated with Section 508, § 1194.22
Web-based intranet and internet information and applications. The bold text represents the
actual stipulation put forth in Section 508. The text below each stipulation has been researched
and included to help designers comply with the stipulation.

A. A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via "alt",
"longdesc", or in element content).
This is perhaps the easiest and most applicable modification to be made. ‗Alt‘ tags should be no
longer than 50-60 characters. The tag should describe the image briefly. If the image is linked, a
short description of the link is used. Do not include ―link to…‖, ―image of…‖, etc. Most assistive
browsers make the distinction in tonality that distinguishes between links, images, etc. If an
image is used as a spacer or presents no describable image the ‗alt‘ description is set to ― ― or
space. Example i alt=" "

B. Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the
presentation.
Multimedia presentations should have text and voice description with multimedia content. The
use of the keyboard as a method of navigation beyond the mouse is usually necessary.

C. Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also
available without color, for example from context or markup.
This applies to forms, image maps, links, etc. Color must be used for text, images, etc. if it is
used to convey information. An example of this would be a form. Using an asterisk, with a
descriptive key, rather than a red outline allows for greater accessibility.

D. Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated
style sheet.
With CSS turned off the page must still be useful. Floating boxes are therefore difficult to use.
All CSS styled pages must be usable with CSS disabled in browsers.

E. Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server-side image
map.
The use of text links at the bottom of each page is not only good information architecture, but aids
in the accessibility of server side image maps.

F. Client-side image maps shall be provided instead of server-side image maps except
where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape.

G. Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables.
If tables are to be used with data, the row and column headers must be used. This also applies
to marking each cell as it relates to the related headers.

H. Markup shall be used to associate data cells and header cells for data tables that have
two or more logical levels of row or column headers.
This markup can be found in the HTML 4 specification at http://www.w3c.org/

I. Frames shall be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation.
The use of titles not only aids designers, but also can describe the logical orientation of a framed
document for a user with disabilities.

J. Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater
than 2 Hz, and lower than 55 Hz.


Page 44 of 45                                                                     Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                 Independent Usability
Contractor
San Mateo County                                                     Usability Review and Recommendations
Information Services Department                                                     Phase 1 – GUI Inception


K. A text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be provided to make
a web site comply with the provisions of this part, when compliance cannot be
accomplished in any other way. The content of the text-only page shall be updated
whenever the primary page changes.
Generally speaking, accessible pages can be made to be ascetic, usable, and exciting. Flash,
DHTML, and image-based pages CAN be made accessible without the use of a text only page. A
text only page must reflect the same content as the associated non-accessible page.

L. When pages utilize scripting languages to display content, or to create interface
elements, the information provided by the script shall be identified with functional text that
can be read by assistive technology.
When DHTML, roll-overs, or other scripted additions to a page are used the actions must be
triggered by key strokes, as well as by mouse. JavaScript uses multiple event handlers to
address this problem. When such scripting additions are used to convey navigation or critical
information, it can be very difficult to achieve any sort of accessibility. That is not to say it cannot
be done, but it is difficult, and largely uncharted territory.

M. When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in or other application be present on the
client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet
that complies with §1194.21(a) through (l).
This includes links to the download pages that must be accessed to download the plug-in or
applet.

N. When electronic forms are designed to be completed on-line, the form shall allow
people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and
functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions
and cues.
The use of tab order is used, as well as a linear path of navigation through the form. When a
form is submitted or returned for user correction, a page should explain, in text, the results.

O. A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.
This can be achieved by placing links at the very top of the page that can either be very small
(using CSS) or the same color as the background. This allows users of assistive technology to
skip to content or skip to navigation. It is also helpful to have similar links at the end of content to
allow fast navigation. The use of HTML anchors is preferred. Another method would be to lay
out the page so that navigation is after the content section. This technique is based on the order
in which a browser ‗reads‘ or renders the table. A helpful tool to discern page rendering is to view
the source, and from the top down, see what comes first. The text browser Lynx is another tool
that can be used. Lynx can be found on many Unix systems.

P. When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time
to indicate more time is required.
Page refreshes, pop-up windows and the like can be very disorienting to any user, and
particularly confusing to users with disabilities. Try to avoid such techniques, but if used attempt
to explain each refresh or popup in text before the event occurs.




Page 45 of 45                                                                      Author: Lewis Samuels
Last Revised on 11/15/2010                                                  Independent Usability
Contractor

								
To top