Usability

You’re hopefully now raring to get going with Building the Killer Website. But just before you do, I want to give you some information on Usability which is really important. You could go off now and build the website without doing any of this stuff that I’m about to talk about in this chapter, but it’s going to catch you up with you in the end. So just for a few minutes, let’s focus on a few 3 letter acronyms that you’re going to come across.

First of all, there is DDA Compliance. So, what does DDA Compliance mean? It’s the Disability Discrimination Act and it came into force in 1995 and it is important that you comply with that. The good news is that although you do have to comply with DDA many of your competitors are probably not doing it. You want to attract as many potential customers who are relevant to your particular niche market as possible. Why would you want to put things in the way of your potential customers starting to transact with you? You wouldn’t. Therefore, I want you to be DDA compliant.

The Disability Discrimination Act suggests that you need to take reasonable steps to make your website accessible to all. The bonus is that a lot of DDA Compliance is also great for Search Engine Optimisation. So in complying you’re going to be making many beneficial improvements to your website including making it more Search Engine friendly.

What else do you have to look at? W3C. W3C is like ISO for the Web; essentially a set of guidelines for good Web building. If you follow these guidelines, you can have a W3C validation on your pages and this is also really good for Search Engine Optimization.

A lot of the Web is now built on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). CSS improves things from a code point of view and has additional purposes. Cascading Style Sheets control a lot of how web pages are built. If you can make your CSS validate and provide good CSS, you are again also helping yourself in the Search Engines. So to clarify, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), The Web Consortium (W3C) and CSS are the standards for the Web. Having all of those done very well and validated as highly as possible is going to be really good for Search Engine Optimization and for browser compatibility.

What do I mean by browser compatibility? Quite simply this: you’ve got your favourite Web Browser that you use, but somebody else’s might be different to the one that you’re using. When you have your website built, or you build your website, you’re going to look at that website in your preferred browser. That’s not necessarily what it looks like in somebody else’s browser. Quite often, this is one of the things that is not easily understood. They don’t understand why their website doesn’t look good in one website browser, but is fine in another.

What we have to do is make sure that the website is Cross Browser Compatible. This means it works across all the different browsers. Ultimately there is a long list of Browsers and you might not cover some of the more obscure browsers but covering most of the major options is worth the effort. The list includes PCs, Macs and mobiles for the devices and Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari for the major browsers.

You would think that if your website is W3C compliant, DDA compliant and has great CSS validation that it would automatically be Cross Browser Compatible. Sadly, the makers of the browsers don’t all conform to the same rules, so you can’t take that as a given. Once you’ve done all your different validating, go and check your browser compatibility.

Why bother doing all of this? There are two reasons. Firstly, we don’t want to put people off. If somebody is using a different browser to you or has a visual impairment that you don’t have, it is still important that they can fully access your website. Secondly, the better your website renders across all of these different validation processes, the more likely it is to be Search Engine friendly. We are going to go into more detail on Search Engine Optimisation later, but for now just think that when you put these keystones in, you’re not going to have to come back later and re-build the website.

If you’re going out to have your website built, then make sure you can tell the difference between bedroom boys and a professional company. The bedroom boys basically means the guys who is just working from home, maybe the website work is just a side line. They have web building skills, so they can build websites, but they are not a professional company. You can tell if it is a professional company by asking them about the importance of DDA, W3C and CSS. Now that you’ve been armed with this information, you can have a sensible conversation with the Web Developer. If you’re going to build your own site, you now know what you need to put in place to make sure it’s a good website.