The Interplay Between Web Aesthetics and Accessibility [#accessibility #a11y #aesthetics #ASSETS11]

‘Web pages judged on the classical dimension as being visually clean showed significant correlations with accessibility, suggesting that visual cleanness may be a suitable proxy measure for accessibility as far as people with visual impairments are concerned. Expressive designs and other aesthetic dimensions showed no such correlation, however, demonstrating that an expressive or aesthetically pleasing Web design is not a barrier to accessibility.’

Relationship between the design dimensions investigated and the term ‘aesthetic’

Relationship between the design dimensions investigated and the term ‘aesthetic’

In a few short weeks we’ll be off to the 13th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility which runs from 24-26 October, 2011 in Dundee, United Kingdom. As ever, the ASSETS conference explores the use of computing and information technologies to help persons with disabilities and older adults. Indeed, ASSETS is the premier forum for presenting innovative research on the design and use of both mainstream and specialized assistive technologies. Our work looks at aesthetics and its relationship to Web accessibility and was motivated by designers often heard complaint that accessibility limits their ability to create aesthetically pleasing designs; we say:

Visual aesthetics enhances user experience in the context of the World Wide Web (Web). Accordingly, many studies report positive relationships between Web aesthetics and facets of user experience like usability and credibility, but does this hold for accessibility also? This paper describes an empirical investigation towards this end. The aesthetic judgements of 30 sighted Web users were elicited to under- stand what types of Web design come across as being visually pleasing. Participants judged 50 homepages based on Lavie and Tractinsky’s classical and expressive Web aesthetic dimensions. A cross-section of the homepages were then manually audited for accessibility compliance by 11 Web accessibility experts who used a heuristic evaluation technique known as the Barrier Walkthrough (BW) method to check for accessibility barriers that could affect people with visual impairments. Web pages judged on the classical dimension as being visually clean showed significant correlations with accessibility, suggesting that visual cleanness may be a suitable proxy measure for accessibility as far as people with visual impairments are concerned. Expressive designs and other aesthetic dimensions showed no such correlation, however, demonstrating that an expressive or aesthetically pleasing Web design is not a barrier to accessibility.

Now at the end we say ‘Expressive designs and other aesthetic dimensions showed no such correlation…’ but actually when we re analysed the data plotting AIs (using their midpoints) against aesthetics (a correlation analysis), and Web pages with more content were significantly related with accessibility. This also caused expressive aspects to be related with accessibility. We know the reason for this, the AI formula favours pages with more content, the more content, the more accessible the page, which should not be the case as such. We need a normalized formula taking account of HTML size, which we’re working on.

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