Web Communications

Web Content Audit … OMG! Part 2

Posted on by Doug Widner

This will be a little obscure unless you’ve already read the post titled “Web Content Audit … OMG!” Click to read it (or review it) right now.

There are millions of good reasons to conduct a comprehensive web content audit every now and again, but our most important reason right now is to get our content ready for our mobile-friendly (a.k.a. “responsive”) new design. Until a few years ago, when smartphones started to include web browsers, all the webteams in the world were concerned about making pages look good on laptops or desk top monitors. We argued about screen sizes, but we never considered screens that would fit in the skinniest pocket.

With the advent of so-called “smart phones” that included web browsers, and “mini” tablet computers, many websites went to GREAT EXPENSE to build ANOTHER VERSION OF THEIR WEBSITE that would make them more user friendly on those hand-held devices. But! While this two-sites-needed-OMG! was going on some very smart people were betting there was a way to make one site serve both ends. And so, responsive websites were born.

The goal of a responsive website is to

  1. maintain readability (keep the text large enough to read comfortably, no matter how small the screen)
  2. maintain navigability (making it just as easy to browse among many pages of information as it is on a desktop computer)
  3. Order and present text and graphics in a way that makes sense given a certain screen size
  4. Allow rich media (TV, radio, slidshows, etc.) to work regardless of screen size

But some old habits from the desk-top-site-builder-days fall outside today’s magic. Probably the biggest obstacles of all are:

  • PDFs. (Portable Document Format files created by Adobe with their software called “Acrobat” and, in their own right, a fine advanced technology.) When these files are opened in a browser they are treated similarly to graphics. This means — if you are using a typical smarphone — first you have to enlarge the image of the PDF so you can read the text, then you have to scroll constantly from left to right and top to bottom to read it. If you come across a big image, you might have to shrink everything back down again to see the whole image.
    • ACTION ITEM: Review all the PDFs attached to your website and consider turning them into regular web pages or posts. (This has the added benefit of making that information “searchable” on the web.) If you have a large collection of PDFs, somehow include on pages or posts that link to them that a desktop computer or large tablet is recommended.
  • “InfoGraphics” and Posters. These are troublesome just like PDFs.
    • ACTION ITEM: Reconsider how you present the information in your infographics and posters. Try migrating to simpler formats.
  • Tables with big cells that contain mixed-media content. At one time, web pages were designed largely by using tables. That was a long time ago. Today’s web designs do not use tables as layout tools. In fact, web designers typically advise NOT TO USE tables for mixed-media content. Responsive technology can handle tabular data remarkably well, but not when you throw in photos, charts and videos, and not if your table has both dozens of columns and dozens of rows.
    • ACTION ITEM: If a mixed-media table or a huge table are absolutely essential you may have to make it a stand-alone file the user downloads rather than opens for perusal on a hand-held device.
  • Graphics and photos that include text. Responsive technology either scales down images for smaller screens and/or ignores photos that are too large (like backgrounds). Graphics or photos that contain text in the image can make for effective communication — unless the image is scaled too small by the responsive theme for the text to be readable, and unless you are a blind or visually disabled person. (Text reading-aloud software won’t detect text that is part of the image.)
    • Try not to use old images with embedded text. Rather, use captions that are “attached” to the image but can be read-aloud by software.

The web content audit will help us flag some of these potential issues.

And to answer your last question about the current web content audit: Yes, all you web content managers will get a copy of our audit results. Stay tuned.

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