Source Order, Skip links and Structural labels research results presented at OZeWAI, December 2005

Is page source order important to screen reader users? Recently, the idea of placing the informational content of a web page before the navigation has gained some currency. This paper reports on our research into the relevance and importance of page source order, skip links and structural labels for screen reader users.

Read the results of the Source Order, Skip links and Structural labels research carried out by Roger Hudson, Russ Weakley and Lisa Miller, presented at the OZeWAI Conference, 9 December 2005.

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Filed under: Accessibility
Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Thursday, January 19, 2006


  1. So says MikeWS

    I have just read the paper and… Oh dear.
    A total sample of 23 and just 4, yes four, studied in any depth. They should have stopped there. But no.

    Survey Question 1: I would expect the site navigation to the main site areas to be presented first.
    Response: All said Yes.
    Given that 99.99999999999% of current web pages do just that (or very nearly that), what a surprise.

    First main result of Task-based test: The major determinant in how well a participant was able to do the tasks was their level of skill (and experience) in using the assistive technology.
    Well knock me down with a feather!

    These are just 2 examples of the level of the research but given the size of the sample it’s all pointless anyway.

    What is most surprising to me though is at least one of the authors seems to have been trained in science.

    I’m interested in web accessibility, I wouldn’t be looking at this site otherwise, but stuff like this does more harm than good in my opinion and it is not alone, sadly. Sorry.

    Added January 19, 2006 at 11:11 pm

  2. So says Roger Hudson

    It appears Mike?s reading of our article was very scant. We clearly indicated our awareness of the fact that most websites present the navigation before the content and were not surprised that this was what all the survey participants expected. What we go on to discuss however, is how important this expectation is for screen reader users with different levels of skill in using the technology. Do you think the level of skill is an important issue, Mike?

    I am not sure if the comment, ?knock me down with a feather?, indicates a form of agreement, albeit sarcastic, with our findings, or an inadequate awareness of how difficult screen readers are to use.

    In the article we acknowledge the number of participants was smaller than we would have liked, but we believe our work still provides a useful insight into the three issues we discussed in the article. Anyway Mike, based on your experience, do you believe the content or the navigation should come first in the source order? Also, do you agree or disagree with our comments relating to the use of skip links and structural labels? And why?

    I look forward in anticipation to the results Mike obtains when (or should that be, if) he undertakes a similar research project with a larger number of participants.

    Added January 30, 2006 at 5:25 am

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