If you're new to creating web pages: you will achieve maximal control by learning HTML; more precisely, by learning XHTML and CSS.
Your best bet is to copy some pages from a friend and make some changes, and then learn more as you go along. The links in the boxes on the right side should help you along as your knowledge evolves.
Usability and accessibility
Are you designing your pages to be used only by you, or are you designing pages to be consumed by persons unknown to you? Keep in mind that a plethora of different web browsers are in use by people. (In addition to Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, there exist other graphical browsers, but there also exist text-only browsers, speech-only browsers, even braille browsers.) Furthermore, not all browsers will have a screen size/resolution similar to your own — just think of mobile devices, or older computers.
Here are some things to keep in mind or try on your pages:
- Try changing the display font size in your browser's View menu. Do all parts of your page change size accordingly?
- Try disabling the page style in your browser's View menu. Is the page usable?
- Change your browser settings to disable the display of images, and reload your pages. Are they still usable? Can one navigate through your site?
- Change the width and height of your browser window to make it rather small or to make it very large. Does the page reflow appropriately?
- Do your pages load quickly (less than a couple seconds) over a dial-up or other slow internet connection?
- Look at your site in LYNX or some other text-only browser. (We have LYNX on all Linux systems in our department. The command is lynx.) If your site is difficult or impossible to use in LYNX, then you can bet it will be even more difficult/impossible to use in a speech or braille browser.
- Are you using frames? Although useful for some things, they can drastically alter the browsing experience in subtle ways. For example, the browser's web address bar may no longer provide a means for users to bookmark particular pages, and navigating through your pages in a non-graphical browser may be significantly different than you expect. If you use frames, be sure to point LYNX (see previous item) at your pages, to get an idea of what users might experience.
- If you use IE, then look at your site in Mozilla; if you use Mozilla, then look at your site in IE. Of course, you should also look at your site in Opera, and in Safari on a Mac. Each browser has its peculiarities, and each browser reports different types of problems.
- Do you post Word documents (DOC), Excel spreadsheets (XLS), or PowerPoint presentations (PPT) on your website? Not all users will have those tools. Your Microsoft Office products will allow you to create HTML versions of those documents, but be sure to use the "Save As HTML (Filtered)" option (as opposed to non-filtered). However, if you want to control what a printout will look like, you'll probably have to use PDF as your file format. Please look at a guide on creating accessible PDF documents.
- Run free validation tools on your pages. These will report various problems, both technical (which might stop some browser from being able to access your page) and user-oriented (which might prevent some user from understanding what you intend). Here are some free web-based validation tools (each validator focuses on something different, so be sure to run them all!):
- W3C HTML/XHTML Validator
- SDG HTML Validator
- W3C CSS Validator
- WebAIM WAVE Tool
- Delorie LynxView
- Bobby Validator
- Use the features of various accessibility toolbars to help you design your site. These allow you to quickly enable/disable images, change your screen size to match various devices or old computers, quickly hand your page to various validators, and so on:
- Finally, we periodically ask the UA Disability Resource Center (DRC) to run a report on all our pages, both official and personal. The report is full of technical details and takes a while to load. Look on the left side for Failed Files to see if your pages have problems. Also look through the various Site Quality Reports at the bottom, which may list additional problems on your pages. (We can ask the DRC to run a new report. Just let us know that this would be useful to you.)
For more information on matters of accessibility and usability, the following resources should get you started: