Building a Better BodsCentral

Published on 22 February 2003 in , ,

As of today, a number of changes have been made to BodsCentral which hopefully make it a more accessible website.

Whilst the overall design remains pretty similar (you may notice a slightly bigger gap between the site logo and the actual content) if you’re using a modern browser, you may notice a slight difference if you’re using an old browser or screen reader.

The Navigation Change.

The main change is the moving of the site-wide navigation (the Home, Rant ‘n’ Rave, About Me and Email links) from the top of the page, to the bottom.

You’ll only notice this if you’re not seeing the site design (blue, white, grey and a hint of purple), but what it should mean is that if you’re using a screen reader, you should get straight into the page content rather than having to hear the navigation. I’ve no idea if anyone regularly visits BodsCentral who uses a screen reader, but if you do, I hope it helps.

Not being a user of a screen reader myself, I have no idea if it’s better this way, but the RNIB puts their global navigation at the bottom, and the BBC’s text only parser BETSIE does something similar when you view BBC pages through it, so it seemed like a good recommendation. It at least means you don’t have to listen to a load of standard links being read out before you get to the content of the page.

This hopefully puts BodsCentral back to a similar situation to what it was when it first launched in July 2002. Then, all the navigation appeared after the content (on the right of the page for those of you looking at the page with the design turned on), but a subsequent redesign in November, a few navigation links ended up moving to the top of the page, and as such above the content.

With the new look, whilst the navigation looks like it’s at the top of the page with the design turned on, it’s actually at the bottom of the page.

The other changes.

One of the other changes is a bit less noticable, but if you press tab in some browsers, you can move around the main chunks of the page – be it content or navigation.

This uses the HTML tabindex property and I’m not sure how many browsers support it (Opera does but Mozilla, Links and Lynx use tab to move between links) but it might come in useful for someone out there. Especially if they’re an Opera user!

The final change is to the print version of the site. On browsers like Mozilla, Opera 6+ and IE6+. there is a special print stylesheet which makes the page look better when printed out.

This has been around since day 1 but got slightly broken and forgotten about. But it works now!

The Reasoning.

Bar the print issue, all these changes have been made to hopefully make this site more accessible. I’ve always wanted to make sure that as many people can use BodsCentral (and indeed the rest of my sites) as possible.

Building accessible websites is something every web site owner should be concerned about. Getting it right here hasn’t always been easy, but many sites don’t even make an effort. Personally I’ve been slowly learning from my mistakes, but I’d rather try and maybe get it less than perfect, than not try at all.