COMPARING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF DIFFERENT WEBSITE DESIGNS IN FACILITATING INFORMATION RETRIEVAL FOR PEOPLE WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES
University College London (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2012 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Conference name: 5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 19-21 November, 2012
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:Context and problem statement:
Current educational moves towards social inclusion of and informed choice by people with Learning Disabilities (LD) can only be achieved by the provision of accessible and relevant information – now increasingly available in electronic form. Although it is widely acknowledged that the electronic medium may greatly facilitate both education and information access, low literacy or ICT skills mean that much relevant material is inaccessible to people with LD. Even that written especially for this constituency may out of reach because of navigational problems, occasioned often by inappropriately designed web pages or general unfamiliarity with the electronic environment. However, there is little empirical evidence regarding what accessibility measures actually aid website use, and some of it is conflicting. Some literature, for example, recommends the use of images, video etc. Pages containing such content, however, tend to be longer and therefore require scrolling – a practice that has been shown to have an adverse effect on information recall and reading speed. This leads to the question of which attributes of websites are the most important in designing for accessibility.
This is to determine which web page design factors facilitate successful usage of the Internet by people with LD. It is hoped that the study will produce an optimum website for people with LD and provide appropriate and useful guidelines for web developers and educationalists working in the field of LD and beyond.
The study consists essentially of usability testing with people with LD using accessible websites. This entails introducing web pages produced for the project and seeking their views on the design and content, and asking them to undertake simple information retrieval tasks.
Findings from previous research by the author suggested that important factors in using web pages to find information were menu layout, use of images and text size: My current research is examining each of these attributes in depth, first in isolation and then in combination. Preliminary tests suggest that the horizontal menu is navigated quicker, and several issues related to the use of images have been elicited, highlighting the difficulty of capturing abstract concepts pictorially. Text size is currently being investigated, but initial results suggest making text larger does not necessarily help in reading information.
To examine how the attributes relate to each other, tasks are being undertaken on accessible websites of eight different layouts, exhibiting vertical/horizontal menu lists; images or no-images and big/small text conditions. Results will be presented at the conference. Various measures (preferences, task success etc.) indicating which attributes of a site have the greatest impact on performance and also suggesting the optimum site design, taking into account combinations of all the attributes studied. Used along with qualitative interview data the findings will provide a rich picture of how information and educational materials for people with LD may be best offered electronically.