The U.S.A. Acronym
U.S.A. is great! I’m not referring to the Land of the Free. My newly defined acronym U.S.A. refers to, what I believe, is the basis for user-friendly and robust web design and coding, and hopefully will soon be the common practice.
Let me explain. “Usability” is the science of making a website easy for people to use. “Standards”-based web coding (as set by the World Wide Web Consortium along with other groups and standards bodies) is the most modern coding technique and provides many advantages such as reduced bandwidth, improved search engine optimization (SEO), and easier maintenance. “Accessibility” refers to creating website content so that is available to any user (with or without disabilites), with any browser, platform, or connection speed. Thus, in the web development world, U.S.A. stands for Usability, Standards, and Accessibility; not United States of America.
Combining the U.S.A. techniques in web design produces high-quality code and a high-quality website. And doing so comes fairly easily since there is some cross-over between them. For example, using XHTML and CSS web standards to separate style from content also has positive aspects for accessibility and for SEO. Designing a site to be easy to learn and easy to remember is usually considered a usability trait, but also satisfies a requirement for web accessibility (for users with cognitive impairments). And the alternative text attritbute (usually referred to as the ALT tag) is a primary accessibility requirement, but also serves usability purposes for situations when images are not readily available such as text browsing, lowband internet connections, and when there are broken image links.
Let’s examine an example of U.S.A. working together. The Prices page on the Salon X-pressions website is a nice representation. The page contains web-standards code, as it validates to W3C XHTML Strict 1.0. In doing so, the heading tags and data lists are used appropriately and provides semantic code which is very important for accessibility as well as SEO. For usability aspects, CSS is used to format the (already organized) content into a clean and very readable page; the subheadings are easily scannable and the price listings are consistent throughout.
I feel so strongly about the U.S.A. approach, that I put it in the name of my web development company, CheckEngine USA. The “CheckEngine” portion is an analogy between maintaining a finely tuned car and a finely tuned website. The company develops new websites, but also targets updating existing websites, referred to as “web site tune-ups and overhauls.”
From sea to shining PDA
U.S.A. is necessary for the current and future web for several reasons. First, because there are so many choices on the web, people will opt for the sites they like, which are usually the sites high in usability factors. This is also why SEO is as important as ever, as people so often “Google” what they’re looking for and there is so much website competition existing today. Second, as communities and governments become more aware of the importance of web accessibility, more guidelines and laws will be enacted, to which the mainstream web developer will have to adhere (finally). The third reason is device independence–more and more devices such as mobile phones, PDAs, cars, and even appliances, are giving users the limited ability to surf the web. Implementing web standards and separating style from content gives a website much a better opportunity to be accessed by such devices.
God bless U.S.A.
U.S.A. stands for Usability, Standards, and Accessibility. If a website is developed with these practices, it will available to anyone with personal and technical limitations, and will be easy to use. Add some spiffy design and CSS and the result is a work of art, and something to be very proud of. Practice U.S.A., that’s my pledge of allegiance.