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Paving Paths and Website Accessibility

I have been working my legs too hard over the last couple of weeks with my non-stop cycling. Last weekend certainly was not enough time to let me legs recuperate. I decided to drive to work this morning in hopes that a third day will be enough to get my legs back to normal.
Anyhow, while walking from my truck to the University of Lethbridge on one of the new paths, I was reflecting on how the path has a lot to do with web design.

I have been working my legs too hard over the last couple of weeks with my non-stop cycling. Last weekend certainly was not enough time to let me legs recuperate. I decided to drive to work this morning in hopes that a third day will be enough to get my legs back to normal.
Anyhow, while walking from my truck to the University of Lethbridge on one of the new paths, I was reflecting on how the path has a lot to do with web design.
Before the fall of 2002, students travelling to the University of Lethbridge from the corner of University Drive and Columbia Boulevard had two choices to get to the University. They could travel down Valley Drive and then turn at the West Lot, travelling across the West Lot until they got to Anderson Hall or the PE Building. This was the longer option. The second option was to cut across the field, over the berm and across the Far west Lot and West Lot. This was the shorter option—albeit muddier in the winter and when it rained.
In 2002, the University of Lethbridge decided to pave the path students had worn down across the field and over the berm. They also added lighting. This made sense. After all, why not create a paved, lighted path right where people will use it?
As I reflected on this, it caused me to wonder why so many people do not do this when setting up information architecture on a website. So many websites make it very hard to find things. I do not know what the developers were thinking when they put it together, but I do know what they were not thinking. They were not thinking about the value in holding focus groups and watching how visitors use the website and what paths they try to access information.
So many developer think, “Oh, this looks cool” or “This looks good to me”, and give no thought that it needs to be cool and work; it needs to look good to you and everyone else.
If there is one thing website developers need to get into their thick, obtuse, close-minded heads, it is this: websites need to work for your users more than they need to work for you.

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By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 5 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on social issues and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left. I recently finished writing a book debunking several capitalism myths. My newest book writing project is on the labour history of Lethbridge.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him.

2 replies on “Paving Paths and Website Accessibility”

Kim, I enjoyed your article/metaphor about pathways of usability on a website with the University metaphor. Along with the article about don’t allow your design to auto-fill the entire screen. That was something I had never thought about, and the fact that soon I would like to go to a dual monitor setup, and how annoyed I would be if someone did not heed your advice.(Though I’m just trying to learn CSS, so that’s ahead of me for now)
Art, lurker in CF forum.

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