Page design

How you choose to present the content on your page not only determines how visually appealing it is but can also impact usability and readability. Your page should clearly communicate what you want in a matter of seconds.

Mobile vs. desktop considerations

When using a desktop monitor, it's easy to shift your view from one section of the screen to another (navigation, sidebar, main content, etc.). You need to keep in mind that other users may not be seeing or using the content in the same way.

For example, someone using a phone will see all the content in a linear fashion, and only a small part of the page will be visible at once. For a blind person using a screenreader, they also receive content in a linear fashion and it's even more complicated to go from one section to the next as they can't easily "see" where they are at any given point. When creating a web page, it's important to make sure that content is presented in an order that makes sense for reading the page from start to end. This is the order that screenreader users, and usually small device users, will get the content.

Order and priority of information

Make sure the most important information is first. Forcing users to scroll to find the information they're looking for provides a worse user experience. Less important pieces such as a "related links" section should go after the primary content.

Also make sure you're not referring to any content using directional words such as "instructions are in the right-hand column", as it will not apply to all users.

Content in PDFs

Some PDFs can behave like images with text and cannot be read by screen reader assistive technologies. PDFs also introduce a variety of accessibility issues, including:

  • being difficult to read and find information on mobile screens because you have to read each page linearly and the content doesn't scale for the screen size
  • being slow to load or loading improperly (some files can become corrupted and won't open)
  • difficulty navigating within the PDF content

If possible, convert content in PDFs into page content. This will also be easier to maintain and update compared to linking to and maintaining PDF versions.

See also content standards and best practices - PDF documents.