I've got a lot of web pages here. A few simple conventions are used throughout to help you navigate them. A quick read here will help you find your way around.
The Bold: The most basic convention distinguishes links to my own pages from links to pages on other websites:
The Chain: Some pages and tables have a short list of especially useful links near the top, like a toolbar. I use hyphens and equals signs to make them look as if they're links in a "chain," like this:
These links go to catalogs, indices, search engines, etc. that I make frequent use of, and which are related to the page or table where they appear. For example, the chain at the top of my Critical Mass page includes a link to a Critical Mass catalog site.
Another type of chain uses the
These are "see below" links to sections further down on the
same page. (Think of the "v"
as an arrowhead, pointing down). A similar chain uses the
This chain features other pages on this website. (Notice how the links are bold in these last two chains, since they always go to something on this site!)
The Table: Some of my pages are almost entirely collections of links to other pages. In general, I put these collections in tables with a different background color from the page itself, and with bevelled borders. It's sort of like having a list of my "bookmarks," arranged and presented here so that others can find the great web pages that I like.
Some pages are predominantly collections of links, plus a few paragraphs of my own commentary. I put these collections into tables, too, and usually put those tables near the tops of these pages, to help you navigate them more quickly.
Other pages are mostly my own writing, and links to other web pages don't show up until later. I put those links near the bottom of the page, in a "Related Links" section.
The Quick and The Detailed: Some of my pages
come in pairs: a basic page with tables of links for quick
navigation; and a more detailed version of the same page. The
detailed version will have the same tables, but there will be
detailed commentary about each link. The detailed pages are
worth sitting down and reading when you visit for the first
time, and the quick pages are like "bookmarks" for easy access
to those links when either your or I are looking for them later.
Whenever you see a
Text, Photos and Other: My pages are mostly text, but I have a few photo albums here and there. When I've got a list of them together, I use little icons to help you tell them apart. I've also got some icons for other forms of media on other sites:
Thumbnails: On pages with lots of photos, thumbnails are very useful. In cases where the photos are part of the narrative, I'll put a link to the same photo (with the little photo icon), in the paragraph right next to the thumbnail. At other times, the thumbnails are mostly decorative, and there won't be an additional link in the paragraph (though you can select them to see bigger photos, or photo pages).
My pages don't have "back" links or icons on them; I recommend using your browser's "Back" button, or even better, the keyboard command (Alt-LeftArrow or somesuch). There are good technical reasons for browsing that way, but I won't bore you with them. Just figure out how it's done and your browsing will improve!
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Most home pages don't have Help pages. Some would benefit from having them, considering how far they veer from normal or even comprehensible visual cues for web navigation; but this site is pretty normal in that respect.
So why a Help page? Well, I had these tables with lists of links, some of which were my own, some of which went to other websites, and I thought it would be useful to show which was which. There's no standard or even common simple cue for this! I tried out a few things, including listing them separately, which was cumbersome. I finally settled on the convention of making the link bold, but since there's no standard, I knew I'd have to explain it somewhere. So here we are.
Toolbars are a nice idea, but they tend to have icons that mean one specific thing, and that specific thing isn't always apparent from the icon. Downloading a bunch of single-purpose icons for a web page's toolbar seems like a waste, so I offer the all-ASCII "chain" as a low-bandwidth alternative.
(Usually you can get by fine without icons. Firefox lets you set its toolbars to "Text Only", which allows you to use more of your computer screen to look at a web page. Give it a try!)
I have a handful of tiny icons, though. The
I am toying with the convention of adding the
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The "chains" are presented these on cyan-colored backgrounds, which is a cue for the benefit of the sighted, but I made sure it wasn't the only cue. While blind folks won't see that the ASCII characters make them look vaguely like chains, if they've got systems that read text aloud, they'll hear "hyphen equals hyphen equals," "equals v equals," and "equals o equals;" all of which indicate a "chain." As mentioned above, when I collect links into a table, I make sure the table has bevelled borders. This has the advantage of distinguishing them for blind folks who use a tactile mouse.
I've provided "alt" text for every image. I use background images rarely, and when I do, it's really only for decorative purposes.
I have a few audio files in these pages, but the sounds they make are not terribly important. Each of them is a joke, based on the juxtaposition of the words used in the link, the name of the audio file, and the sound itself; to explain them would spoil the joke. However, if you can't hear them and want to know what the jokes are, send me email and I'll be happy to explain them to you.
Some of these pages have .sig files and drawings that use ASCII art, which can be annoying for people using a system that reads text aloud. For example, the top line of an ASCII rendition of a certain spiky-haired cartoon character could become, "vertical bar, backslash, slash, backslash, slash, backslash, slash, vertical bar." So, most of my ASCII art is at the very bottom of the pages it appears on. I hope that my other use of ASCII graphics, such as the dingbats and "chains" mentioned above, is sparse enough not to be annoying, and brief enough to be helpful.
I am always interested in getting feedback from people with disabilities who have suggestions about improvements I could make to these web pages.
Note: New CSS specs implement features to make sites more accessible. I would love to use these features if I had a way to test out whether I'm using them right. Please contact me if you know of a way I could do that.
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