Fatigue issues may bring to light otherwise unseen flaws in Web design.

Speaker Notes

So what has this got to do with accessible Web design? Everything.

Amongst the challenges that fatigue can produce when reading Web content are microsleeps, which I will explain in a moment, short-term memory and difficulty concentrating. Please note that short term memory and concentration issues can affect people other than those with fatigue issues.

Before my sleep apnoea was treated, I used to suffer from "microsleeps"; this is where I would, throughout the day, keep falling asleep for fractions of a second (like narcolepsy). On an everyday basis, this meant that I could not safely drive, use power tools, have a bath, etc, as I mentioned in the last slide.

When trying to read a Web page, I would often have to start a good ten, twelve times (and still had to give up on many occasions). This problem was worst when there were large, unbroken blocks of text and/or wide columns which can be quite impossible to scan.

My work-around for this was to increase the font size, although this did not help me when language was excessively complex. A clear layout with small chunks of text and plain language made my life much easier in this respect.

Multi-column layouts (more than two) were an issue for me in the apnoea days and still are in "Chronic Fatigue Mode", although slightly less so.

I hate cluttered layouts; when the mind is tired and wandering, bits of content all over the place - especially when there are bits of navigation in several different places - is hugely distracting and very frustrating.

Blogs are amongst the worst offenders - what is with trying to cram so much onto a single page? Something to linearise the layout would help me here, a simple and tidy design would eliminate the need.

I was going to try and get a dyslexic perspective on this issue as, once again, I don't think that this is something affecting only those of us with fatigue issues. If I ever get any feedback on this, I will post it as an appendix to this presentation.

Movement. Argh! I would like to see a guideline "Do not allow any form of movement on a page without first asking the user's permission." When the slightest distraction can make a page hard to read, any movement (often advertisements in the form of animated images or Flash) can actually push "hard to read" to the level of "unuseable". As a Firefox user, AdBlock is my saviour here.

So, there is a little snapshot, if you will, of what it can be like trying to access less-than-perfect Web content when fatigued. And remember, everyone can get fatigued.

Let's move on to the next slide, which tells us of the nett effect of our less-than-perfect Web design on a tired Smiffy.