C4. Difficulty understanding how to use a DL

Situation Definition:

A situation that arises from difficulty figuring out how to use a DL, specifically difficulty getting started in a DL or determining how to best approach the DL. This situation typically occurs at the start of using a DL.

Factor(s) Leading to the Situation:

    • Complex information presentation:

    • Complex information presentation:

    • Inadequate knowledge:

    • Inappropriate labeling:

    • Inappropriate labeling:

    • Inappropriate labeling:

    • Unclear instruction:

Guideline or Design Recommendation:

    1. Clearly convey the purpose, functions, structure, and coverage of a DL
    2. Provide instruction to explain how to use a DL
    3. Clearly convey the purpose of each section of a DL
    4. Clearly convey the availability of DL features and their functions
    5. Ensure DL feedback is accessible

Rationale and Objective:

DLs should include descriptions explaining the purpose of the DL and instructions on how to effectively use the site. These introductory descriptions should be available in a textual format for

users and accessible through a link or menu. Overall features should be navigable, operable, and usable with a screen reader (1) (2) (3). Using

features allows a screen reader to access information more easily (4). Designing a logical web page layout should reduce a BVI user’s need to visit instructions (4). DLs that offer complex presentation of information or excessive functions, such as a navigation bar with several links, increase a BVI user’s load as the user attempts to get oriented on how to use the DL, making it difficult for the user to get started. Unclear labels make users question the purpose of the DL. Clear descriptions in understandable language are necessary for BVI users to understand how to begin using a DL, which may be a new and unfamiliar system. When a user is not clear on how to use the system, tips should be provided to orient the user. Providing additional information for this orientation, such as what the next step is to use the system, or explaining the purpose of the system, helps users to recognize the utility of the DL. These instructions should be provided on a Help page.

Techniques and Methods:

1.1. Provide the purpose, function, structure, and coverage of a DL as part of “About this DL” (or similar label) as one of the menu items
2.1. Provide a specific help page including instructions on how to use the DL, accessibility instructions for screen reader users, and contact information for tech support
2.2. Provide easy access to help and FAQ pages, such as “Help” on the main menu, on a navigation bar, and via inline help
3.1/4.1. Provide meaningful

for section headings, features, page titles, links, menus, tabs, forms, etc.
4.2. Provide

tips for DL features
5.1. Provide text or sound alerts to convey feedback

Recommended Features:

1.1. Menu items (e.g., About this DL, Overview) (See examples 1.1.a and 1.1.b/2.1)
2.1. Help page with tutorials (See example 1.1.b/2.1)
2.2.a. List of shortcuts for screen readers users (See example 2.2.a)
2.2.b. Help and FAQ (See example 2.2.b)
3.1/4.1. Meaningful labels (See example 3.1/4.1)
4.2. Contextual help tips including help tips and inline help (See example 4.2)
5.1. Text or sound alerts (See example 5.1)


1.1.a. Menu items: Good design

Provide text description about a collection (Library of Congress)

Library of Congress example for a collection which features an About this Collection section giving background and information about the collection such as how many items it contains, the date range included, and some highlight items

1.1.b/2.1. Help page with instructions: Good design

Provide a specific Help page by categorized topics (HathiTrust)

Example of Help- Using the Digital Library page from Hathitrust which lists answers to common questions for logging in. More help menu options available in side menu include General, Partnership, Copyright, Cost Model, Ingest, Mobile Access, and US Government Documents

2.2.a. Provide easy access to the Help page: Good design

Provide a list of shortcut links for all users: Screen readers users can find those links easily in the Link list of their screen reader software.

Example of Help page featuring list of links including Coverage of the March on Milwaukee Digital Collection, March on Milwaukee Design and Structure, March on Milwaukee Search and Browse Features, Other Navigation Features, and Tips for Screen Reader Users

2.2.b. Link to the Help page: Good design

Prominent link to explicit help (e.g., “Help”) in the top menu navigation bar: A screen reader user can find the help page easily

Two versions of March on Milwaukee homepage. Second features Help added to top navigation menu for easy access.

3.1/4.1. Meaningful label: Good design

Clear labels referencing the DL collection

Two versions of March on Milwaukee interface. Second demonstrates renaming About menu item to About Collection for added specificity

4.2. Contextual help tips: Good design

Inline help can provide immediate support and help to all users (e.g., Wikipedia).

Example of popup feature in Wikipedia that gives preview of linked back to give context and definition of word

5.1. Text or sound alerts: How to example

Add ARIA-alert role to notify of the alert

<h2 role= “alert”> You did not put your address </h2>

You can find more information from w3c.org and Mozilla.org.

<button id= “alert-trigger”>
Trigger Alert
<div id= “example” role= “alert”></div>
<!–  The following script element contains the content that will be inserted into the alert element. –>
<script type= “text/template” id= “alert-template”>
<p><span lang= “da”>Hej</span>, hello, <span lang= “it”>ciao</span>, <span lang= “ja”>こんにちは</span>, <span lang= “ko”>안녕</span></p>

Related Resources:

    1. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 2.4 Navigable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#navigable
    2. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 3.1 Readable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#readable
    3. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 3.2 Predictable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#predictable
    4. UC Berkley. (2018). Top 10 Tips for Making Your Website Accessible. Retrieved from https://webaccess.berkeley.edu/resources/tips/web-accessibility
    5. HathiTrust. (2018). Help –Using the Digital Library. Retrieved from https://www.hathitrust.org/help_digital_library#SearchTips
    6. Patterson, M. (2017). 8 Best Practices for Designing a Helpful Contact Page. Retrieved from https://www.helpscout.net/helpu/contact-us-page-design/

See also:

Help-seeking Situations > C. Difficulty with help