E3. Difficulty identifying items that require downloading before viewing

Situation Definition:

A situation that arises from difficulty in distinguishing between an item that may be accessed directly in a DL and an item that is only accessible after downloading.

Factor(s) Leading to the Situation:

    • Inadequate support:

    • Inappropriate labeling:

Guideline or Design Recommendation:

    1. Indicate which items must be first downloaded in order to be viewed
    2. Provide guidance on how to view items required to be downloaded directly from a DL
    3. Facilitate display of items that require downloading

Rationale and Objective:

Some DL items can be immediately accessed in the browser without downloading, while others need to be downloaded in order to access them. Clear textual descriptions are needed to distinguish which items can be accessed directly and which cannot. As much as possible, items should be provided in a way that is immediately available, since items that require downloading most often also require additional software to access. Moreover, the time required to download items can be significant, especially if a fast internet connection is not available.

Techniques and Methods:

1.1. Add a clear text indicator to signal if an item needs to be downloaded in order to view it
2.1. Provide the file format designations for each item as part of the

2.2. Provide help tips and instructions regarding how to view/download items in different formats
2.3. Provide information on what software is needed to view items that first require downloading, including links to that software, when available
3.1. Provide filter options to display only items that require downloading before viewing or only items that are directly viewable

Recommended Features:

1.1. Text indicators (See example 1.1)

—file format (See example 2.1)
2.2. Help tips and instructions (See example 2.2)
3.1. Filter options  (See example 3.1.a and 3.1.b)


1.1. Text indicator: Good design

Artstor displays the “Download” item button as text so that BVI users can read it.

Interface that includes a Download button presented as text, which allows users to Download item or Down detail view

2.1. Metadata file format: Good design

File format is provided in the metadata (March On Milwaukee).

Metadata for an itemed titled "Barbee Papers, Transcript Amos VS School Board, 1974 January 24" which includes the the format element Digital Format: PDF

2.2. Help tips and instruction: Good design

Artstor provides instructions on how to download an image on the Help page.

Example of instructions to download an image, which reads: "To download an image file: *Audio files and video files are not available for download. If you have opened an audio file or a video file with an image as the thumbnail, only the .jpg image/placeholder will download. 1. Log in to your Artstor account. (You must be logged in with a registered Artstor accound to download content) 2. Search for items or open a collection or group 3. Click an item thumbnail to launch the Detail page 4. Click the Download button 5. Selected Download Item 6. Click to Accept our Terms and Conditions of Use 7. Your file will download into whichever folder you have designated for downloads from your web browser."

3.1.a. Filter option for online items: Good design

The Smithsonian Institution provides filter options for search results.

Search results page with emphasis box added to "Only return results with online media" option and corresponding code "online media:true"

3.1.b. Filter option for online items: Good design

NSDL provides the “Media Format” and a user can narrow it down to select the file format they want to find.

Search results page with emphasis box added to Media Format filter which allows users to filter results by Audio, Downloadable docs, Graphics/Photos, Interactive, Mobile, Text/HTML, Video, or Other formats

Related Resources:

    1. Smithsonian Digital Library. (2018). Smithsonian Libraries. Retrieved from https://library.si.edu/
    2. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 1.1: Text-alternatives. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#text-alternatives
    3. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 2.4 Navigable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#navigable
    4. W3C. (2018). WCAG 2.1 Guideline 3.2 Predictable. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#predictable
    5. W3C. (2019).  WAI_ARIA Authoring Practices 1.1. Retrieved from https://www.w3.org/TR/wai-aria-practices-1.1/

See Also:

Help-seeking Situations > E. Difficulty identifying current status, path, or cursor mode