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  1. #1
    SitePoint Guru Ize's Avatar
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    Source order versus Tab order

    Hi folks,

    most of the websites I create nowadays feature a navigational menu at the bottom of my HTML source, because this is, according to a lot of accessibility experts, the best way to order content. I then use CSS to pull the menu to the top.

    This works real nice, with the added advantage of Google spidering my content a little easier because it's located at the top of the file.

    For visual users, however, this sometimes works confusing when using the keyboard to navigate. I often notice this myself, because I want to check out my :focus styles on the menu. I start Tabbing the page, which visually skips the navigation bar, starting at the main content, and only when the last (=visually last) focus-able element in the page has been tabbed, the focus shoots back up to my navigation which resides at the top of my site.

    I'm curious to how other people experience this. One the one hand, it's an accessibility feature, helping visually impaired users. For screen reader users this is probably an optimal solution, since they "see" the content in the order I intend.
    On the other hand, a lot of people with perfect vision use the Tab-key to navigate. These people will probably be confused by the seemingly weird order.

    I'm looking forward to discussing this issue.

  2. #2
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    The tab order needs to be logical. Some purists claim that the tab order must not deviate from the visual order, but I disagree. As long as you clearly indicate which element has input focus, there shouldn't be much of a problem.

    The main issue is that different people have different preferences. Some prefer to get to the navigation first; others, like me, prefer to get to the content first. I saw a usability study where blind users showed a 50/50 split about this.

    So no matter which you choose, you'll end up annoying half your visitors.

    A skip link at the top of the document alleviates most problems, though.
    Birnam wood is come to Dunsinane

  3. #3
    SitePoint Guru Ize's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AutisticCuckoo View Post
    The tab order needs to be logical. Some purists claim that the tab order must not deviate from the visual order, but I disagree. As long as you clearly indicate which element has input focus, there shouldn't be much of a problem.

    The main issue is that different people have different preferences. Some prefer to get to the navigation first; others, like me, prefer to get to the content first. I saw a usability study where blind users showed a 50/50 split about this.

    So no matter which you choose, you'll end up annoying half your visitors.

    A skip link at the top of the document alleviates most problems, though.
    Thanks for your reply, and your comment about the skip link couldn't be more true.

    I think it differs from website to website as well. A usability study should show probably what people come to your site for, and thus what should be the easiest to reach.


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