How competent must people be to use the Web?

Experience and testing are necessary to create user-friendly Web sites. WCAG is a set of guidelines to ensure that the Web can also be used by the disabled. User competence is however required - even when sites are accessible and usable. MediaLT would like to define user competence, and we are very interested to hear from others working on similar approaches to this challenge.

Story by: Morten Tollefsen - 26.10.2009

MediaLT has been working with user testing of Web sites for a number of years. Despite focus on Universal Design when Web sites are created, in our experience many users struggle to use these Web sites. To give good advice during the development process and evaluation of existing sites, we need to define necessary user skills. This is also desirable in other research projects where a more precise definition of competency requirements would be useful for the implementation of user testing and / or participatory design. With the support of IT funk, Delta Center, DIFI, Datakortet, Huseby Center, Norwegian Association for the Blind and the Norwegian Association for the mentally disabled, MediaLT has started a pilot project with the following main objective:

To define necessary user competence to use WCAG 2.0 Web sites and to develop a framework for training and testing required skills.

Standards for user expertise

There are various certification schemes and competency requirements for mastery of the PC. The most well known is the ECDL Such a standard is good, but does not entirely define the necessary competency requirements for all users. The EDCL includes requirements which are not a prerequisite for using the Web in an appropriate manner. For example in the curriculum (version 4.0): " Define and understand the terms: HTTP, URL, hyperlink, ISP, FTP." It is of course useful to understand these concepts, but they are not a prerequisite for using the Web. On the other hand, some groups of users must master functionality that is not described in a standard curriculum. Blind users must for example be familiar with how the screen reader can move between headings and display a link list.

Two target groups

We do not aim to cover all assumptions and requirements in this pilot project. Two main groups have been selected: severely visually impaired users and those with cognitive disabilities.

Tests and courses

Our intention is to offer training courses relating to the defined competency requirements. It will moreover be possible to arrange tests to ensure that users participating in the evaluation of Web sites have the necessary skills.

Learn more on the project Web site.

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