What is Navigation Testing?
Keyboard navigation is an essential and the most critical aspect of any website accessibility experience. It is something that defines how well your business understands its target audience and considers their preferences on priority. To ensure this, teams carry out specific procedures known as Navigation Testing to make sure that the ease of accessibility is provided to the end-user and helps them understand the flow of the web pages.
Keyboard Accessibility Testing can be performed at two different stages of a website development project. Either in the initial phase before the development starts or afterward. However, carrying out the navigation testing in web application during the initial phases saves the headaches and time from redesigning the web pages.
Why include Navigation Testing in the Web Development Testing Project?
To have a website that is operable for all kinds of users including people with some sort of disabilities or blind users, it is important to provide keyboard accessibility features for your application. However, there are users with no disabilities who choose to go with keyboard accessibility features out of the preferences, habits, or efficiency factors. A website that delivers every required information without making the use of a mouse ranks much higher than the ones which are not keyboard operable.
For a seamless accessibility user experience, a web page must not only focus on keyboard operability but also other complementing factors like focus identifiers, correct tab orders, etc.
Key areas to focus on while doing Keyboard Navigation Accessibility Testing
While performing keyboard accessibility checks in a website navigation testing procedure, it is essential to keep in mind the very common interaction elements along with their standard keystrokes with additional information as required. Let us have a look at some of the most used interactive elements and various types of navigation testing involved in a web application.
Navigation through the interactive elements
For navigating forward or to the next element in order, the standard keystroke being used is Tab. Similarly, to navigate back to the previous element, make use of Shift + Tab. An effective manner to make the keyboard accessibility more efficient is to highlight the currently in-focus element with the help of visual indicators such as outline borders, etc.
It is also important to consider the default navigation order while tabbing the interactive elements on a web page. Ideally, it happens in the standard visual order i.e., from left to right and top to bottom. However, considering the parent-level logical view, the navigation order first traverses through the headers, then the main menu followed by the page navigation (if any), and finally the footer area.
Last but not least, do not make the non-interactive elements tabbed as it might create confusion for the end-users. A few examples of non-interactive elements on a web page are any text panel or section delivering only a piece of information and do not demand any kind of user touch or interactivity.
Working with Links
When the tabbed element is a link in focus then the standard keystroke used for activating the link and navigating to the associated URL is the Enter key. However, it is important to note that all the HTML elements tagged as <a> should not be treated as links if they have an empty href attribute i.e., <a href = “ “>.
Buttons Interactivity via Keyboards
The standard keystrokes for interacting with button controls are either a Spacebar or an Enter key. Also, elements that are defined with the role as that of a button can be activated with these keystrokes as well.
Checkboxes and Radio buttons
Checkboxes can be used where the user is required to select a set of options from a given list. The keystroke for activating and entering into a checkbox is a Spacebar and for navigating through the list, Tab and Shift+Tab can be used (for forwarding and backward navigation respectively).
Unlike checkboxes, radio buttons can be used where the users are required to make only a single selection from the provided list. The standard keystrokes used for this purpose are ↑/↓ or ←/→ based on the alignment of the radio buttons on the web page, i.e., horizontal alignment or vertical alignment.
Selection using dropdowns or menu boxes
For navigating between the menu items in a dropdown element, the up arrow (↑) and the down arrow (↓) can be used and an Enter or a Spacebar key is used for finalizing or expanding the selection. Also, users can jump to or filter out items from the dropdown menu using alphabet keys.
Dialog Boxes Accessibility
Any popups or dialogs appearing on the web page as a result of a button or a link element clicked, pressing the Esc key should close the dialog. Also, on closing the dialog modals, the focus should go back to the element that activated the dialog box appearance. Moreover, modal dialogs must have the keyboard focus with highlighted visual appearances.
Playing with Sliders
Sliders are the elements used for allowing the end-users to set a range and thus some web pages may have a double-headed slider which means that the element has two interactive ends. Shift+Tab and Tab key can be used for switching between the two ends of the slider element. Likewise, radio buttons and checkboxes, the up arrow (↑), and the down arrow (↓) keys are used as the default keystrokes for increasing or decreasing the range values respectively. However, for higher increments, the Page Up and the Page Down keys are used.
Scroll Bars Interactivity
For scrolling vertically through a web page, the up arrow (↑), and the down arrow (↓) keys are used as standard keystrokes, and the left arrow (←) and the right arrow (→) keys for scrolling horizontally. Page-level scrolling requires Spacebar and Spacebar+Shift keys.
Few bonus tips
- Having a lot of navigating links can be a bit exhausting for the user to keep track of the originality of the content idea. Hence, it is wise to have a skip to main content navigation on your web page.
- Ensure that the entire web content can be made accessible to the audience via a keyboard alone.
- Avoid and minimize the usage of horizontal scrolling.
By now it is quite clear that keyboard accessibility is an important aspect of web design services being offered to the end-users. Incorporating keyboard navigation testing in the website application development process makes the entire user experience more inclusive and also helps the businesses to understand the audiences better.