Planning Kit for a Quality Site for Small and Medium Sized Museums

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The Quality Principles Handbook says:


This section examines the first quality principle, that «A quality Website must be transparent, clearly stating the identity and purpose of the Website, as well as the organisation responsible for its management». It:

  • examines how to interpret the transparency principle
  • outlines criteria for establishing whether or not a Website is transparent
  • suggests a checklist of Website characteristics to be used to ensure transparency
  • describes a number of tests which can be taken in order to verify that the Website is transparent.


Technical access and assistive technology.

The accessibility principle focuses on the need to serve all members of the user community. These will include blind and partially sighted people, deaf and hard of hearing people, people with motor nerve problems and dexterity issues, people with reading difficulties or people with learning difficulties. It is worthwhile to bear in mind that the accessibility requirements of several groups of disabled people remain little considered, for example those of deaf people and people with learning difficulties. It is important to note that culture is part of the heritage and patrimony of all EU citizens – thus, they must be able to access cultural Websites.

Web technologies make great use of images, icons, shapes and colours to interact with the user. This visual interface is one of the major success factors of the Web, rendering it attractive and intuitive to the general public. Unfortunately, this visual focus sometimes makes the Web less accessible to those who have visual disabilities.

A distinct class of technologies exists which act as an interface between the Web and those who have difficulties using the standard browser-mouse-keyboard access paradigm. They include user interface devices to replace the mouse and keyboard, Braille screens and keyboards as well as software applications which ‘read out’ Web pages.

The core of the accessibility principle is that cultural Websites must facilitate the use of such supplementary technologies. In practice, that means that Websites should aim to comply with the international best practice and standards which govern accessibility. The most widespread of these is the W3C Web Access Initiative (WAI) guidelines ( These guidelines award a certain compliance level to Websites, based on the degree to which they facilitate supplementary access technologies. To a large degree, this can be interpreted to mean the degree to which a textual equivalent is provided for every visual interface element, such as images, buttons, icons, etc.

This may take the form of a parallel ‘text-only’ version of a Website, or involve careful planning and implementation of a dual-purpose site.

Fortunately, tools are available which automate the process of compliance verification. Such software should be used by all cultural institutions. A list of accessibility testing tools is available at

It must be noted that automated tools alone cannot detect if a page is accessible. You will need to have a systematic process for testing accessibility using manual testing, if possible testing by people with disabilities.

The principle makes a particular note that all aspects of the Website should enable universal access. Thus, it is not only static elements of the site that must comply with the appropriate standards; forms, discussion fora, interactive elements, short-term and rapidly obsolescent content must all comply.

It may be noted that there is an increasing trend to mandate accessibility, usually expressed in terms of compliance with the W3C WAI guidelines, as part of the specification of national and government-funded Websites. Thus, this principle is likely to be mandatory in most EU states in the foreseeable future.

Technical access

Another important aspect of accessibility is the need to support multiple technologies. What this means is that cultural Websites should not present their online material in a manner or form which relies on the use of a single, particular presentation technology. Proprietary extensions and plugins should be avoided. Multiple browser types (e.g. Mozilla-based browsers, Netscape, Opera, not just Internet Explorer) should be supported, consideration should be given to hand-held and mobile presentation platforms.

In addition, the site should be usable by those who have only a slow (e.g. 56 kbps) connection to the Internet. This has implications for the manner and quality of presentation of cultural material, which is typically multimedia or at least ‘image-heavy’ in nature.


The following criteria should be met if a site is to be considered accessible. The degree of accessibility reflects the number of these criteria which are met; thus a site can be ‘75% accessible’ if not all the criteria are met.

  • The site should aim to comply with W3C WAI guidelines. The site should have appropriate policies and systematic procedures for ensuring the site meets appropriate accessibility guidelines

  • The site should be usable and have appropriate policies and systematic procedures for ensuring the site’s usability
  • During the design of the Website, the use of excessive and unnecessary visual-only and multimedia cues, such as animation, should be avoided
  • The use of colour to create semantic borders between different parts of Web pages should be avoided, unless a second and complementary approach is used to define the same borders
  • The site should be planned such that the text of the site, on its own and without any images or other elements, can give a full impression of the site and can transmit a high proportion of the total value of the site
  • The site should not rely on proprietary technologies or extensions, nor on the use of plugins
  • The site should support multiple browser types
  • The site may support mobile and handheld devices and should take them into account during design and development
  • The site should support meaningful access for those with slow Internet connections


This section presents a checklist to evaluate the site. It should be noted that there are a large number of accessibility checkpoints - these are best explored by consulting the W3C guidelines at


Site complies with W3C WAI guidelines

Compliance was planned from the start, to maximise text-only value      
Animation and multimedia used only where necessary      
No proprietary technologies or plugins used      
Multiple browser platforms supported      
Slow Internet connection not a major obstacle to use      

Practical tests

This section suggests some simple, pragmatic tests and questions to be asked in order to assess how completely your Website meets the accessibility principle

  1. Does the site appear comply with W3C WAI guidelines?
  2. Was the site planned from the start to support access from a wide range of delivery channels?
  3. Does the site make sense without any images?
  4. Does the site still have value without any images?
  5. Was the site planned from the start to support universal access?
  6. Does the site rely on proprietary extensions or plugins?
  7. Are multiple browser types supported?
  8. Are mobile and handheld devices supported?
  9. Are slow Internet connections supported?

© Minerva Project 2005-03, last revision 2006-03-30, edited by WP5, Committee for the development of a prototype of public cultural websites.
URL: www.minervaeurope/structure/workinggroups/userneeds/prototipo/verificaqualita/principi/accessibile_e.html