There are many levels of accessibility possible for a Website or application.  Although The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has gone to great lengths to publish accessibility standards for various devices, including Web and mobile, I have rarely found clients who want to implement Websites or Web applications to these most rigorous standards.

And yet…requests for keyboard do crop up with regularity, particularly in Web applications that are used day in and day out.  Mice have never been the most efficient means of entering data. If you’re doing data entry on a regular basis, you want a way to get to your standard functions pretty quickly.

The W3C publishes a recommendation: “Keyboard Accessible: Understanding Guideline 2.1” explaining how make a Website or Web application entirely accessible via a keyboard. It’s comprehensive in scope.

Another detailed explanation of keyboard mapping can be found in the Best Practices section of Web Accessibility. Here, the guidelines include about a dozen technical guidelines, including:

  • Ensure all active elements receive keyboard focus
  • Ensure the tab order of interactive elements on the page is logical
  • provide access keys for frequently used functions

Just these three guidelines alone will go a long ways to helping any Web application or Website become easier to use with a keyboard.

Blogger Damian Edwards has another, savvy take on the subject of keyboard mapping in his post: “The Web is the new Terminal: Are you using the Web’s Keyboard Shortcuts and Hotkeys?”

Edwards points to some prominent examples of “awesome” keyboard support for Websites and Web applications, including Twitter and Google Mail.

Here are Twitter’s Keyboard Shortcuts, as published on their “Help” menu:

keyboard-shortcuts-Twitter

Simple, yes?  They’re pretty easy to remember – like “F” for “Favorite,” “T” for “Re-tweet” and “R” for “Reply.” I also especially like the use of the “/” key for “Search.”

The use of “G” + another letter to “go to” a section of the site is repeated in Gmail. It’s a great idea, and MUCH simpler for users to remember than such awkward (and hard to remember) keyboard combinations for main navigation as  Alt+Shift++some other key.

If you’re not out to provide accessibility, but are mostly interested in enabling your users and providing speed and efficiency, a combination of basic navigation “shortcuts” such as found on Twitter and Gmail, and a basic implementation of navigation through fields based on keyboard focus (with overall navigation keys such as “tab” and the arrow keys) provides an excellent combination of help for the keyboard-oriented user.

 

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