Design for clarity and simplicity

The web makes it easy to be unrestrained in posting content and resources. In the course of developing communications and resources, it's easy to say, "Hey, let's put it on the web," with the idea that the resource might be of use to someone. However, there is a cost to usability and accessibility when websites and web applications are built ad hoc. Each new item adds complexity and potentially decreases usability and accessibility.

This step might seem like it's not a part of accessibility. However, it's an essential prerequisite to ensuring that you're thinking about online accessibility from the perspective of user experience—in other words, the tasks you want people to be able to complete and the goals you want people to be able to achieve, including people with disabilities.

  • Define a purpose and user goals. Every website and web application should have a clearly articulated purpose and goals to guide creation and ongoing development. When considering new content and features, cross-check the original purpose and goals. Is the new resource relevant? Is it consistent with the project goals? If not, think twice before adding the resource. If it's a resource that would provide value to users, consider revisiting and revising project goals.
  • Use planning tools to support content strategy. We recommend using the OpenScholar project planning resources, including the project charter template (doc). A project charter helps keep web projects focused and scoped for success.


  • Can you map every page and feature of your site to a specific project goal? Is every element present for a purpose?
  • Are the necessary and most relevant resources obvious and easy to locate?
  • Can people readily answer the question, “Where am I and what can I do here?" on every page of your site?


✎ Technique: Create a project charter

A well-defined charter helps keep websites focused on meeting the needs of their target audience, ensuring that the site's architecture is logical and that users can find the information they need and complete tasks effectively.


This is a sample project definition for a (fictional) academic department site.


Support communication needs and business processes associated with the Department of Rocket Science at Cosmic University.


  • Build general knowledge about rocket science
  • Demonstrate Cosmic University’s leadership in rocket science
  • Demonstrate the impact of studying rocket science at Cosmic
  • Demonstrate the ethos of Cosmic’s rocket science department
  • Build community within the Department of Rocket Science
  • Streamline department processes for better efficiency and responsiveness

Use the project charter template (doc) to create a project charter for your website.