How accessible are Britain's online newspapers? Part 9 - Daily Star

 by Martin Belam, 16 November 2007

Although I originally only intended to review 8 newspapers in this series of posts looking at the accessibility of Britain's online newspapers, The Daily Star has recently re-designed. I therefore thought that it would be worth running my eye over the new design for accessibility features, in the same way that I have tested the Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Guardian, Independent, The Sun, The Telegraph and The Times.

The re-designed Daily Star

Text resize

Sadly it seems that the new Daily Star site has been coded with fixed font sizes. This means that it is not possible for a user to increase the size of the text when browsing the site using Internet Explorer 6.

Firefox, as ever, endeavors to re-size the text, but this causes a severe breakdown in the layout of the page, with large amounts of content over-lapping as a result of viewing the site with an increased font size.

The Daily Star badly broken in Firefox

Alternative image text

The Daily Star site does include alternative text for all of the images on the homepage. However for stories, the alt text simply replicates the main headline. Not only is this unhelpful alternative text, it simply means that anyone having the page read to them via a screen-reader will have to listen to repetition of each headline.

The Daily Star alt text echoing the headline

JavaScript unavailable

When browsing the site without JavaScript enabled in my browser, I came across one navigational problem. The Daily Star has a 'Take me to...' drop-down menu as part of the site's global navigation. This doesn't work without JavaScript enabled.

Daily Star drop-down menu

Other areas where I looked for problems included The Daily Star's search functions, the vote on the homepage, and the registration process for the My Star service. I didn't encounter any trouble using these without JavaScript.

My Star sign up logo

Browsing using FANGS

Throughout this set of reviews I've been using Firefox Add-On FANGS to emulate the output of screen-reading software JAWS. My test has been to count the number of words read out to a user before they reach the main headline on a newspaper homepage, and add to it the number of words it takes to get to the start of the story having followed a link there.

The Daily Star performed relatively well compared to some newspapers. It took 258 words to get to the main headline, and then once the user was on a story it took 589 words to get to the main content. However, I think it is a concern that I consider getting to a story within 847 words anything other than abysmal.

The Daily Star's HTML code appears to have no 'skip navigation' or 'go to main content' links, and there are no specific accesskeys programmed in the page.

Next week I'll be finishing this series with an outline of the methodology I've used for carrying out the tests, and by publishing a table illustrating the accessibility features and failings of each of the newspapers I've looked at.

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