A major limitation of the international well-known standard web accessibility guidelines for people with cognitive disabilities is that they have not been empirically evaluated by using relevant user groups. Instead, they aim to anticipate issues that may arise following the diagnostic criteria. In this paper, we address this problem by empirically evaluating two of the most popular guidelines related to the visual complexity of web pages and the distinguishability of web-page elements. We conducted a comparative eye-tracking study with 19 verbal and highly independent people with autism and 19 neurotypical people on eight web pages with varying levels of visual complexity and distinguishability, with synthesis and browsing tasks. Our results show that people with autism have a higher number of fixations and make more transitions with synthesis tasks. When we consider the number of elements which are not related to given tasks, our analysis shows that they look at more irrelevant elements while completing the synthesis task on visually complex pages or on pages whose elements are not easily distinguishable. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical behavioural study which evaluates these guidelines by showing that the high visual complexity of pages or the low distinguishability of page elements causes non-equivalent experience for people with autism.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
All the documents and materials of our eye-tracking study (the information sheet, consent form, questionnaire, and web pages with their elements) are available in our external online repository at http://iam-data.cs.manchester.ac.uk/data_files/36.
Akpınar, M.E., Yeşilada, Y.: Vision Based Page Segmentation Algorithm: Extended and Perceived Success, pp. 238–252. Springer, Cham (2013)
Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R., Martin, J., Clubley, E.: The autism-spectrum quotient (aq): evidence from asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, malesand females, scientists and mathematicians. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 31(1), 5–17 (2001)
Battocchi, A., Ben-Sasson, A., Esposito, G., Gal, E., Pianesi, F., Tomasini, D., Venuti, P., Weiss, P., Zancanaro, M.: Collaborative puzzle game: a tabletop interface for fostering collaborative skills in children with autism spectrum disorders. J. Assist. Technol. 4(1), 4–13 (2010)
Brajnik, G., Yesilada, Y., Harper, S.: Web accessibility guideline aggregation for older users and its validation. Univers. Access Inf. Soc. 10(4), 403–423 (2011)
Britto, T.C.P., Pizzolato, E.B.: Towards web accessibility guidelines of interaction and interface design for people with autism spectrum disorder. In: Proceedings of ACHI 2016: The Ninth International Conference on Advances in Computer–Human Interactions, pp. 138–144 (2016)
Cohen, J.: Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavioral Sciences. Erlbaum, Hillsdale (1988)
Darejeh, A., Singh, D.: A review on user interface design principles to increase software usability for users with less computer literacy. J. Comput. Sci. 9(11), 1443 (2013)
Dave, D.M., Fernandez, J.M.: Rising autism prevalence: real or displacing other mental disorders? evidence from demand for auxiliary healthcare workers in California. Econ. Inq. 53(1), 448–468 (2014)
Deering, H.J.: Opportunity for success: website evaluation and scanning by students with autism spectrum disorders. Master’s thesis, Iowa State University (2013)
Dyches, T.T., Wilder, L.K., Sudweeks, R.R., Obiakor, F.E., Algozzine, B.: Multicultural issues in autism. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 34(2), 211–222 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JADD.0000022611.80478.73
Ehmke, C., Wilson, S.: Identifying web usability problems from eye-tracking data. In: Proceedings of the 21st British HCI Group Annual Conference on People and Computers: HCI...But Not As We Know It—Volume 1, British Computer Society, pp. 119–128. Swinton, BCS-HCI ’07, (2007). http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1531294.1531311
Eraslan, S., Yaneva, V., Yesilada, Y., Harper, S.: Do web users with autism experience barriers when searching for information within web pages? In: Proceedings of the 14th Web for All Conference on The Future of Accessible Work, pp. 20:1–20:4. ACM, New York, W4A ’17 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1145/3058555.3058566
Eraslan, S., Yaneva, V., Yesilada, Y., Harper, S.: Web users with autism: eye tracking evidence for differences. Behav. Inf. Technol. 38(7), 678–700 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1080/0144929X.2018.1551933
Fairweather, P., Trewin, S.: Cognitive impairments and web 2.0. Univers. Access Inf. Soc. 9, 137–146 (2010)
Follet, B., Meur, O.L., Baccino, T.: New insights into ambient and focal visual fixations using an automatic classification algorithm. iPerception Open Access J. Hum. Anim. Mach. Percept. 2(6), 592–610 (2011)
Friedman, M.G., Bryen, D.N.: Web accessibility design recommendations for people with cognitive disabilities. Technol. Disabil. 19(4), 205–212 (2007)
Gentry, T., Wallace, J., Kvarfordt, C., Lynch, K.B.: Personal digital assistants as cognitive aids for high school students with autism: results of a community-based trial. J. Vocat. Rehabil. 32(2), 101–107 (2010)
Giannoumis, G.A.: Articulating a right to the web for persons with cognitive disabilities. Univers. Access Inf. Soc. 16, 265–267 (2017)
Goldsmith, T.R., LeBlanc, L.A.: Use of technology in interventions for children with autism. J. Early Intensive Behav. Interv. 1(2), 166 (2004)
Happé, F., Frith, U.: The weak coherence account: detail focused cognitive style in autism spectrum disorder. J. Autism Dev. Disord. 36, 5–25 (2006)
Harper, S., Yesilada, Y.: Web accessibility and guidelines. In: Harper, S., Yesilada, Y. (eds.) Web Accessibility: A Foundation for Research, Human–Computer Interaction Series, chap 6, 1st edn, pp. 61–78. Springer, London (2008)
Jay, C., Lunn, D., Michailidou, E.: End User Evaluations, pp. 107–126. Springer, London (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-84800-050-6_8
Kirkpatrick, A., Connor, J.O., Campbell, A., Cooper, M.: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. W3C, (2018). https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/. Accessed 17 May 2019
Marchionini, G.: Exploratory search: from finding to understanding. Commun. ACM 49(4), 41–46 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1145/1121949.1121979
Michailidou, E.: ViCRAM: Visual Complexity Rankings and Accessibility Metrics. Ph.D. thesis, University of Manchester (2010)
Michailidou, E., Harper, S., Bechhofer, S.: Visual complexity and aesthetic perception of web pages. In: Proceedings of the 26th Annual ACM International Conference on Design of Communication, pp. 215–224. ACM, New York, SIGDOC ’08, (2008). https://doi.org/10.1145/1456536.1456581
Millen, L., Edlin-White, R., Cobb, S.: The development of educational collaborative virtual environments for children with autism. In: Proceedings of the 5th Cambridge Workshop on Universal Access and Assistive Technology, vol. 1, p. 7. Cambridge (2010)
Millen, L., Cobb, S., Patel, H., Glover, T.: Collaborative virtual environment for conducting design sessions with students with autism spectrum conditions. In: Proceedings of 9th International Conference on Disability, Virtual Reality and Association Technologies, pp. 269–278 (2012)
Miniukovich, A., De Angeli, A.: Computation of interface aesthetics. In: Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 1163–1172. ACM, New York, CHI ’15, (2015). https://doi.org/10.1145/2702123.2702575
Moore, D.: Computer-based learning systems for people with autism. In: Disabled Students in Education: Technology, Transition, and Inclusivity, pp. 84–108. IGI Global (2011)
Pallant, J.: SPSS Survival Manual: A Step By Step Guide to Data Analysis Using SPSS version 15, 4th edn. Open University Press, Maidenhead (2007)
Raymaker, D.M., Kapp, S.K., McDonald, K.E., Weiner, M., Ashkenazy, E., Nicolaidis, C.: Development of the AASPIRE web accessibility guidelines for autistic web users. Autism Adulthood 1(2), 146–157 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1089/aut.2018.0020
Seeman, L., Cooper, M.: Cognitive accessibility user research. https://www.w3.org/TR/coga-user-research/#autism (2015). Accessed 17 May 2019
Sitdhisanguan, K., Chotikakamthorn, N., Dechaboon, A., Out, P.: Using tangible user interfaces in computer-based training systems for low-functioning autistic children. Pers. Ubiquitous Comput. 16(2), 143–155 (2012)
Velichkovsky, B.M., Rothert, A., Kopf, M., Dornhöfer, S.M., Joos, M.: Towards an express-diagnostics for level of processing and hazard perception. Transp. Res. Part F Traffic Psychol. Behav. 5(2), 145–156 (2002)
WebMD Medical Reference: Understanding autism—the basics. https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/understanding-autism-basics (2017). Accessed 07 Oct 2018
Weiss, P.L., Gal, E., Eden, S., Zancanaro, M., Telch, F.: Usability of a multi-touch tabletop surface to enhance social competence training for children with autism spectrum disorder. In: Proceedings of the Chais Conference on Instructional Technologies Research, pp. 71–78 (2011)
Wu, O., Hu, W., Shi, L.: Measuring the visual complexities of web pages. ACM Trans. Web 7(1), 1:1–1:34 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1145/2435215.2435216
Yaneva, V., Ha, L. A., Eraslan, S., Yesilada, Y.: Adults with High-functioning Autism Process Web Pages With Similar Accuracy but Higher Cognitive Effort Compared to Controls. In: Proceedings of the 16th Web For All 2019 Personalization - Personalizing the Web, pp. 34:1-34:4. ACM, New York, W4A '19 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1145/3315002.3317563
Yesilada, Y.: Web page segmentation: a review. Tech. rep., Middle East Technical University. http://emine.ncc.metu.edu.tr/deliverables/emine_D0.pdf (2011). Accessed 17 May 2019
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Eraslan, S., Yesilada, Y., Yaneva, V. et al. “Keep it simple!”: an eye-tracking study for exploring complexity and distinguishability of web pages for people with autism. Univ Access Inf Soc 20, 69–84 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10209-020-00708-9
- Eye tracking
- Accessibility guidelines
- Visual complexity