PubMed at the UW: A Promising Practice in Universal Web Design

DO-IT Factsheet #1242

The University of Washington Health Sciences Libraries have developed a how-to website for users of PubMed, a popular online database from the National Library of Medicine that provides citations for biomedical articles dating back to the 1950s. The how-to site, PubMed at the UW [1], teaches library patrons how to use the database and helps them understand the idiosyncrasies of the product that are unique to the University of Washington.

This how-to site, along with its host site HealthLinks [2] (which features links to electronic journals, databases, newspapers, reference tools, software, the UW Libraries Catalog, and related health sciences resources), was created in the 1990s and has been through several changes, most notably a complete structural overhaul in 2002. The goal was to simplify the style and layout of the site while improving its accessibility and usability.

The following is a summary of the accessibility changes:

Web developers at the Health Sciences Libraries claim that their concern about standards, accessibility, and usability is largely inspired by the grassroots efforts of The Web Standards Project [4], Jeffrey Zeldman's Designing With Web Standards [5], and Joe Clark's Building Accessible Websites [6]. Their goal has been and continues to be to create an environment in which accessibility, usability, and standards-based design are part of the workflow.