What is POUR? UX Question #72

Watch on YouTube

YouTube player

Listen to the podcast

Read the transcript

Logan from San Francisco asks: What is POUR?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Logan. This is UX Question number 72 and I am Ben Judy.

What is POUR? Well, it’s an acronym, P-O-U-R, that has to do with accessibility. POUR stands for Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.

These four key words are, in fact, the accessibility principles that make up the backbone of the WCAG guidelines. That’s another acronym, W-C-A-G, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

The first iteration of the WCAG guidelines were published in 1999, introducing three conformance levels for accessible web pages made with HTML. A major revision, WCAG 2.0 was released in 2008, and that’s when POUR came into the picture. Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust became the major categories for web accessibility success criteria.

I’ll quickly give you an example of how each of the principles might play out.

Perceivable: imagine the main navigation links on a website are displayed in a different order from page to page. Because a user has to relearn basic navigation for each page, she cannot perceive how to move through the website.

Operable: imagine a website is designed so that a mouse pointer is required to navigate or provide input. A person with low or no vision or motor impairment may not be able to use a mouse. They might be able to use a keyboard just fine, but the website is inoperable because it wasn’t designed to make all functionality available from a keyboard.

Understandable: if a website has content that relies heavily on abbreviations, jargon, and acronyms without readily available definitions, it won’t be understandable—not only to people with certain cognitive disabilities, but also anyone who just isn’t familiar with those terms.

Finally, Robust: imagine a website has documents or particular code that can only be viewed by a specific web browser. The site is not compatible with other user agents or web browsers. It isn’t robust, so it’s not usable to some people who prefer to use assistive technologies to access the web, or who simply don’t have access to that particular browser.

These are just examples, of course. POUR principles form the backbone of the WCAG guidelines, such as in the current draft version 2.2. I encourage you to check out those guidelines. You’ll see all manner of topics addressed such as, providing text alternatives, designing for people prone to seizures and other physical reactions, alternative input modalities, readability, input assistance, status messages, and so much more related to making the web more accessible.

The more familiar you become with POUR principles and the WCAG guidelines, the less likely you’ll be to do a poor job with accessibility.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: What are user personas?

Referenced in this episode:

Support UX Questions

Visit us on Patreon and check out the great perks at each level of support!

Become a sponsor

You can advertise your products or services—our promote yourself as a UX professional—by sponsoring episodes of UX Questions! See the Sponsor page for details.

Hire Ben Judy

Ben is available for consulting engagements as a workshop facilitator, mentor, design coach, and more! See the Ben page for details.

, ,