SC Shortname

Clear structure and relationships

SC Text

Clear structure and relationships: Information, structure, and relationships, conveyed through presentation, provide for a clear and unambiguous identification of relationships between elements, and for the separation of different sections of content. 

Exception: If a specific structure is an essential part of the main function.



Suggestion for Priority Level (A/AA/AAA)

AA or A

Related Glossary additions or changes


What Principle and Guideline the SC falls within.

We suggest a new guideline under principle 3 "Provide a clear structure and layout"

Description and Benefits

This success criterion is part of the need to provide a clear layout that people with different disabilities will know how to use. Many users may experiment with different layouts and structures until they work out how to use them. However, people with cognitive disabilities may not be able to do so, and thus will be unable to use content or an application.

For example, consider the difficulty in determining which scroll bar to use if there are more than one embedded in scrollable regions. When users try the wrong scroll bar, they do not get the effect they desire. Many users will look again at the content; try and work out what they are supposed to do; and discover the correct scroll bar. However, many people with cognitive disabilities will not be able to work out what they did incorrectly. Others will feel cognitive overload, and will give up before they try. They may assume the application is broken, or that it is just too complicated for them. For all of these users, the application will not be usable.

In another example, chunks of content run into each other with a "flat design". Whereas some users can work out which chunks belong together, many users with cognitive disabilities will find it challenging or impossible. Thus, all the benefits of chunking content are lost.

Who it helps

This supports people with intellectual disabilities, and those who have any type of Aphasia, specific learning difficulties, as well as those with general cognitive learning disabilities. This also supports those who have Dementia, and/or who acquire cognitive disabilities as they age.


See also:

The Aphasia Alliance's Top Tips for 'Aphasia Friendlier' Communication taken from

Phiriyapkanon. Is a big button interface enough for elderly users? P34, Malardardalen University Press Sweden 2011.


Toepoel, V., Das, M. and van Soest, A. 2006. Design of web questionnaires: The effect of layout in rating scales, Tilberg, , The Netherlands: Tilburg University. (Discussion Paper No. 2006‐30, CentERdta) (accessed 5th june, 2015)

Hartley, J. and Betts, L. 2010. Four layouts and a finding: the effects of changes in the order of the verbal labels and the numerical values on Likert‐type scale scores. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 13: 17-27


You can find more evidence in the links below, including the COGA Techniques and Background research document. Feel free to add more!



Related Resources From COGA



Part 1

  1. Look at the content. Are there controls that act only on one section of the content? If no, go to Part 2.
  2. Are they separated using a known technique OR are unambiguous via user testing (user testing of at least 5 users with cognative disabilities in the primary modality of the content) (Note: it also needs to be programmability determinable for 1.3.1.)

(pass outcome:

Part 2

  1. Look at the content. Identify different regions, including paragraphs and areas with a different function, such as call out boxes, navigation bars, and advertisements.
  2. Determine if they are separated using a known technique or, via user testing of at least 5 users (in the primary modality of the content), if they are unambiguous.

(pass: yes to item 2)







working groups notes (optional)