Write accessible documentation
Always aim to write content that all users can access and understand, regardless of background or ability. These guidelines make content accessible and usable for all audiences, with or without disabilities.
To create accessible documentation, keep the guidelines for these categories of content in mind:
When you create documentation, follow these accessibility best practices for writing.
Write in plain language
Complex sentences and long paragraphs can be daunting for some users, such as those with reading disabilities or low vision, or for those who use translation tools. Plain language offers a smoother reading experience for all users. For example, users with screen readers can process text more quickly when sentences are concise and direct.
Follow these guidelines to write approachable and accessible documentation:
- Write using plain language, simple sentence construction, and short paragraphs.
- Avoid using complex words, such as jargon or complicated terminology. When you need to use terminology, use it consistently. For more guidance, see Use plain language.
- Avoid writing tasks in paragraph form. Instead, use lists to organize tasks. For more guidance on using lists, see the Lists section in this topic.
Avoid directional or visual language
Language that relies only on direction, color, shape, or pattern doesn't help users with visual disabilities or those who use screen readers. Aim to remove this language from your documentation, and add language that isn't dependent on visual cues to help the user figure out where to go.
When directing users to a location in your topic, avoid using directional language like "above", "below", "left", or "right". Instead, describe the page element based on temporal relationships, such as whether it comes before or after the current sentence, as shown in the following table:
|Temporal relationship||Word options||Correct example||Incorrect example|
|Before the current sentence||Earlier, previous||For more information, see the Writing section earlier in this topic.||For more information, see the Writing section above.|
|Following directly after the sentence||Following, next||The following table shows examples of inputs.||The table below shows examples of inputs.|
|Further in the topic||Later||For more information, see the Images section later in this topic.||See below for information on images.|
If you can't provide the information the user needs in the current paragraph, include a descriptive link to the location. If you are referring to the next paragraph or section or to the preceding paragraph or section, it's okay to use "following", "next", or "previous" without a link.
When you must guide users through the UI, refer to UI elements using their labels whenever possible. Avoid relying on directional or visual language as the only means to guide users to a location. Typically, directional language isn't needed to guide users through a task, but it's okay to include directional language in your instructions if the user might have trouble finding a location in the UI solely by the label.
Lead into new page elements
Page elements include tables, lists, images, videos, searches, commands, and code blocks. Always introduce a new page element using a complete lead-in sentence that explains what information the element contains or what the user needs to do. A lead-in sentence prepares users with what to expect from the upcoming page element.
Spell out words and symbols
Screen readers don't always refer to symbols using terms that fit the context of the sentence, so it's important to define symbols carefully in writing. Avoid unnecessary abbreviations or acronyms, especially those that don't closely match the words they refer to.
In general, use words instead of substituting them with symbols for clarity. For example, spell out words like "and", "plus", "minus", and "about" instead of using their respective symbols. Rather than using the right-pointing angle bracket to describe menu paths, use an equivalent word like "then". See the following table for examples:
|Apps and add-ons||Apps & add-ons|
|Begin your time offset with a plus ( + ) or minus ( - ) to indicate the offset from the current time.||Begin your time offset with +/- to indicate the offset from the current time.|
|It can take up to about 5 minutes for your host to display in the user interface.||It can take up to ~5 minutes for your host to display in the user interface.|
|In Splunk Web, select Settings, then Advanced Search.||In Splunk Web, select Settings > Advanced Search.|
Spell out all symbols in text if you must use them. See Show symbols in text for more information.
If you're writing UI text and you don't have space to write out the name of the symbol, use hidden text such as the
aria-label attribute to define the symbol. For more guidance, see Abbreviations in Splunk docs and Acronyms in Splunk docs.
When using pronouns that point back to or substitute for a noun, consider whether the noun that the pronoun refers to is clear. If the referent is unclear, too broad, or located far from the pronoun, the sentence can be vague or difficult to parse for users with reading disabilities. Follow these best practices:
- Avoid capturing vague or broad ideas using pronouns like "this" or "these" without additional clarification.
- Make sure that relative pronouns, like "who", "which", and "that", modify the nearest noun.
- If a pronoun can have multiple possible referents in a sentence, always specify that referent in your writing. See Pronouns for more information.
The following table contains examples of vague sentences and more precise alternatives:
|Vague sentence||Precise sentence|
|This eventually leads to the job expiring.||The job eventually expires after the search object is removed from the queue.|
|This is similar to the algorithms used for online shopping websites, which suggest related items based on what items other customers viewed or purchased.||This algorithm functions like an online shopping algorithm, which suggests related items based on what items other customers viewed or purchased.|
Descriptive titles and headings are crucial to helping all users find the information they need. For example, many screen reader users tab through headings first to figure out where they need to go. Users with reading disabilities find sections organized by headings easier to parse than long sections with fewer headings. With more descriptive and organized headings, all users can easily orient themselves and navigate through your documentation.
Follow this guidance when using headings in your documentation:
- Use headings to break up long paragraphs and help screen reader users navigate through the topic.
- Organize your topic using headers down to the H3 level. If you need to use a heading level beyond an H3, your topic might be too complex.
- Never skip heading hierarchy levels.
For more guidance on headings, see Manual names, topic titles, and section headings.
Splunk docs include judicious links to supporting material and additional information. When you lead into the link with a description, users can decide whether that link is useful to them. Follow these guidelines to include accessible links in your documentation:
- Always make sure the purpose of the link is as clear, descriptive, and meaningful as possible.
- Use the exact topic title or section heading, name of the page, or name of the entity you are linking to for the link text. Don't paraphrase the linked-to topic name.
- Don't hide a link behind other words or actions in a sentence.
- If you run Splunk apps with Splunk Enterprise, see the Splunk products version compatibility matrix to determine the versions that your apps are compatible with.
For more guidance on linking, see Best practices for including links.
Keep tables as simple as possible. Complicated tables that contain lists or merged cells are difficult to navigate using a screen reader.
Here are some accessibility best practices for tables:
- If you need to leave a table cell blank, add a nonbreaking space to the cell instead of leaving it empty. The HTML character entity for a nonbreaking space is .
- Avoid merging or splitting table cells.
- Don't use X or another character to indicate compatibility or support. Instead, use Yes and No. See Spell out words and symbols for more information.
For more guidance on using tables, see Best practices for including tables.
Follow this guidance when using lists in your documentation:
- Keep lists and sublists simple.
- Ensure that each item in the list uses parallel construction.
- Don't include more than one item, idea, or action in a single list item.
Long, complicated lists that don't follow a consistent pattern hamper users with screen readers and can confuse those with reading disabilities. For more guidance on using lists, see Best practices for writing with lists.
Images can help sighted readers understand complex workflows, refer to an icon, or view a portion of the UI, but they must include surrounding text to be meaningful for users with visual disabilities. If your image isn't visually valuable, replace the image with text instead. When you create an image, check that the image reinforces the understanding of the surrounding text and includes alt text.
Users with visual disabilities need alt text to perceive images with a screen reader. Users who are neurodivergent might use screen readers to assist their understanding of various types of images. Users who don't speak English as their first language can use tools to translate alt text for images that include English labels. All users rely on text that accurately and thoroughly describes every image in Splunk documentation.
Follow this guidance when using images in your documentation:
- Don't include new information in an image. Introduce new information in the surrounding text of the image.
- Don't rely on color to convey the message of the image. Use a combination of colors, shapes, patterns, explanatory text, and labels instead.
- Ensure your image meets the contrast ratio for users with visual disabilities. See https://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/ on the WebAIM website.
- When including screenshots in your content, be sure to capture the UI while using the light theme with your screen zoomed to 100%. Don't use the dark theme.
- Always include alt text. For guidance on writing alt text, see Include alt text.
- Lead into an image with a description of the content and the purpose of the image that makes the image meaningful.
For more guidance on using images, see Including images in Splunk docs.
Always include captions and transcripts with videos. Synchronize captions with the video and include all dialogue and important sound effects. If your video covers important visual details, make sure to describe them in your voice over.
Include alt text in images
This documentation applies to the following versions of Splunk® Style Guide: current