Technology has advanced to a point where almost anyone can set up a website – no coding experience needed! It’s easy to get carried away with glitz, glamour, flashing signs and a swinging carousel of images. This is where user experience, or UX, comes into play. And let’s not forget web accessibility. Many of us have something to do with a website. So whether we contribute to one, manage one, or are commissioning one, there are some basics to know.
First some statistics. Seventeen per cent of users will not return after just one bad experience. Forty-eight per cent of users are annoyed by sites that aren’t mobile friendly.
The DreamHost blog has two articles, one explaining how UX works, and the other is about web accessibility. It’s a pity they weren’t joined up into one article. Accessibility is not an optional add-on. It should be considered from the outset of the initial design and be a continuous process for ongoing content.
While the UX articlefocuses on “target audience” and forgets this audience might need accessibility features, it has some useful advice. No need to get too bogged down with detail here. It covers navigation, content, animation, and responsiveness.
The article, 10 ways to make your website accessible is a good start for anyone new to the concept. It covers many of the basics such as colour choice, adding descriptions to images, and text size. Avoid tables for presenting data because screen readers can’t read them unless they are coded correctly. An accessible site expands the potential audience and helps with search engine rankings.
Editor’s note: We do our best with accessibility and rely on in-built coding with the free software we use to keep the site running. We receive no funding to run this service. However, we welcome feedback if you find specific difficulties with this website.
Make your product more usable by more people in less time. That’s a great aim, and it is the opening line in the IBM Equal Access Toolkit. With many websites remaining inaccessible, this toolkit assists web developers and designers increase accessibility. It comes with Accessibility Checkers and has reporting tools for accessibility conformance.
Non-tech people should also have a look at this Toolkit especially if they are in charge of contracting a web developer for their website. Or when they update their website.
There are five steps: Plan, Design, Develop, Verify, and Launch. The process inolves the whole team regardless of their level of expertise.
The Equal Access Checklist is where it gets technical and links to the WCAG2.0/2.1 Checkpoints. There are four principles underpinning the process.
1: Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
2: Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable.
3: Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
4: Robust – Content must be robust enough so it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
For an overview, G3ict has a media release explaining why this toolkit is needed. Accessibility is an issue that comes up in legal and policy discussions in many organisations. While many websites have improved their accessibility there is still a long way to go. It is worth noting that a new site might be fully accessible but as new material is uploaded, it isn’t always checked for accessibility over time.
When organisations decide to refresh their website they usually focus on factors such as positive brand imaging and deciding what information is the most important. So the idea of involving users at any point can be a bit scary. What if they want to change things? What if all our brand work is undone? Can we really afford the time to do it?
The bottom line is that if you don’t involve users from the outset then your website will receive less traffic. Being willing to accept feedback, particularly on accessibility, gives all website visitors a good experience. And don’t assume your web designer has all this in hand. Very few home pages are accessible in spite of legislation requiring this.
The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative has a toolkit to guide web designers AND organisations through the process of involving users. The toolkit includes a one minute videoof why designers should include users from the outset. The material is focused on users rather than technical aspects. It helps avoid some of the pitfalls and at the same time improve general usability for everyone.
The toolkit is extensive and each section is downloadable separately. The title is, Involving users in Evaluation Web Accessibility.
Digital infrastructure accessibility and content accessibility are not the same things. Infrastructure covers things like elements that show up on every page and anything related to navigation. Content is anything that can be updated and uploaded. So that’s text, documents, articles, photos and videos. We all need to stay vigilant on web accessibility.
A key point in an informative article from Sheri Byrne-Haber is:
Every single time the content is updated, content accessibility should be reassessed.
This is particularly relevant if staff or third parties are free to upload content onto a site, or are providing content. The other key point is:
Accessibility is never one-off and done.
Byrne-Haber uses a case study to show how organisations can be left vulnerable to lawsuits if they don’t check regularly for accessibility. Webpages can be accessible today, but next week they might not be because new content has not been assessed for accessibility.