Garry, Creative Director at web design company Cole AD discusses how we can make websites more accessible
“If we make the website accessible, is it going to be bland and cost a fortune to build?”
We get asked this question often, but thankfully there is a change in attitude towards accessible website design. For those of you commissioning a new website project this will help you write a better plan. It will also give you the confidence that you can achieve accessibility on a budget. For developers and designers, it will help you organise yourselves to be cost efficient and be creative!
Where to start
It seems intuitive to start at the beginning, but sometimes it’s difficult to define the beginning. Because accessibility covers so many aspects and so many needs that often clients and developers find it difficult to agree on where to start. And where to start is so important, because it will influence everything you do throughout the whole project and beyond the go live date.
Focus groups are a great way to start a project. It helps you define your accessibility guidelines and how that blends with the needs of the website you’re creating. At Cole AD We like to run the focus groups as we find sometimes the clients are so close to the job they miss the obvious. We also make sure that the developers and designers, along with key staff members working on the project are in on the actual day. Various focus groups to cover the audience and staff involved in maintaining the site is advantageous too.
Researching accessible design can be daunting as there are so many different opinions out there. One of the best sources of information we found this year was at a talk we attended at UX Scotland (this link will take you away from our website). The presentation by Dr Michael Crabb called ‘Accessible Everyone’ was a brilliant introduction into understanding this fascinating subject and it will help you get your head round all of the challenges you will face. This shared link will take you to a video of Dr Michael Crabb 45 minute presentation (this link will take you away from our website. The RNIB is a great place for more detailed guidelines, which I’ve included here (this link will take you away from our website). But your first port of call should be to the W3C Web Accessibility introduction (this link will take you away from our website) – this will give you the fundamentals you require.
How do you know you got it right?
This can be a difficult question to answer. Did you engage with focus groups and take your research onboard? Is the organisation you built the site for creating accessible content and maintaining those standards? Thankfully you can test and measure your site in various ways.
User groups are key to finding out if you have hit the mark. It takes a lot of time and effort to organise a usability study with a range of disabled users, but it is worthwhile. You will learn two things: Did we fulfil the brief for the client? Did we meet our accessibility targets? At Cole AD we design the user testing, we find a suitable venue that will accommodate everyones needs and deliver the testing and compile the outcomes. You will often hear that independent user testing is better, but in my experience allowing your designers and developers to see actual disabled users using the site is a huge benefit to everyone.
Independent technical testing is a must when you are near going live. There are organisations out there who will run independent testing for you. The better ones will run follow up testing after your go live date.
Work we are proud of
When creating an accessible website we use all of these processes, along with all of our other skills and practices we use in producing a well-designed website. The latest examples being (this website) the ALLIANCE’s and the SUSE site, you can read more about these projects in our ALLIANCE case study (this link will take you away from our website or visit The SUSE Website (this link will take you away from our website).
I have long been an advocate of accessible design, not only for websites, but for all types of graphical communication. So if anybody needs any assistance or just some advice, please get in touch with me as I want to help make accessible design the norm.