Easy Ways to Evaluate Your Website's Accessibility May 03, 2017
Evaluating your website’s accessibility can seem like a huge task. If images of scrolling through page after page of your site endlessly trying to figure out what might cause visitors issues are popping into your head, then stop and take a breath. Luckily for website owners, there are a lot of different resources out there that are making it easier for sites to be brought up to accessibility standards. There are sites to evaluate potential issues, ones to help you improve your WCAG 2.0 compliance, and even experts to help guide you along the way. Here is an easy guide to help you along the path to figuring what accessibility issues exist on your site, and how to start getting rid of them for good.
Know the Rules
The rules were created for a reason – they actually really help people. The WCAG 2.0 guidelines are filled with helpful information and ways to increase the accessibility of your website. A lot of people tend to think these guidelines are a barrier to creativity and exciting web design. I think Mark Root-Wiley captured the answer to this type of thinking best when he wrote, “Accessibility and style aren’t mutually exclusive, but following design trends (or even last-minute ideas) without proper consideration and testing will lead to accessibility disasters … not to mention other potential usability problems.” Accessibility is a big issue for website owners. Web design must be carefully considered and new changes thought through carefully. Otherwise, you risk alienating a large portion of your website visitors who cannot use your website due to poor accessibility.
Learn the Basics
If you’ve checked out the WCAG 2.0 rules, then you now know there are a lot of them. The tiny details that contribute to an accessible website can seem overwhelming at first. That’s why it is a good idea to start with some of the biggest issues first. Once you start learning the problems that your users may face with your site, it will motivate you to make the necessary updates and start checking those tiny details off of your to-do list. Some of the biggest accessibility issues that users face are the following:
- Color Contrast Problems – Creating a website that people can easily read might seem obvious. However, a lot of sites have color contrast issues without even knowing they exist. Check out our post on why color contrast is so important to learn what updates you might need to make. The post will also point you to some free resources to check and see if your site’s colors are compliant with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
- WCAG 2.0 Checkers – You’re not alone in your quest for accessibility! A lot of groups have developed free (and paid) WCAG 2.0 checkers to assess the issues within your site. These sites typically scan your site and give you a report on major issues, smaller problems, and potential considerations. We’ve written a post about that too – so head over and learn more about which sites can help you assess your website’s current accessibility issues.
Consider Consulting an Expert
If you are feeling a bit lost in your accessibility testing, it might be time to call in an expert. There are web designers that are well versed in web accessibility and know the WCAG 2.0 guidelines really well. If you are considering making big changes to your website to increase accessibility, chatting with an expert can help you to ensure that you are on the right path. They might also help to simplify the process by suggesting updates that will address larger issues and making the whole process simpler.
Try User Testing
I always recommend user testing for the simple fact that it can shed light on potential issues you never considered. When you are building a website you typically have a pretty clear picture of what you want it to look like and how it should function. This can create a bit of tunnel vision, and make you miss issues that might be obvious to someone outside of the project. If you are looking to create a more accessible website, user testing with someone who understands web accessibility or who needs digital modifications can be very helpful. Everyone approaches going online differently and you can learn a lot from these unique perspectives.
User testing does not to be anything too formal. You can prepare a bit of a checklist based on the WCAG 2.0 guidelines if you have specific concerns you want to address. You can also create small challenge tasks within the site that you want your testers to complete. This will allow you to see how different people approach the same task, and identify any complications or barriers that exist on your site. Even if you just want your testers to surf around the website and note any issues or inaccessible features they encounter that can help. It’s all about making your website accessible to your user base, so reach out and get their thoughts!
It Takes Time
Creating an accessible website takes time and consideration. While most recommend building in accessibility features when a website is first created, that doesn’t always happen. However, it is important to go back and integrate these features in order to make your site accessible to everyone. If you own a website, it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone can use it easily and get access to the great content that you put out there. So start considering accessibility in everything you do, both you and your website users will benefit.
How do you evaluate your website's accessibility? Any tips or tricks that you think other website owners might find useful? Add your accessibility thoughts in the comments below and help everyone to create more accessible websites!