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Feature image Tips for Accessibility Testing Your Website

There are a lot of different principles for getting the best user testing results. Theories abound with ways to get your users to say and do the right things to give you helpful and actually actionable feedback. While these guidelines are great, they are still typically geared toward user testing of fairly standard users. Don’t get me wrong – they might be segmented out by location, or interests, or other factors. But in many cases you do not see user testing groups that have a disability and accessibility tester option.

This could have a lot to do with the fact that many sites are just trying to get off the ground. They’re looking to be the most effective for the largest amount of people in their target market, which is how accessibility gets overlooked. However, building in accessibility after a website is completed is really tough to accomplish, and could impact the way your site works. It is critical to get accessibility considerations into the initial site design and then test the site to ensure they work. Here are some helpful ways that you can make sure your user testing goes well.

Plan Well

First, if you have a dedicated web designer, you’re probably going to want to get them on board with this project. They can help you out if you don’t know if a feature is possible to implement, and they can explain why certain choices were made when building your website. Getting them involved in the user testing phase early on will help you both later when changes and updates need to be made. Not to mention, they won’t find themselves surprised when you come to them with accessibility complaints.

You should also do some research before you begin your user testing. The UX Mastery website has a great how-to guide for usability testing that will break down what you need to do to run a general user test. Since this is accessibility testing, you will also need to learn what the WCAG 2.0 guidelines say your website needs to include. These guidelines are in place to make sure that anyone can access your site no matter their ability level. Considerations like color contrast of the text versus the website background, text size, and keyboard navigation abilities are all important to users with disabilities. The WCAG 2.0 guidelines help you to identify these key features, and when you’re planning your testing you can include questions about them.

Honesty is Key

If you are looking for true and high-quality feedback, you need to be open to real answers. People can feel if you are edgy or defensive, and since you will be watching them interact with your site, you need to be able to be responsive to both positive and negative feedback. After all, what would the point of testing your site be if it was perfect? Everyone will find something they don’t like or understand, and even if you cannot think of a way to improve it on-the-spot, that information might help you down the road.

You need to be receptive and positive when hearing the feedback your users have. If they are frustrated or confused, that is a chance for you to improve your site’s capabilities. It might feel a bit personal, especially because we all put so much work into our websites and we want people to find them useful and easy to navigate. But trust me, it’s not personal it’s just a user trying to accomplish a goal or answer a question. Stay open to hearing what your users have to say, after all they hold the key to accessibility for millions of people with disabilities across the globe. Whether you are a site that is purely informative or one that sells something or represents a business, you are going to want those users to be able to access your site. Listen to what your accessibility user testers have to say about your site – they could come up with incredible solutions and insight that you never considered!

Take Accurate Notes

Generalizations will not be helpful when you go back to make website improvements or when you tell your web designer how the testing went. You need to take specific notes on exactly what issues the user had, where they were on the site when they encountered the problem, and what they did to fix the situation (which can range from trying something different to getting frustrated and wanting to go to a more accessible website). If you are afraid you will forget something, or if you’re not a particularly fast writer, you might consider recording the sessions. Please do get your user’s consent before you do this, as many people find being on camera or audio recording a bit intimidating. They should always be given the option to say no if they would rather not be recorded during testing.

Conduct the Testing Somewhere Accessible

I can’t remember where I heard the story about a speaker who was hired by a group to talk about being in a wheelchair, only to find the talk venue inaccessible for wheelchairs. Maybe it was just a rumor going around, but the point is still valid. If you are going to conduct accessibility testing, you need to hold it somewhere accessible. Your users will probably need certain accommodations, and you can check with them before they arrive to see what they need. Some users will need to know your system’s keyboard navigation commands (they might use keyboard navigation on another operating system). Others will need text-to-speech enabled. It’s best to try these features out on the computer they will be using to make sure they are ready to test the website the way they would interact with it at home. This also ensures you won’t waste their time setting everything up or not having what they need when they come in to participate in the testing.

Have you conducted accessibility user testing? Are there any tips or ideas that you can share with us to get better feedback and more useful user answers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!