Keeping accessibility at the heart of our design practice
At Netcel we place a high importance on the accessibility of the websites and products that we produce for our clients. In our front-end development, we have two pillars, performance and accessibility. If we get these two right in our code, then the entire solution will hold up well. By writing accessible code, we get boosts in our technical SEO, we write less code that is easier to maintain, and it allows a much wider section of society to make use of all that our clients have to offer on whatever device they’re choosing to use.
Accessibility isn’t something that you do once and can then forget about. With content management systems that allow editors to add in their own code, it’s possible that content is created that would make it difficult for someone using a screen reader to get the same context as a full sighted user, or images added that would make it difficult for a colour blind person to make out key details. It’s possible that code can go wrong too, a patch for an issue in one place may have unintended consequences for anyone using a certain type of input device or assistive technology.
Purple Tuesday is a global social movement whose mission is to improve the customer experience for disabled people and their families. The Purple Tuesday event encourages organisations to make a commitment to improve accessibility. To show our support for the Purple Tuesday movement, Netcel have committed to a digital accessibility audit of our own corporate website Netcel.com. In fact, we are going a step further by installing Siteimprove along with the Siteimprove plugin for Optimizely.
What is Siteimprove?
Siteimprove is a content performance monitoring tool that is able to report on how the performance of your website including how accessible and inclusive your content is. One of the great aspects of using a tool like Siteimprove is that it is not just a snapshot of how well your website performed on a certain day and time, but constantly monitors your content and code, giving feedback on how you can improve your content and make it more inclusive on an ongoing basis.
How are we doing?
We look to be compliant with WCAG 2.2 standards at AA level, this means all of our content and code should meet the criterions set out in these standards. Our current overall accessibility score from Siteimprove is 84.5%, with us in touching distance of the industry standard 87.3%.
How are we going to improve?
You can’t set yourself a goal without knowing where you currently are, and thanks to Siteimprove we know where we are, and have information on how we can improve our score. The reports details areas of the site that require improvement giving a summary of where these occurrences are happening on the site and how many points we can expect to gain by fixing the issues.
By having these issues highlighted for us, we can review them and assign responsibility to the right team, for example if it is a content issue then it site with content editors to fix. An issue that requires a code change will be assigned to our development team.
How are we going to improve our processes?
As great as it is monitoring our live website for content issues, what we really want to do is to catch them before they go live. Thankfully for our content, Optimizely have a plugin that allows Siteimprove to run in the CMS editor. This way, as we are creating and publishing content any issues around accessibility can be flagged much sooner and corrected immediately, rather than having to do a crawl.
For our code, we already have a number of automatic and manual checks for accessibility that are present throughout our development pipeline. In situations where we are taking over a digital product from other agencies, one of our priority actions is to run full site accessibility audits to build up a backlog of improvements to help our clients comply with their necessary WCAG level. But as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, accessibility isn’t something you do once and forget about, so we’re always looking to improve our development processes make sure we’re keeping those performance and accessibility pillars strong and upright.