Full Accessibility Site Audit
Design your website now to meet accessibility guidelines.
The sign on the glass entrance doorway to the store made it very clear who they refused to serve. “No shoes, no shirt, no service,” became so prevalent that most people know to wear shoes and a shirt if they want to buy a soda and chocolate bar.
Stores used to say they only served white people. Today, some businesses may not hire employees based on religious preferences, gender identification or sexual preference. Several companies publicly state they will not sell to specific groups of people they dislike. For these companies, an executive decision is made to deny service to groups of people. It is their right to discriminate they claim, and they will take that right to choose to the highest courts in the land.
The old stone walkway to my 19th century farmhouse is uneven, not level and has steps to negotiate before reaching the wooden steps to the porch. I know which friends and family I need to escort into the house.
“When are you going to build the handrail I keep asking for?” one of them asked me the other day.
I explained that my requests for help with the walkway are not a priority because everyone who lives in the house, with the exception of me, has no problems with it. The most I got was when one of the kids sprinkled sand down so that the gaps between the stones would fill in. It looked terrible and most of it washed away.
My 80 plus years old friend sympathized and told me that one of her family members finally installed a handrail for her, after 3 years of asking. I held her hands and silently hoped it wouldn’t take us that long.
I walked her to the 18th century barn we are renovating, to a section that is being remodeled for meetings and small events and is nearly completed. It will not pass code now because it is not accessible.
There is a huge step required to get into the room. We will need a bathroom and it was recommended we get a compost one, which is a cheaper alternative and avoids needing permits, plumbing, electrical and more. Everyone thinks the 36’ RV that no longer runs but is sitting on the farm could be converted into a small office with a compost commode, but again, it would not be accessible for a wheelchair.
In other words, when you run a business, it requires planning ahead. It may require getting permits and knowing local laws and regulations. You need to consult with insurance companies and lawyers to be sure you are not held liable.
Is this the same situation for website businesses?
When a few blind people found a few law firms to represent them, they went in search of business and public facing websites with accessibility violations they could sue for. They found plenty.
While website ADA lawsuits have been ongoing for years and years, this year there is push back by website owners who are nervous about being targeted. Rather than build an accessible website, or learning what that even means, some website owners and companies with websites feel they should have a choice for their web design and functionality.
Someone wrote on Facebook, “Forced compliance for groups you don’t care about is a bit absurd.” It reminded me of the signs on storefronts informing customers who they refuse to serve. But, websites don’t have such signs.
Despite the fact that nearly every country has anti-discriminatory laws, with several adapting those laws to public facing websites, and each state in the USA having their own ADA compliance guidelines for website development, there is nothing to prevent a company from choosing design tactics that turn specific people away. They can prevent someone with poor eyesight from zooming in on the content from a mobile device if they choose to. Or, they may not know there is code that allows users to zoom in or out, and code that prevents it altogether.
They can prevent someone who does not have a mouse pointer from accessing pages. They can use colors over colors with no contrast, apply all images and no text at all, animation and automated sliders if they want to. They can completely ignore colorblind users, people with hand tremors and people with attention and cognitive impairments that prevent them from conducting tasks such as reading, remembering where they are on the site or pointing a mouse. If they wish to, they can prevent screen readers from properly accessing pages to be listened to and if they wish to, they can only show videos to sighted people and podcasts to hearing people.
It is certainly a choice to design an online business that prevents customers from entering and conducting business.
Several states are fighting website accessibility ADA lawsuit claims from certain people who look for sites to sue, and law firms that see opportunities through ignorance of WCAG2.1 guidelines or, as in the case of federal websites, Section 508. Most ADA lawsuits are traced to the inability by someone to use assistive technology to complete a desired task. Since an ecommerce website, for example, needs revenue, it would seem illogical to prevent customers depending on assistive devices from making a purchase. But this is exactly what is happening.
Should an online business post a sign that warns the users they did not design for? If it is okay to do this with a physical business building, is it okay to clearly state on every web page who is not welcome there?
If you choose groups of people to avoid with your web design, do you warn them?
One of the best takeaways readers enjoyed from my recent articles published at the Search Engine Journal was simple logic for increasing website conversions.
The trick to optimizing calls to action is to present the action at the precise moment when your website visitor is most interested in taking the next step.Optimize Your CTA: Better Alternatives to ‘Click Here’
Some judges have ruled that the lack of regulation or legal standards for website accessibility does not mean that accessibility should be ignored.How Your Company Can Prevent ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits
Next month, my topic is specifically for SEO’s who put up with user interface and programming decisions that make their work difficult, and even derail it completely. Look for it in early July.
Last month I partnered with internet marketing company, Hochman Consultants, as a part-time Senior Consultant to add usability and accessibility services for their clients.
Since this is new, I felt I might take some time to answer your questions about how and where to hire me for usability and accessibility site reviews.
As an independent consultant I am a third party vendor for agencies in need of website usability assistance.
Building and promoting a website is not a one-person job anymore. The technology changed quickly, creating the need for more skills. Internet marketing has grown into its own industry, with branches for people and companies to specialize in, such as search engine optimization and paid advertising campaigns.
Programmers scramble to learn the next new language. Mobile devices created a market for mobile apps. The internet made video and podcasts possible, which also requires equipment and software. Security, server maintenance, and updates to content management software like WordPress can be a daily routine.
Even though there are services that provide cheap and easy website hosting and design, they are inexpensive because the site owners do not know or care about meeting user experience, usability and accessibility guidelines, standards and compliance.
Eventually I found myself unable to help new or existing clients because what they asked for was out of my area of expertise.
Although I have enjoyed being a sub-contractor and developed relationships with internet marketing agencies over many years, the projects began to slow down in frequency as more companies hired more in-house staff.
Even now, however, selling usability and accessibility is difficult. Building websites that everyone can use is not a business requirement for the vast majority of companies out there.
When I directed my passion for user experience and human behavior for websites towards studying for certification in accessibility, I began to write about it more often. Being an advocate for disabled persons, or anyone with a physical, mental, or emotional impairment, permanent or temporary, came naturally for me because accessibility is a close cousin to usability.
I have known Jonathan Hochman for about 15 years. We met as speakers at search engine marketing conferences and our paths would cross over the years. He has a legal background, which attracted him to the accessibility testing work I do.
They provide services that I could no longer provide for the target market I enjoy working with, which is small and medium businesses.
I retained my own consulting business so that I can continue to serve larger companies who require more robust website or software testing.
For Hochman Consultants, site maintenance and support falls into their wheelhouse. Web design and marketing solutions for startups and smaller companies are provided at especially reasonable fees. I will be adding a layer of support for each client in the areas of making sure their websites meet all the current design guidelines for conversions and search engines.
Most importantly, because of the rise in ADA website accessibility lawsuits, I will be providing accessibility reviews, testing and guidance to clients.
Both of our websites were redesigned and are live but are works in progress as we get used to the changes a partnership brings. I will be assisting with their newsletter and writing in their blog, while continue to write here and for Search Engine Journal.
If you are a small or medium business in need of a full service agency, please go directly to Hochman Consultants and start there. I am part of their team and can be added to existing projects or hired for specific usability and accessibility reviews and testing. In fact, you can book usability reviews now.
The internet marketing agencies and SEO consultants with whom I provide usability and conversions website audits for will find there is no change. I continue to be a sub-contractor for digital marketing companies with clients whose websites need usability or accessibility support. You can email me or use the form to tell me about your website.
I am excited to continue my favorite work, which is helping companies improve their websites so that their online business generates more revenue, traffic and customer loyalty.
Partnering with Hochman Consultants means that more doors will open for small and medium businesses who wish to compete with larger businesses online.
If the competition isn’t paying attention to usability, accessibility, conversions and mobile design, and your website does, guess who gets the traffic and revenue?
In a park anywhere where there are trees is a tree I’ll call Tree. One day Tree thought how nice it might be to check its data to study its performance as a tree.
So it counted up its branches and leaves to see how many it had. Every season, year after year, Tree tracked its leaves and branches. It learned that during winter when it slept, its branches were bare. In spring, every branch lit up in a burst of color as it flowered and swayed in gentle breezes until each flower became a new leaf. Tree counted its flowers and how many became a leaf. And year after year, Tree grew taller and expanded its roots deeper into the earth.
Tree watched its performance as a tree and felt proud of its numbers of branches and leaves. It paid no mind to actually doing anything productive with the data. It was satisfied to simply be Tree and make no adjustments that might enhance the experience of being Tree or standing out in the forest where there are trees.
Also in the park that is anywhere there are trees is a tree I’ll call Oak. Every year that Oak celebrated its birthday with a new ring, it would rejoice in its blessing at being an Oak. It too grew taller and its branches spread out in all directions. Oak monitored its growth the same way that Tree did, counting branches and leaves and measuring its growth.
As was typical for the park that is anywhere there are trees, people came to visit.
When the children saw Oak, they would run fast and leap up into its branches, climbing higher and higher. Couples would arrive on very hot days, bringing a blanket and picnic lunch of sandwiches and wine. Walkers and runners stopped for rest and shade at Oak’s side and sometimes a human would spontaneously wrap their arms around its large trunk and whisper thanks for its majesty and beauty.
Years passed. Oak grew, but also lost limbs during storms and sometimes it withered a bit from drought, but still the humans came to visit. Tree was a good tree that withstood the same weather conditions. It would count the number of birds who visited, but none would stay to build a nest. Sometimes a human would walk up to Tree and admire it and Tree would add that visit to its collection of data, but would do no more.
Oak was less interested in vanity metrics. Some years humans in work clothes would arrive in the park to trim its branches. And still the children came to climb. Birds and squirrels found safety and sustenance with Oak and made it their own community. Humans would take out their cellphones to get pictures with Oak in the background. Oak was always fascinated by these interactions and wondered what it could do to bring them all more joy? Based on data and observations, Oak decided it wanted to do something more.
After a time, Oak collected enough data that helped it create something new based on how it was being used by one specific set of users — humans. It had listened to their words as they spoke on their picnic blankets and knew what made them sad, afraid, and happy or at peace. Oak discovered that children begged to return for more visits. So, based on that observation, Oak devised a way to test a theory which was that providing something humans desired would attract more visits.
And so Oak, being wise and of the earth, created a new, very strong larger branch that extended over the nearby creek. It took some time, but one day a family came to visit the park and they brought their children, a used rubber tire and rope which they attached to Oak’s very strong new branch. Oak watched in delight as the years continued to pass and every summer humans came to swing over the creek from its very strong branch to jump into the creek and swim. Day after day, year after year, Oak hosted humans and wildlife with such joy that it eventually no longer counted its branches and leaves or monitored its performance. The test proved Oak’s theory that providing something humans wanted or needed to improve their experience would increase visits.
Meanwhile, Tree continued to count its leaves and branches and grow taller. But it was rarely noticed by people because Tree didn’t care about what they did, why they might stick round longer or even if they left. Tree didn’t want to be useful and didn’t measure how long any human or wildlife stayed around. It gathered facts, but didn’t ask questions. Whenever people came to the park and passed Tree by, it didn’t think to ask why that might be. All that mattered to Tree was how many branches and leaves it had and that it continued to grow taller.
For Oak, its metrics had to be actionable and help it make better decisions. Oak watched the activity around it, who used it and how it engaged with its users. It looked for more opportunities for growth and patterns of use. From that it learned it was loved, recommended and shared.
And for Tree, its quarterly evaluations didn’t change because it didn’t bother to look past the data and into what it could do to make improvements or create desire.
I hope you enjoyed this simple introduction to data analytics, evaluating results and making decisions to improve usability and conversions.
Perhaps you will one day stand out in your forest of competition.