Websites have become so large and complex; it's an area in itself to be concerned with the strategies, goals and standards you have for your website. Here at Siteimprove we have separate advisors and tools for handling servers, search engine solutions, web analysis, web accessibility and SEO for example. Large websites and portals are an integration of many different systems that often come from different parties. Handling and controlling the website therefore becomes a complex unit to work with, especially with many stakeholder's involved.
Previously we have written a series of blog posts on web governance and how to handle this area. Therefore, this blog post will explain the best way on how to integrate ones goals for web accessibility when using a web governance strategy.
It's no myth that online self-service on the Internet is the most affordable way of servicing your users / customers compared to contact by phone or in person (sometimes referred to as channel shift). Accessibility therefore becomes an important website aspect for many since it is accessibility that helps ensure as many users as possible can use your website. There is a big difference in 90% of users being able to use your website rather than 70% of users.
Don't neglect accessibility or rely others
Accessibility is often a neglected aspect when making a strategy for a website. The superior person in charge has many things to consider and therefore it often happens that this area is neglected. It is not neglected as a result of not caring or a lack of interest. It happens because there is too much trust put on the vendors, and it is assumed that they know what to do. Many think that if you make the website requirements in the vendor's requirements specification then that is sufficient. But this is far from the case. Another problem is that many web managers do not have a vast enough knowledge of the area to know that it is very much a process to ensure good web accessibility, and not just a coding task only relevant during development.
Ensure those responsible for your website fully understand accessibility
I have been involved in many web projects where an executive in the organisations says: "Our website must meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines on all conformance levels". But they have no idea what this entails. And that it is not only relevant in the current web project and the amount of money set aside for purchasing a new website. One example can be the requirements for audio / video content. If you wish to conform to the guidelines on level AA (which is mandatory for many public websites) it requires a number of things for video content. You must provide captions, audio description and much more. If you wish to conform on level AAA you must also provide sign language of the content. Do you have the resources for this every time you upload a video to the website? 'Accessibility is relevant as an on-going process during the lifetime of the website, for instance, every time you integrate a 3rd party solution, upload video or audio content etc.
Furthermore, the publishing process of web editors and the CMS that the website is based on also has influence on the ability and the situation of whether the publishing practice supports accessibility, or whether it introduces new accessibility issues.
Planning your strategy
It is a good idea to have a separate strategy for ambitions on accessibility and a strategy in order to ensure it. It is also important to integrate the number of accessibility criteria relevant in the organisations communications policy, design guide, policy for purchase, and the like. Create a matrix of who are the stakeholders in the process. It is good practice to divide it into a set of areas of responsibility and subsidiary goals, for instance:
- Who will ensure that the right requirements are made at the right time with the vendors?
- Who will ensure that accessibility is integrated in the different policies for the organisation? (Communications policy, design guide, policy for purchase and the like).
- Who takes responsibilities for accessibility during design and development?
- How do we ensure that the requirements are met? Remember the CMS, video and audio players, forms and all the technical tools that are connected to and integrated with the website.
- Who ensures that web editors and authors of documents are trained to have an accessible publishing practice?
- Who ensures that there is an on-going process of checking if the guidelines are met, and that no new accessibility issues are introduced on the website?
It is necessary to have established the division of ownership and responsibilities on all the different areas. It is a good idea to have a coordinator on accessibility. This person is consulted when new decisions are made for the website, such as, re-structuring, new purchases and integration, change of existing policies. And this person has a written down network of contacts inside and outside the organisation; people that in some way can affect the website and its content.