A couple of years ago I was nominated as the ‘accessibility champion’ for focus. You may recall this from my blog in which I manage to compare myself to Muhammad Ali (who says the title of champion went to my head?).
Web accessibility is about making your website available to as many users as possible, broadening your audience. So it’s win-win for both users and companies. More employers should benefit from assigning this important role to a team member to network, extend reach and spread knowledge within the company. They don’t have to be an expert already. I’m regularly browsing the web to discover further developments within accessibility. I am delighted to have seen this recognition of the importance of web accessibility go from a subtle nod to an enthusiastic wave.
Initially it was hard work, I was desperate to acquire some training, learn from the experts. I’ve lost count of how many times I've found a course, excitedly attempted to book tickets, only to find the price is in dollars. Oh, THAT Bristol. Pretty sure I can still see my keyboard’s space bar indented in my forehead from those moments.
If you find you’re still suffering from the same frustration, fortunately, the UK has caught on and more and more training is becoming available. So I’ve put together a list of UK-based training to look forward to in 2017…
Implement Web Accessibility
A 1-day website accessibility course provides the technical requirements for building accessible websites using HTML and CSS, i.e. how to:
- Provide accessible web images, multimedia and text alternatives
- Provide accessible links and navigation
- Ensure that textual content is accessible
- Ensure that colour is used safely
- Make table navigation and data accessible
- Make form navigation, data, and data entry accessible
Understand Web Accessibility
Being held in London, Leeds, Manchester and Cardiff, this is a one day website accessibility training course providing the essential background knowledge for implementing good web accessibility. Understand:
- The requirements of different disabled users
- Problems conventional web designs cause disabled users
- Requirements of UK law and web accessibility standards
Coming to Bristol and various other locations across the UK is this course: Web Accessibility Fundamentals, it brings together the previous two 1-day courses in a single package - because successful website accessibility depends on proper integration between awareness and practical implementation.
Web accessibility training
Design for every user. Hands-on web accessibility training, small class sizes, highly interactive and taught by experts:
- Learn about the different user groups and their specific accessibility needs.
- Review the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
- Find out how to implement accessibility
- Learn how to devise and implement accessibility testing
- Create an accessibility action plan
Web Accessibility and Usability
This course will enable those attending to gain a thorough understanding of Web Accessibility and Usability issues. Techniques for achieving accessibility standards will be covered, along with informal recommendations for delegates’ own websites.
Created on Wednesday December 28 2016 09:21 PM
With 2017 seeing Google continue their campaign against insecure web sites (read my blog to find out more), we thought this was a good opportunity to look behind the abbreviations and discover what SSL and HTTPS mean and the impact they have on everyday web site visitors.
1. SSL stands for ‘Secure Sockets Layer.’ In layman’s terms, this is a secure way of sending information over the Internet. Any data transferred 'over SSL' - such as web page content from a server to your browser - gets encrypted prior to being sent over the web for viewing.
2. Many websites use SSL for secure areas of their sites, particularly user accounts and online checkouts. As information is encrypted, the theory is that even if someone unwelcome gets hold of it, they'll be unable to do anything with it.
3. SSL is applied to your website – or parts of your website – by way of a digital certificate, which is purchased and added to your domain to demonstrate its security to users. It also ensures any content from that domain is encypted.
4. When you visit a website whose address starts with ‘https’, the ‘s’ after the ‘http’ indicates the website is secure, and has SSL. You should also see a padlock before the https, like below:
5. SSL keeps personal data such as your name, address or credit card information between you and the merchant who you are sending it to.
6. If you want to find out more information about a site’s security, by clicking the ‘i’ icon, or right-clicking the padlock, you can get more details.
7. Like everything in life, there's a wide range of SSL certificates available and they vary in features and price. Some are free but will require ongoing administration, others are more expensive but offer the tightest security including the strongest encyption algorithms and verification checks.
SSL is likely to be a hot topic in 2017 with Google's planned warnings for insecure web sites.
If you’d like to know more about SSL, securing your site and how to get an SSL certificate, please get in touch.
Created on Tuesday December 13 2016 01:30 PM
Google are big believers in HTTPS and SSL - they've been focused on making the web 'more secure' for all of us for some time now. One way in which they do this is to prioritise secure web sites in their search results, and another is showing a site's security status in the address bar within their native browser, Chrome.
2017 will see Google continue this campaign with some significant new features. Early in the year, Chrome will start to display additional security warnings for specific pages on web sites that are not secure – so HTTP, not HTTPS. These warnings will be fairly stark, as shown, and as you can imagine, not the most reassuring sight for a visitor to your web site.
As time passes, Google have said that their criteria will gradually become stricter and the warnings will also be added to all non-secure pages - the aim is, by some point in 2017, to mark all HTTP sites as ‘non-secure’ with a red security indicator.
This is likely to have considerable impact. Google Chrome currently accounts for 47% of all UK web users, so these warnings are going to be seen by a lot of people. Equally, Google will continue to rank non-secure sites lower in their search results. And history has shown that what Google does, others follow, and we're likely to see a similar approach adopted by other browsers such as Safrari, Firefox and Internet Explorer.
Web site owners who have or do not move to SSL will suffer not just the effect on web traffic and performance, but there is a risk to jeopardising customer trust.
If your website does not yet have SSL / HTTPS, or you’d like to know more about how to make your website more secure – and therefore more favourable with Google – please get in touch.
Google’s official article about these changes is available on their blog.
You may also like to read my blog which explains what SSL and HTTPS really means.
Created on Tuesday December 13 2016 01:28 PM
With the help of digital agencies like us here at focus / focusgov who are coming up with effective and engaging ways local authorities can communicate with families, parents and young people, we are seeing more and more local authorities with services based online. This of course is great news, however, with this comes the potential threat of cyber attacks - some more sophisticated than others.
Local authorities are key providers of public services so they can hold a vast amount of personal data containing sensitive information such as health and care arrangements. This alone makes them a very tempting target indeed for hackers.
There are other potential problems such as phishing. Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from a reputable company. Reasons for this could be anything from persuading individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers online or to encourage the recipient to open an attachment containing a malicious programme.
This is exactly how Lincolnshire City Council were stung earlier this year. There was widespread disruption and it took almost a week for IT systems to be restored. Lincolnshire’s response to the attack was commendable and led to no loss of data. Staff dealt with issues off-line and kept their services running without impeding the public.
The Cabinet Office’s ’10 Steps guidance on dealing with cyber threats’ put it concisely by saying ‘Put cyber security on the agenda before it becomes the agenda’.
One very manageable way to achieve this is to see cyber as a strategic issue rather than an IT one. Make sure the local authority workforce are aware of the risks and how they can combat them. Perhaps new employee inductions could include details of how to recognise a cyber attack and avoiding opening harmful malware programmes.
Of course various security procedures such as firewalls play an important role but user cautiousness is imperative. As October is cyber awareness month, what better time than now to share with you some tips?
1. Be heedful of email scams
Do you know the sender? Does it seem too good to be true? Does it contain links and attachments? Is it an urgent request?
2. Protect your computer
Always have the latest anti-virus software installed on your computer to keep it up to date and protected from online threats like malware and viruses.
3. Check links
Hover over links in emails and you will see the URL of the actual website you are being directed to. You should see it across the link and bottom left of your screen. If this is different to the link originally shown, don’t click it.
4. Vary your passwords
It’s a pain but the best thing you can do is have a different password for all of your accounts. You should most certainly separate your work from your personal accounts, making sure critical accounts have super strong passwords. You could try lyrics form your favourite song separated by numbers, include a mixture of upper and lower case.
5. Never choose to ‘Save Password’
Browsers such as Internet Explorer and Google Chrome are always looking to increase ease of use, this includes offering to save your password, but you should never allow it to. When websites ask if you want to remain logged in, choose no and always log out properly, just closing your browser does not do this.
Created on Thursday October 13 2016 11:37 AM
Last Thursday I was invited along to a Seminar at Google HQ in London by our good friends at Push.
The session, held in what looked like a very cool TV studio, had multiple speakers from Google, Shirlaws and Push, covering a range of topics from how Google is changing over the coming months, business and economic growth patterns, and how Adwords is changing both imminently and in the future. It was really good :-)
Rather than regurgitate the sessions, I thought I'd share some of my favourite facts and stats from the day.
- now has 7 products used by <1bn users (!)
- aims to have those products used twice a day - what they call their 'toothbrush test'
- generates 10% of its Global revenue from the UK
- claims that by 2019, Google Ads will be 39% of all media spend.
Google sees Internet usage fitting broadly within these four areas:
I want to know
- 65% of online consumers look up more information online than ever before
- 66% use their mobile to do so.
I want to go
- 2x more 'near me' searches than ever before
- 82% of smartphone users use a search engine to find local business.
I want to do
- 91% of smartphone users turn to their phone to do a task
- 70% increase in 'how-to' searches year on year.
I want to buy
- 82% of smartphone users consult their phone in a shop when deciding about a purchase
- 9% increase in mobile conversions (that is, users making a purchase on their phone).
The Internet in general:
- there are 60 trillion web addresses and 4 million Apps
- there are 3 billion+ web searches every day
- 15% of those daily searches have never been seen before
- mobile searches have surpassed desktop
- we are checking our phones 150 times per day on average (really?).
Think about these figures - do you feel you fit into these statistics? What are your thoughts on internet use, and how many times a day do YOU think you check your phone?! We'd love to hear your thoughts, drop us a line or feel free to comment below.
Created on Friday September 30 2016 02:57 PM
The UK has opted to leave the EU, and there is a great deal of speculation around the impact of this monumental change to our governance. The split will certainly impact upon trade, industry, wages and house prices; but how will it affect our policy on web accessibility?
It seems there has been very little discussion about what Brexit means for those people in the UK living with long-term cognitive, physical, auditory and sensory impairments.
There are roughly 80 million people in the EU affected by disability. In May 2016 an agreement was reached on a new directive for web accessibility which stated the minimum requirements for accessible content for member states to adhere to.
Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, is all for the agreement and said: "Internet access should be a reality for everyone. Leaving millions of Europeans behind is not an option. Tonight's agreement is an important step towards a Digital Single Market, which is about removing barriers so that all Europeans can get the best from the digital world."
In the wake of the Brexit vote there was dispute amongst the digital community over the likely effects it would have on the sector. Fortunately, the UK upholds a progressive attitude towards web accessibility, and our public sector sees it as an important factor in the move towards the digitisation of services.
Despite cut backs in EU funding as a backlash to the referendum, Local Authorities and many private sector organisations are still focussed on ensuring that their products and services are inclusive. Whilst it’s unlikely that any significant changes to online accessibility regulations will come into effect any time soon, the team at focus continue to strive for excellence in web accessibility and inclusive design.
If you want to communicate with an audience on the web, you need someone who understands the importance of accessibility within it.
If you or your team would benefit from expert advice then please do get in touch – we are happy to help at any stage of the project.
With millions of people in Europe having a disability and/or using assistive technology, we will certainly ensure we keep meeting their web accessibility needs!
Created on Tuesday September 27 2016 11:13 AM
When I was asked to write an article about UX for the Fundraiser – the publication from Charity Choice providing practical advice and insight to the third sector – I wondered how on earth I was going to take such a huge topic turn it into something bite size.
UX and UI are expansive subjects, so rather than try to cram them into a side of A4, I decided instead to compile a list that would hopefully get the readers to try out some simple UX testing methods for themselves.
For charities, encouraging visitors to donate and to keep donating is paramount, and ultimately good UX = more conversions which means more donations. Good UX really is as important for charities as it is for ecommerce.
The list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will inspire some readers from the third sector to think more about UX, to utalise its potential and to try out some simple UX tests for themselves.
Created on Thursday September 22 2016 01:23 PM
No we haven't become part-owners of Chelsea, Manchester United or Watford (much to MD Simon's disappointment), but we are this years shirt sponsors for the under 14 team at Axbridge Saxons in Somerset, who play in the Cheddar Valley and Woodspring Leagues.
With our logo splattered all over their kit, no doubt the team will be inspired to great victories. Although things got off to a shaky start with a 6-2 defeat in the season opener.
The Axbridge Saxons are only part of the community work we have supported in 2016. We've also helped rebuild a sensory garden at Mobberley Pre-School with our friends at Carillion plc, and we continue to raise funds for the Neonatal Dept at St Thomas Hospital in London - a unit for which we've raised over £5000 since 2012.
Created on Tuesday September 20 2016 08:41 PM
Negotiators of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission have just this month agreed on the first EU-wide rules to make the websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies more accessible.
In the world of web, these adjustments are about introducing steps to make a website or service accessible for people with visual impairments, manual dexterity issues or learning difficulties.
The internet has become a key way of accessing and providing information and services, it is now crucial we ensure absolutely everybody can do so, regardless of ability. Accessibility enables people with disabilities to understand, navigate, interact with and contribute to websites and apps.
Statistics tell us that about 80 million people in the EU are affected by a disability. This figure is expected to increase to 120 million by 2020 as the EU population ages.
The Directive will cover public sector bodies' websites and mobile apps, this could be administrations, courts and police departments or public hospitals, universities and libraries. They will be accessible for all citizens - in particular the blind, hard of hearing, deaf, and those with low vision and functional disabilities.
Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, is understandably all for the agreement and said: "Tonight's agreement is an important step towards a Digital Single Market, which is about removing barriers so that all Europeans can get the best from the digital world."
The Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, Günther H. Oettinger, was equally enthusiastic: "It is not acceptable that millions of European citizens are left behind in the digital society. The agreement that we have just reached will ensure that everyone has the same opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the internet and mobile apps."
The following is the agreed text of the Directive:
- covers websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies with a limited number of exceptions (e.g. broadcasters, livestreaming).
- refers to the standards to make websites and mobile apps more accessible. For example, such standards foresee that there should be a text for images or that websites can be browsed without a mouse which can be difficult to use for some people with disabilities.
- requires regular monitoring and reporting of public sector websites and mobile apps by Member States. These reports have to be communicated to the Commission and to be made public. The Directive on web accessibility along with the European Accessibility Act proposed in December 2015 (press release) which covers a much wider number of products and services, are both part of the efforts of the Commission to help people with disabilities to participate fully in society.
The text will now have to be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council. After that it will be published in the Official Journal and will officially enter into force. Member States will have 21 months to transpose the text into their national legislation.
So many people avoid using the vast amount of support and opportunities available to them online, all because of unnecessary barriers they are faced with. These can be avoided. If you want to lead in improving accessibility, we can help you with that, a good place to start is to get in touch with us.
Created on Wednesday May 25 2016 10:33 AM
Last year bad User Experience (UX) reportedly cost LInkedIn over £9 million.
Attention to detail is imperative when it comes to producing great design with a smooth UX. But with so much involved in the design process, there is a risk of things going unnoticed.
It doesn't take much to damage the users experience so here are some things worth checking before a design is signed off and deemed good to go...
Don't rely on colour to convery a purpose, heierarchy or content
We are big on accessibility here at focus so to us producing a website that is accessible is not considered a nice-to-have but a must-have. People with visual disabilities for example colour blindness, would not be able to use your site effectively if you were to rely on colour, they would therefore become an excluded demographic.
Test it: colorfilter.wickline.org will let you put a color filter on top of your webpage and test it for different kinds of color blindnesses.
Avoid / reduce repetitive actions where possible
An example of a repetitive action is filling in a form that asks for your address more than once, you may have seen this being tackled with a tickbox you can select to say your billing adddress is the same as your shipping address. If you're not careful, users will grow tired and search for an alternative option (like a competitor!) where they can achieve their goals better and faster.
Test it: Make sure there is a way of facilitating repetitive actions such as an option to use previously entered information.
Accessing help does not get in the way of progress
Users ask for help when they're stuck so of course It is important for help to be an extension of what they are already doing, they should be able to easily return to that once they have received the help they need.
Test it: Put yourself in the place of the user, consider where they will ask for help, and see whether their progress are interrupted.
Users have to be able to find their way around and achieve their goals no matter what page they find themselves on.
Test it: Make sure that navigation is reachable on every page and that your pathways are as intuitive as possible.
Foreground and background are sufficiently contrasted
This is especially important for people with visual disabilities. It also improves a user’s understanding. Clear distinction aids with navigation, draws more attention to buttons and increases usability.
Test it: You could capture the screen, apply a gaussian blur to a Radius of around 3px to 5px then see if you can easily tell what’s in the foreground and what’s in the background. Then alter accordingly.
Don't use much more than two distinct font families
Although this isn’t a strict rule it is best for accessibility. For usability and visual purposes, sticking to two simplifies your typographic hierarchy, which improves comprehension.
Test it: Simply check that your design isn’t mixing more than two type families. You should also make sure that the ones you choose are properly matched, you can find out more on this.
Text fonts are no smaller than 12 pixels
Again, it’s not a fixed rule but generally speaking readability is severely reduced for sizes below 12 pixels. Ideally a minimum of 14px is said to be better for accessibility.
Test it: Pretty obvious I suppose, check all of your content to ensure all fonts used are at least 12px.
Reserve uppercase words for labels, headers, or acronyms
Limiting the use of uppercase words is less visually heavy and easier for the user to digest. It should be used specifically for emphasis or very restricted cases such as acronyms.
Test it: A thorough content check to make sure that uppercase words are kept to a minimum and only used where necessary.
You're stil wondering what LinkedIn did so wrong aren't you? A settlement in California resulted in LinkedIn dishing out over £9 million to compensate users who were manipulated by the site’s deceptive UX into handing over their address books, which LinkedIn then used to spam their contacts with connection requests.
See, bad UX can cost you!
Created on Monday May 09 2016 02:14 PM
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