A lack of accessibility on the high street is costing retailers billions of pounds and is losing them valued custom from disabled shoppers. econsultancy.com carried out tests to see if the same was happening online and the results were surprising…
Picture the scene: You’ve managed to get to the shops, you’re excited you know what you want and you’ve got the money to pay for it. You’re in a wheelchair and there’s only steps, no ramp in to the shop. How do you feel? Pretty deflated at the very least I expect.
The ‘digital high street’ is a convenient way for disabled shoppers to shop without having to tackle the barriers they face in store. What better time than now to review the online accessibility of some popular UK retailers including Boots, Tesco, House of Fraser and more.
To evaluate a website’s online accessibility, they were audited against the Web Consortium Accessibility Guidelines from the W3C (WCAG 2.0) A typical shopping journey was followed to understand how the retailers approached accessibility and they looked at things such as keyboard accessibility and screen reader compatibility. Other major aspects considered that feature in WCAG 2.0 Level AA, include:
• Use of headings
• Alt text for images
• Availability of skip links
• Inclusion of a visible focus
• Access to forms
• Use of ARIA to provide greater context
• Access of pop ups / modal windows
• Colour contrast
• Content ordered logically
• Meaningful links that describe their purpose
All sites failed to meet Level AA of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines making it difficult for disabled users to even purchase a product. Half of the websites totally blocked users at certain points on their online journey.
Tesco and House of Fraser provided clear and consistent visible focus - a navigational technique informing the user of where they are on the page visually. Essential for sighted users who rely on visual cues to navigate with a keyboard.
House of Fraser highlight the selected navigation item with a pink underline,
clearly detectable from the text around it.
Only half of the websites implemented ‘skip to’ links so keyboard and screen reader users could also share the privilege of skipping lengthy navigation menus and going straight to the main content. House of Fraser excelled here too. Joules’ skip links were designed to be hidden for sighted users but consequently, sighted keyboard users were unable to take advantage of this functionality.
All retailers were pretty good with use of alternative text with appropriate and descriptive alt tags on images allowing users with visual and cognitive disabilities to access the same content as everybody else.
Providing context to screen reader users is fundamental for those who are not able to visually group information or comprehend it’s meaning from how it’s been presented visually. All retailers at one point or another had links that did not make sense out of context such as Mothercare.com’s use of links such as ”remove” and “edit”.
Those unable to see the visuals that the links ”remove” and “edit” sit beneath
would struggle to know what these prompts relate to.
Generally, retailers have a visual indication when sizes are out of stock but often there was no verbal notification that this was the case, all sizes would be read out, implying they are available. A screen reader user would be unable to choose a product size, at which point they’d need to either give up or request assistance.
Online retail could be the ideal solution for those who suffer physical difficulties when shopping in store. Most retailers had a reassuring accessibility statement full of good intentions but they need to act further on this by implementing WCAG 2.0 to significantly improve accessibility. They should also consult with accessibility and UX experts to fully understand the needs of disabled customers and the technical solutions required to provide accessibility.
Created on Tuesday February 28 2017 05:39 PM
This is Focus are one of Bristol's longest established and trusted digital studios, trading since 1996. We provide accessible, content managed web sites and bespoke web applications to a wide range of sectors including local government, commercial organisations and charities.
We are looking to expand our technical team who are responsible for creating and maintaining our products and systems. We have a number of opportunities for web developers with different levels of experience to join our friendly and enthusiastic company. We are keen to hear from people who might have several years of relevant programming experience including time spent in an agency, or experienced developers who might be looking to move into a supervisory / management role, or people who are looking to start their career in web development and digital.
Whatever your experience you must have a genuine passion for all things digital and a keenness to be part of an expanding and progressive agency who are increasing their market share within local government. We have a casual but professional office environment and you'll have access to the latest spec machines to work on. We run our projects using elements of agile and we are ISO9001:2008 certified.
We are delivering innovative and outstanding digital products and services to our customers; with the user experience and quality of our work at the heart of everything we do. The sort of things our tech team get stuck into include:
- coding up complete projects from specification through to deployment.
- new product design and development.
- maintaining existing sites with updates, upgrades and fixes.
- product design, including our own content management system and development of new / enhanced functionality.
- working with business development teams on quotations and preparation of proposals, some liaison with key clients.
- automated testing and web site optimisation.
Independent of your technical experience we're looking for people with:
- a genuine interest in digital and a desire to join an enthusiastic, experienced team creating great products.
- ongoing learning of new skills, techniques and technologies.
- excellent communication skills and a demonstrable ability to manage your own schedule of work to meet deadlines and priorities.
We are interested in hearing from developers that cover any of these bases; so if you are experienced in a few of them, but have an interest in learning the others, we would be interested in talking to you - we don’t expect you to have experience in all the technologies we list:
- we are exclusively Ruby on Rails for all back-end development.
- we find ourselves doing more and more front-end scripting including Ionic / Angular (for hybrid app development), jQuery, vue.js, and others.
- responsive site build in HTML5, CSS3 and Bootstrap and also some Sass.
We use Git and Gitlab to manage process and version control.
- Servers are Linux, mainly RedHat / CentOS, running Passenger on Apache.
- Development machines are either OSX-based, or Vagrant on Windows.
- Elasticsearch for data searching / filtering.
- CouchDB / PouchDB for data replication / offline applications
Benefits we can offer include:
- generous starting salary dependent on skills and experience with regular salary reviews.
- 23 days holiday, increasing 1 day with each full year of service, additional and extended Christmas and New Year holiday.
- company pension scheme (from July 2017).
- based in new offices located in Temple Quay, three minute walk from Temple Meads train station.
- subsidised restaurant on site and other facilities.
- attendance at relevant events and conferences.
- choice of PC / Mac platforms, latest kit.
- some flexible / remote working for the right candidate (for more experienced roles)
- everyone makes a contribution and can make a difference.
If you are interested in finding out more or would like to log your interest with us, then please email us (using this link) in the first instance, with some summary details about your background and level of experience, the sort of role you are looking for and what's important to your working life.
We are likely to be arranging informal Skypes / chats over the phone initially and we are looking to appoint several roles over the next few months.
Agencies - please do not contact us about these or any roles. Please do not ignore this request to not contact us. Please do not cold-call or spam us about these roles, you will be wasting your valuable time.
Created on Tuesday February 21 2017 02:15 PM
My tilted reflection stares back at me as I ponder whether I’ll ever get around to hanging this full length mirror up on the wall. For months it has been leaning there next to the canvas prints that long for a nail to sit upon, far away from my clumsy footsteps.
Realistically, that isn’t likely to happen until my toolbox pries itself from between the lawnmower and empty shoeboxes I’m convinced I’ll find a use for.
What I want is for someone to bring my toolbox to me, hand me the best tools for the job and show me how it’s done.
If monitoring and assessing the accessibility of your websites is your mirror to hang, I’m about to bring you your tools.
Whether you’re just getting in to the accessibility swing of things or you’ve got a few clients relying on you to make their site accessible, this responsibility can be very daunting. There are so many reasons a website could become inaccessible and they’re not always easy to keep on top of.
Here’s where the tool talk comes in! There are plenty of accessibility tools available online. The W3C publishes a list of these at https://www.w3.org/WAI/ER/tools/ Currently there are 88 tools displaying for me but I’ll ease you in gently with a Top 5:
aXe Chrome extension
The free aXe Chrome extension is an accessibility testing tool that returns zero false positives. You can run audits in the browser and it will show all accessibility errors along with an explanation of the broken rule (from WCAG 2.0 and section 508) and the corresponding standard http://bit.ly/2a1W6oJ
Accessibility Checker is an innovative solution that lets you inspect the accessibility level of content created in CKEditor and immediately solve any accessibility issues that are found https://cksource.com/ckeditor/services#accessibility-checker
Dashboard for automatic accessibility testing
This web dashboard automatically performs daily tests of web pages. Graphs help you track improvements and regressions over time. It’s especially useful for non-developers to see how your sites perform https://github.com/pa11y/dashboard
Accessibility visualisation toolkit
tota11y helps you to visualise how your site performs with assistive technologies. Great or those with no prior accessibility knowledge as it help you to visualise accessibility violations (and successes), while educating on best practices http://khan.github.io/tota11y/
The best tool though? User research. There’s no better way of finding what needs fixing than by watching someone navigate your site with the use of a screenreader or other assistive technology. Just like looking in a mirror, you'll never be able to see what someone else does.
Created on Thursday January 26 2017 03:54 PM
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
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