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It was a great day @WECILBristol, lots of useful info and meeting new people. Win win! #WECILConf15, posted 2 days ago

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articles tagged with: accessibility

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Accessibility & The Web

Accessibility & The Web

Sure, I was hungry but I wasn't just there for the sandwiches. When I heard Accessible Bristol was hosting an event for anyone interested in the web and accessibility, I saw it as an opportunity to ensure our clients get what they want. Here at Focus we work with a lot of local authorities and for websites such as theirs, accessibility is key.

I was keen to hear from one of the most recognisable and respected people in the web accessibility industry; Steve Faulkner (pictured). An enthusiastic man who has dedicated 15 years to web accessibility. In 2001 he started his career with vision Australia. Today he has kept his accent and is Principal Accessibility Engineer at The Paciello Group as well as being co-editor of the W3C HTML5 specification, and a contributor to other specifications including Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA).

Sitting excitedly in the front row I was pleasantly surprised when the casually dressed, relaxed man sat amongst us took to the stage. This immediately likeable character delivered a highly knowledgeable presentation and although it was very much focused at developers rather than designers such as myself, I still felt included despite being somewhat outnumbered by the 'techies' in the audience.

Steve went through an alphabet themed slideshow; A is for ARIA, B is for Button, C is for Canvas and so on (view slides). Admittedly it was like learning a new language but I always strive to be a better designer, and if learning 'techie talk' and understanding ways I can work more in sync with the development team will help towards that, then count me in.

Once the sandwiches were scoffed and the slideshow slowed to a stop, it was question time. I plucked up the courage to ask a design focused question and felt all eyes on me, then a few more of us admitted to being in the design 'camp' and conversation started to flow. Talk ranged from not knowing where to begin with a blank canvas, to a woman with dyslexia and dyspraxia expressing her frustration when surfing the net.

When it all came to an end, the message that stood out for me as a designer was this;
“Think about accessibility first and foremost, because if you get it right for disabled people, you get it right for everyone.”

If you would like to know more about accessibility, Steve recommended the website On there you can find a simple checklist that presents Webaim's recommendations for implementing HTML-related principles and techniques:

You can keep up to date with all Steve has to share by following him over on Twitter @stevefaulkner

Jordana Jeffrey

Created on Wednesday January 28 2015 12:09 AM

Tags: web-development accessibility web-design userexperience disability

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Accessibility and the Olympics

Accessibility and the Olympics

World Usability Day 2013 at the M Shed this year had a host of great talks from usability professionals and enthusiasts from around the world. One talk really caught my attention and that was "BBC Olympics: An Accessibility Study" by Alistair Duggin the lead front-end developer at Money Advice Service. The talk looked back on the BBC Olympics website and the huge task taken on by the BBC to cover the Olympics in the digital age They wanted to make 24 HD live streams, over 2500 hours worth of video coverage as well as huge amounts of stats and data available world wide to a massive audience across mobile, tablet, PC and connected TV.

By the end of the project there had been 37 million UK browses, 66% of the adult population had visited the website as well as having 57 million global browses with 111 million video requests across all available platforms. These numbers were not the only difficulties of the project, the team at the BBC had an immovable deadline of a huge profile event and were working with teams of mixed knowledge in terms of accessibility. On top of this for added pressure the Australian olympics had been sued for being inaccessible.

So the team had one page for each of the 10,000 athletes, 205 countries, 36 sports, 304 medal winning events and 30 venues that they had to make usable and accessible for people with a range of visual, auditory, motor and cognitive abilities. This is where I was really surprised by the talk, I was expecting a full range of teams running huge usability studies and endless testing to make sure everything was perfect deploying more resources than is possible in a normal sized project. In reality the methodology and practices followed by Alistair and his team were reusable on any scale and in fact should be used on all web projects. It is not spending a lot of time changing designs and code to make it accessible, if you have accessibility in the back of your head when creating websites then you should only have to do it one time.

They had a library of common html widgets and reusable components that could be dropped into any page promoting the reusability and consistency of their code. Then for content, html, css and javascript they had a few simple rules to help create usable websites. For content having alt text for images, captions for tables and full text for abbreviations as well as having content in a logical order. Using appropriate html elements, not duplicating links as well as coding forms and tables to the correct standards helped create markup that was accessible for users using screen readers or navigating with a keyboard. For css having a non javascript layout, setting style on focus as well as hover, not using !important and checking for colour contrast were all very important. Feature detection in javascript as well as making sure the javascript generated valid html and there were no keyboard traps that stopped a user being able to navigate past certain points with a keyboard were all employed throughout the pages.

These are all the kind of coding practices that we can all follow on our websites but not necessarily something we check as often as how a page looks in IE7 or displays on a mobile device. I learned a lot from Alistair's talk, especially coming from the view point of a front end developer it showed me how important accessibility is for users, we should not be thinking about making it better for a minority of users but instead creating universal accessibility. He also talked about having a website that is one hundred percent accessible as not being realistic and that we need to prioritise in real world projects but that accessibility does not have to compromise design or ingenuity in websites.

Steve Fenn

Created on Monday December 09 2013 10:00 AM

Tags: accessibility conference userexperience ux usability

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Creating change in social health and care

'Big Wecil' has been the affectionate name throughout the summer for one of our larger and more complex projects - which gets it's first serious airing tomorrow (Wednesday 11th September) at Disability Somerset - the south west's leading independent living exhibition.

We're not going to give too much away at this stage, but it's a hugely exciting and innovative way for adults who require social care to plan their care and manage their personal budgets - all in line with the ongoing requirements from government for more personal choice and decision making.

'Big Wecil' has been designed from scratch to work across all platforms and devices, such as iPads and iPhones, includes lots of features to enhance accessibility, and throughout the project there's been a real focus on system usability. The software looks set to provide a truly collaborative environment for professionals such as GPs, social workers and health visitors.

With the BBC and other news outlets at tomorrow's exhibition, we're looking forward to revealing a little more about the project - meanwhile as we might be on telly, we need to go and check our hair.....

Simon Newing

Created on Tuesday September 10 2013 11:36 AM

Tags: web-development accessibility onlinetool

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Findability Bristol goes Mobile!

Findability Bristol goes Mobile!

Another go-live during our busy Summer was the dedicated Mobile site for Findability Bristol, an online directory for disabled children and their families.

Since the main site went live back in March 2012, we're been monitoring the Analytics, and seen a month-on-month increase in visits from Mobile devices. The figures spoke for themselves - a 481% increase in Mobile visitors in May this year compared to May 2012 - and it was only increasing. This, along with a need by the Family Information Services team at Bristol City Council to make information available and accessible to as many families as they can, made the case for developing a dedicated Mobile site a compelling one.

Key figures:

  • The number of visits made using a mobile device had almost tripled compared to the first 6 months of launch.
  • A 21% drop in pages-per-visit suggests people have grown to expect websites to be mobile compatible - and are losing patience with those that aren't.
  • The average visit duration when accessing via a mobile device had dropped to less than a minute.
  • Almost a 10% increase in new visits being made using a mobile device.
  • 14.36% rise in bounce rate suggests users are getting increasingly deterred as soon as they see the site is incompatible with mobile.

So, we set about developing an easy-to-use site that kept the fundamental features of the desktop version, plus a couple of extras to make full use of the mobile environment - for example, smart phone users who have geolocation enabled, this plots your location and the nearest organisations to you from your search!

Key features:

  • The mobile home page features clear navigation to key area, plus keyword and location search of organisations and events.
  • Search results are displayed along with a Google Map - this links through to view full Google Map and associated functionality - including "show me directions from my current location".
  • The events calendar provides users with a menu offering 'view events for current week' - organised by today, tomorrow, remaining days of that week.
  • Clicking a specific event takes the user through to an individual page for that event, including a Google Map.
  • It's also easy to make contact, provide feedback, and visit the related Facebook (mobile) page.

It's only been a couple of weeks since go live, so we'll be keen to view the analytics in due course and report back on the difference having the dedicated Mobile site has made. We hope this will be more returning visitors, who spend the right amount of time on the right pages, finding what they need quickly and easily.

We'll report back later in the year!

Visit the Desktop site, or the Mobile site (using your mobile for the best experience!)

If you'd like to know more about dedicated Mobile sites, please get in touch.

Annette Ryske

Created on Tuesday August 06 2013 12:07 PM

Tags: accessibility bristol young-people online-tool iphone disability children mobilewebsite

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Information Architecture as part of a user centred design process

Information Architecture as part of a user centred design process

Recently at a focus knowledge share I talked to the team about Information Architecture and its role within the user centred design process. I also talked through best practice methods and techniques that could be used within a digital project. I like to think of Information Architecture or IA as the art of organising websites or software to support usability. IA can be used outside of digital projects but this is what I focused upon.

Information Architecture can identify the goals of your website and help you to create a digital blueprint or wireframe of your potential users' process through your website. It is an important part of the strategy and solution design process right at the start of a web project. You can use it to eventually group up and define the taxonomy of all of the website's contents, products and features in a user driven way.

IA is just one part of the user centred design process, analysing your users needs and assessing the journey they want to complete on your website. It is using key usability principles such as visibility, accessibility and consistency to create the basis for what will become your final deliverable. The user centred design process as a whole incorporates a lot of real world testing to ensure no assumptions are made during the design process. IA starts off this real world testing at a very early stage, ensuring first of all you know the correct audience to test! Designers and developers must be experts in our fields, however we do not know often the intricacies of the end user and need to form our opinions on a basis of research to then take back to the client.

There is always a different amount of research required with every project. The methodology, processes and opinions of IA I am talking about just refer to common approaches rather than quoting from an exact guide to IA.

At the very beginning of any size IA process it is important to ask yourselves, your users and your client questions. What are the short term goals of the website? Why would people come to the website? We need at this stage to establish an audience, this is going to be very important as we will base the majority of our research gathering from this audience. At this point we have to really think through what different elements that make up a website's audience and how they will use the website differently from each other. You can create scenarios of them coming to the website, what their goals are and what difficulties they might have. From here we can gauge our competitors and start to address gaps in functionality in the market for the audience. This is only the start of your UX and IA journey, next you can start to define core content and the functional requirements of your website, this will lead you down a path of wireframes and lo-fi designs until you have your perfect blueprint for the website of your user's dreams!

Some of the core methods and techniques of IA were the reason I enjoyed it so much in university. Card sorting and content discussions with your peers either as part of the user group or as a facilitator is always fascinating and insightful. It helps to outline potential issues and golden points to your website that you have not thought of yet.

Creating sitemaps, wireframes and discussing the user flow throughout a website will help your designers. When they open the graphics tool of their choice they are equipped not only with their expert knowledge of the web but a knowledge of what the user needs and what goals have to be achieved by their design. Personas can often really bring a website to life, when you are discussing how best Jimmy the iPhone fanatic will achieve his goals of buying your client's products you can start to feel the website being out in the real world before it is fully created.

A full user centred design process is not always what the client has in mind when they bring a project to you, it is often the case that there is not a budget to go out and spend weeks creating personas and testing how the website flow using paper based designs. However small bits of IA and the user centred design process will always fall into a web-creative's design process, we want to create the dream websites for our users and the only people who know exactly what the dream is, is the users themselves.

Steve Fenn

Created on Thursday February 07 2013 03:38 PM

Tags: accessibility userexperience ux usability

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Fab new site for Findability Bristol

Fab new site for Findability Bristol

Last week we proudly launched a great new site for Findability Bristol. It’s an online directory for disabled children and their families, offering information about services, organisations and events in Bristol.

We’ve loved working on the site with the Findability team, and especially enjoyed developing some of its more engaging features, including:
•  Changing home page image every time you visit
•  Advanced search, enabling postcode and category filters
•  Scrolling events calendar
•  Site accessibility features such as Text Resize and Text Only
•  Blog – enabling the Findability team to keep in touch with users.

Findability is a Bristol-based portal site for 1Big Database, an online community database we set up for Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire back in 2004.  Findability filters data from 1BD for it’s relevance to disability, and reflects this in the results it shows to the user. It’s an ongoing project, relying on the listees’ details being updated regularly and accurately, therefore providing better and more relevant results for users as time goes on.

We’re delighted to have been a part of such a worthwhile project, and would thank the partnership involved:
• 1Big Database (Bristol City Council, Bath & North East Somerset   Council, South Gloucestershire Council)
•  Bristol Parent Carers
•  BCC Disability Communications Group.

Check out the site here!

Annette Ryske

Created on Tuesday March 13 2012 10:10 AM

Tags: website accessibility bristol disability

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Accessibility and Captcha

Accessibility and Captcha

At Focus we always try to adhere to the 'latest accessibility standards', a phrase which is often easy to say but requires some practical investigation when developing new projects. Recently I was required to research the possibility of using javascript on a text only version of a website and the possible problems this might cause. Without the ability to ask screen readers users, a survey of 1245 people at was the next best thing. I was surprised to find that as high as 98% of users had javascript enabled, an increase from 75% - 90% in the 2009 screen reader survey. This gave the indication that javascript would be a viable option.

I started to look into other features that we had implemented to help with accessibility and just to update my knowledge on the biggest problems for users with reduced access. There were several issues that you would expect to see high up the list, such as; missing alt tags, poor keyboard accessibility and inaccessible flash. The most problematic item however was captcha. Captcha is Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, you will often see it when trying to complete forms.

Captcha has the issue of needing to provide security against bots whilst allowing users to still gain access. On some websites I will get the captcha wrong several times so I can imagine a user with poor eyesight would find it impossible. W3 suggests logic puzzles, sound output and non-interactive checks such as heuristic checks (detecting bots using the volume of data the user requests and other background methods) as good possible solutions to solve adding security to websites without reducing access. 

We have been implementing a logic captcha gem which produces questions such as "In the following list how many animals are there: cat, blue, red, lion, yellow?" This gives the user the chance to prove they are not a bot but does not need any extra features for text only or high contrast versions. reCAPTCHA also has improved accessibility from previous versions, adding better keyboard support and sound output. There are several other implementations with positives and negatives as well.

The accessibility and usability of the websites we create will always be a high priority however we can only keep up these standards if our knowledge of what users need is up to date. Our 'next text captcha' is an example of how we try to implement accessibility best practices across our websites. 

Steve Fenn

Created on Friday February 17 2012 02:41 PM

Tags: web-development accessibility captcha logicpuzzles

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Are you Mobile?

Are you Mobile?

There have been a large number of articles over the last few months on the rise of mobile internet with more people now using mobile devices to view websites. This is something which interests us a lot here at Focus Towers as we’ve always believed mobile phones and tablets would become a key way for people to access the web.

I also read yesterday about how social media is helping to maintain the interest in TV shows such as X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday. I would imagine the people using social media while watching TV are using a mobile phone or tablet to ‘tweet’ or ‘comment’ about what they are watching. I for one was on Twitter (on my iPhone) last night while watching Young Apprentice and chuckling at some of the comments which were made and observations made by people which I had also noticed.

“Almost half of UK internet users are going online via mobile phones, according to the Office for National Statistics.”

Source: BBC News, 31 August 2011

It’s not just TV shows, you can now use your mobile phone to check prices of items online before purchase in store or using your phone to find the closest coffee shop.  There is a huge buzz around app currently and I have 100’s downloaded to my phone, but I’m using mobile sites more and more for things like banking, shopping, checking out the latest film or train times. I even used Heathrow’s mobile site to check on arrival times for a friend’s flight. I also use the Amazon mobile site rather than the iPhone app because I find that it’s quicker and easier to make a purchase.

A recent study commissioned by Barclays Corporate found that almost 63% of all mobile owners use their device during the online purchase process at present but that this still accounts for just 5% of total ecommerce spend (£26bn) for 2011. However, the research predicts that this figure will rise to £19.3bn a year by 2021 due to the growing popularity of smart phones and tablet devices, sales of which are set to hit 6m by the end of this year alone.

Building a mobile version of a web site isn’t complicated and doesn’t require extensive additional coding (as the same data sources can be used for both ‘standard’ and ‘mobile’ sites) - but it does require some thought due to the reduced processing power and screen real estate of such devices.

We find the key is to focus on your ‘call to action’ and ensure it can be completed easily within the given restrictions. One of the other main differences is that smart phones tend to rely on touch screen for interaction with the user - so the design should lend itself to big graphical buttons that can be viewed and ‘clicked upon’ easily with the finger - rather than a cursor.


If you want to see our own mobile site just type into your phones browser and you’ll see how we have made our desktop site an easy to use and view mobile version. 

Michael Cooper (W3C WAI) on Usability and Accessibility

Michael Cooper (W3C WAI) on Usability and Accessibility

I've just come back from a very interesting lunchtime lecture entitled: WCAG 2.0 for usability specialists by Michael Cooper (from W3C WAI).  It is the second of two events I've attended this year advertised on the 'Bristol Usability Group' network, and it was extremely informative.  Having attended the RNIB WCAG 2.0 one day course last year, I was interested in polishing up some knowledge on building accessible websites, but also in posing a few questions from the perspective of the buzz term 'User Experience'. The talk was really well organised and informative so thank you to Stuart Church from CX Partners for adding it to the Bristol Usability forum.

In his talk, Michael Cooper went through some of the beginnings of accessibility, as well as confronting a few common perceptions as to notions of what is usable, and what is not. 

For example he illustrated that whilst an image online might seem visible and helpful to the average user, without the magic [alt=""] attribute not visible to the average browser user,  it suddenly becomes unhelpful and positively annoying for the screen-reading user, as the random image url is read out loud in an effort to inform the user of it's presence. Whilst information like this is available at the W3C WCAG 2.0 Guidelines site, even Michael Cooper admits that the guidelines are 'carefully crafted to be precise, rather than to be easily read'.  Slightly ironic bearing in mind that one of the 4 key principles of accessibility is for content to be 'Understandable!'

One area of particular interest for me was the notion of a 'A', 'AA' or 'AAA' site. As with everything now, whilst definable in a court of law, what is black and white on paper is often grey in the light of day. 

As I had an official W3C WAI representative right there in front of me, I asked Michael if it was really possible to have a 'AAA' site, as some of the strictest 'AAA' guidelines seem to contradict each other. His response was interesting, and seemed to sum up the best-practise attitudes that are helpfully gaining some momentum in the web world today.

He said (paraphrased):  Yes, there can be 'AAA' standard websites, 'as long as you chose appropriate content for the specific user group, and don't use a conflicting combination of content'. 

User groups and users are ultimately who we're working for, even though we love our clients.  Whilst a bit simplistic, if we can help a user to use a site, then we are doing our job, and Michael Cooper's position on aiming to broaden the possible types and numbers of those users is a cause worth fighting for...even if that means trawling daily through the 'book-length' documentation that accompanies the WCAG 2.0 guidelines!

We look forward to this years release of PDF and Flash specific additional guidelines.

You can view the Talk notes here.

Created on Thursday April 08 2010 04:00 PM

Tags: web-development accessibility userexperience ux usability

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Working through WCAG 2.0

Last month I was privileged enough to have the opportunity to spend a day with the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) super-accessibility-squad, or SAS for short, and blown away by how much information can be picked up in just a day.

I was in the "Working through WCAG 2.0" day-long workshop, and I would recommend it to anyone who would like to work out some of the differences between the old and new Website Accessibility Guidelines, and/or learn some up-to-date best practises on attempting to meet these guidelines.

My experience was made even better because I was able to sit next to someone who only coded using screen-reading technology, and was therefore able to gain an insight into a level of accessibility know-how that I could not have gained any other way.

I was interested in the realistic approach taken by the RNIB. Whilst they have every right to scream and shout about the unbelievable amount of inaccessible material out there on and off the web, they instead pointed out the small things that you can quickly change to make a big difference to all of your users. This was the least that a user should expect from a website, allowing us all to progress into more complex issues with a good understanding of the standards expected by the RNIB.

Another interesting idea was that by trying to meet all AAA Priority guidelines in WCAG 2.0 could in fact exclude more users than aiming to meet the AA Priority guidelines and only a few but well chosen guidelines from AAA Priority! Obviously this is determined by the user group, but it was an interesting point that could only be really made by the experts!

Hopefully I've sung their praises enough, so please have a look for yourself as I would recommend this course to small and big companies alike, because this is the way web best-practise is definitely taking us.

Course details:
Related article:

Created on Wednesday October 14 2009 03:16 PM

Tags: website internet web-development wcag-20 accessibility training

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