A really accessible website? Involve experts by experience.
- August 19, 2020
- 4 minutes
Many organizations do their utmost to meet accessibility standards (such as the WCAG). But can people with a challenge really use the website? Meeting accessibility standards is no guarantee for this. That is why we believe it is essential to conduct user tests with experts by experience. Moreover, users with challenges are ideal advisers when it comes to user-friendliness. They expose problems like no other. Thus involve experts by experience in your user tests to obtain a real accessible website! But how do you approach those user tests?
Involve users with challenges early in the development process
It is smart to involve users with challenges early on in the development process. You can do that, for example, by including them in use cases, user analysis, personas, scenarios, workflows and design walkthroughs. Many organizations put together a team of experts for this purpose.
This has several advantages:
- By quickly involving users with a challenge, you often get a better website. It contributes to user-friendliness, a clear structure, ease of navigation, a clear design, clear language and findability in search engines.
- Working with a team of experienced experts leads to awareness, support and energy. Everyone involved in the project understands who he or she is doing it for.
- By including accessibility tests with experts in the project planning, the tests can be carried out in the correct project phase. This allows accessibility solutions to be developed more quickly.
- You don’t have to guess when it comes to accessibility. Well-considered decisions can be made.
- You avoid having to make compromises, because you are too far in the development process to be able to adjust certain things.
- You can do it right immediately. Adjusting things afterwards almost always takes more time (and money).
- You will gain a better understanding of the accessibility standards and guidelines that you must comply with now or later.
Test with several experts
Not everyone is the same. This applies just as much to people with challenges as to people without challenges. Everyone has their own experiences, expectations and preferences. In addition, people with challenges each use different interaction techniques, adaptive strategies and supporting technical aids.
Complexity is not limited to the category of challenge (auditory, cognitive, visual, physical, etc.). There are also people with multiple challenges and extreme variations can be found within each category. For example, a visual challenge includes people who have been completely blind since birth, people who have no central vision due to age-related macular degeneration, and people who have temporary blurred vision due to injury or illness.
It is therefore important to remember that a tester with a challenge is not always representative of all people with that challenge. Also, this tester does not always know how other people with the same challenge will use your website. Therefore, indicate outcomes smart, preferably by testing with multiple users. In addition to the hands-on experts, also involve accessibility experts.
Assembling a team of experts by experience
Ideally, the team of experts consists of people with:
- a visual challenge;
- an auditory challenge;
- a motor challenge (limited hand function);
- an intellectual challenge;
- a psychological challenge (for example autism);
- and low literacy.
Preferably, at least two people are present for each category.
Finding experts by experience is not always easy. Therefore, look for organizations that have contact with people with challenges. Think of interest groups, departments of the Oogvereniging or the Dovenschap, patient and client associations, care institutions, volunteer centers and welfare organizations that work with caregivers. Libraries or community centers that offer digital skills courses may also be able to help you.
Roles of the team of experts by experience
The team of experts generally has three roles:
The purpose of the demonstration is to show how people with challenges use a website and what is needed to make the website accessible and user-friendly. One or more experience experts show how they use a website and which obstacles they encounter if a website is not accessible. A demonstration is especially useful in the early stages of a project for awareness, preparation and training. Ieder(in) listed 6 tips for giving a demonstration.
The test team already starts testing during the design phase. Subsequently, this team remains involved during the development phase, to monitor the user-friendliness of the website based on a test protocol.
Making your website accessible is not a one-off action. You will have to monitor this continuously. The team of experience experts can play a role in this.
Draw conclusions and report
Be cautious when drawing conclusions in user testing. Results from just a few people with a challenge may not apply to all people with a similar challenge or people with a different challenge.
Include in the report the scope of the study and the evaluation parameters, such as test methods and user characteristics. For example, if a study included only participants who are blind, the report should clarify that it does not meet accessibility standards and that it does not apply to all people with challenges. While small studies often provide useful information, they are not robust enough to provide statistical significance.
Combine user test with standards
If you want to develop an accessible website, involving users with dchallenges has many advantages. However, user testing alone cannot determine whether a website is accessible. You will need to combine the feedback of experts by experience with the knowledge of accessibility experts and guidelines such as those of the WCAG. This way you ensure that your website is as accessible as possible for everyone.
Do you want to involve people with challenges in making your website accessible? Aally is happy to provide you with advice and can help you find experts by experience. Don’t hesitate to contact us.