Incremental Accessibility Improvements

I’m in the very early stages of putting together accessibility improvements for an e-commerce web site. The site is several years old, and while it isn’t a complete accessibility disaster, there are many ways it can be improved. The markup was constructed decently enough, but it’s safe to say that accessibility wasn’t so much as even a fleeting thought.

My efforts are part of an overall project to improve and refresh the look and information architecture of the web site. From both a design and user experience perspective, we’ve advocated refreshing the site through gradual enhancements, instead of a massive, all-at-once redesign.

I’m excited at the chance to steer some real accessibility improvement on this project. This is a chance to get in there and make immediate improvements.

Some of the things I aim to do right out of the gate are:

  • Add header tags (the site doesn’t have any at all)
  • Ensure that all imagery have meaningful and descriptive alt tags (many have none at all)
  • Fix banners in which color contrast is not sufficient
  • Ensure that forms are properly labeled and easy to navigate
  • Ensure the ability to keyboard navigate the site is properly sequential
  • These are easy “quick wins” that can be done without massive amounts of effort.

    Not every accessibility undertaking — or redesign/refresh overall — needs to be a huge undertaking. For one, there may not be a budget to completely overhaul a site. Also, such overhauls can potentially be too sudden and startling a change for visitors who have been there before.

    You don’t have to wait for the big, all-encompassing project to make improvements. You can tackle it piece and piece and, incrementally, improve the accessibility.

    As I knock off each of those bullets above as well as whatever else I find, the site will become better and better for those who visit via screen readers, keyboard navigation or whatever means they need to. The site will become better and better, period.

    3 thoughts on “Incremental Accessibility Improvements

    1. John F Croston III

      I have done a few times with different work websites as well.

      The first step for this one website was remove all the inline styles and extra tables, which the users noticed by saying the website seemed a lot quicker to load now. The next pass was to improve the color contrast, font size, and the like. Next, went on to add headings, labels to forms, skip navigation, and that kind of thing.

      After getting the visual design straightened out it was easier for me to just make coding changes that the users never new what was being done. Each time I was to update the next section of the website I would get the one of the main users to test things to make sure I did not mess anything up.

      This all done over a good year plus, since I had other websites I was responsible for that needed work as well.

    2. fmachs

      Hai.

      I usually take projects where designers doesn’t take into account any accessibility or usability recomendations. Same for SEO and content (actually, not even IA).

      People responsible for content aren’t aware of how to write content for the web. There is no strategy at all.

      I am not a designer (and sadly, not the project manager). I am a web developer and when those projects arrive, he (project manager) just want me to code and there’s no possibility of changes in what was done (IA and a few social media research, poorly done).

      In the past, I worked with accessibility in a Real Estate agency, implementing the W3C recommendations.

      Now that there is a lot of work to do with markup (since my main occupation is building websites), I started to be a little bit more curious about accessibility and SEO. I mean, content.

      Any advices would be welcome.

    3. Pingback: Getting Down and Dirty with Accessibility and Usability – #TCUK12 Workshop - Mardahl.dk

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