How is the term ‘disabled people’ defined and why does it matter?
Published: December 7, 2018
As a website designer or an organisation commissioning a website you need to know how the term ‘disabled people’ is defined for the following reasons:
It will have an impact on the approach you take to making your website accessible.
As an organisation you will want to stay on the right side of the law when it comes to making your content and service accessible to ’disabled people’.
Ok, how is the term defined in law?
To paraphrase the UK equality legislation, the term, ’disabled people’ is defined not by the cognitive or physical impairment of the individual but by the physical (or virtual) environment they live in.
For example, if a wheelchair user turns up for a job interview to find that they can’t get in the building because there are steps up to the front door, that’s a problem. The legislation states that it is not the individuals mobility problem that makes them disabled it’s actually the lack of a ramp.
The design of the building and a lack of an alternative access route is preventing them from attending the interview. What needs changed here is not the person but the design of the building or the addition of an alternative way in.
In other words the individual is not expected to suddenly regain the power of their legs – their lack of mobility is not the issue. However, in this the lack of access to the building has put the individual at a disadvantage and that is against the law.
I understand how that works for buildings, what about websites?
The issues are exactly the same on the web. You can’t say that your website is not designed to be accessible to people who are blind or have Dyslexia or people with a hearing impairment.
If you said that you would be breaking the law; because you are implying that accessibility is due to a problem with the the person and not a problem with the website.
So in summary. If you are a website designer, this definition of ‘disabled people’ tells you that it’s your job to create a design that is flexible enough to accommodate the needs of individuals with different impairments.
If you are an organisation commissioning a website, you may be surprised to know that the accessibility of your website is not the responsibility of your website designer.
The UK legislation clearly states that the responsibility for ensuing your website is accessible lies with you, the owner of the site.
So for you the definition of the phrase ‘disabled people’ means you need to be absolutely clear when commissioning your website that it must be accessible to all users.
There are exceptions to this rule in that the any costs incurred and efforts you make are considered reasonable in relation to the resources you have as an organisation.
Digital Accessibility Consultant
Do you need your website to be accessible to disabled people? Do you need an accessibility audit of your existing website? I can help. Contact me. Tel: 07810 098 119
Organise your WordPress web content to help visitors navigate within your pages
Published: June 20, 2018
Help visitors navigate within your pages
It’s not just your overall website that needs to be well organised and easy to navigate, the same applies to your individual page content. In this section I introduce two simple ideas to help make your content more accessible, whether your visitors are disabled or not. The first idea relates to the visual layout of your content and the second to ensure that you are adding headings in a way that improves rather than hinders accessibility.
Use page layout to suggest content structure
The amount of ‘page real estate’ you give to each section should reflect the importance of that area to your target audience. Ideally you should try to create a visual hierarchy that reflects both the importance of each section and how each section relates to every other section.
In the example above, the largest area of the page is clearly on the left which implicitly tells the visitor to ‘start here as this is the most important bit’. Well organised pages are not only more accessible but also easier to use because visitors spend less time trying to figure out where to start and where to go next.
I’ll admit this is not a groundbreaking idea and that you will not always be able to apply it to every page. However, if you have it in mind each time you create a new page it will help you to organise your content and it will help you break your content up into logical chunks. This in turn will help guide visitors through your content.
It also helps you to think about where you should add headings in a way that breaks up your content visually on the page. That is not to say that the content itself will not be the main driver in terms of where you add headings. However, if you have a large area of content on your web page that is not broken up by any headings that is a problem as it is going to put visitors off reading it.
Add a heading to each section
The logical organisation of your content and the relative importance of each section should not only be clearly visible but it should be reflected in the way you display your headings. The size and colour of headings should reflect their relationship with each other. In short, more important headings should be bigger and stand out more.
The more you can do to make it clear how your page content is organised and how each section of your page relates to every other section, the easier it will be for visitors to consume your content.
The great thing about using WordPress is that it hides the complexity of creating web content. However, for our purposes it is useful to know a little bit of what is happening behind the scenes. Each time we use the WYSWYG editor to add a heading or a list or a paragraph of text or an image, WordPress is adding the appropriate code for us. For example, when we choose a particular heading from the toolbar pull-down menu WordPress adds the HTML tag for that heading to the page.
The screenshots above show what you end up with when you use the toolbar to create a heading, a paragraph or a list. Screen shot 1 shows the text being highlighted and a heading being chosen from the pulldown menu, screen shot 2 shows the result. In the third screen shot you see the HTML code that WordPress has created. In this case it is a level 2 heading.
<h2>Here is a heading</h2>
In WordPress you can create six levels of headings, <h1> ..</h1> through to <h6> … </h6>.
By adding headings in this way you are ensuring that your content will be understandable to people who cannot even see your page. The simple act of adding appropriate headings makes it easy for screen reader users to navigate through and summarise page content. They do this by reading out just the page headings and jumping between them to the section they are interested in.
So in the example below the screen reader user could jump directly to subheading 2 rather than having to read through all the content of the left-hand column first:
If we were to look at the code of the webpage example above, we would see that the most important heading on the page is enclosed by the H1 element
<h1>Most Important Heading</h1>
The next two headings are enclosed by the h2 and h3 elements respectively
<h2>Subheading 1</h2> <h3>Subheading 2</h3> And the final two headings are enclosed in an <h4> element: <h4>Subheading 3</h4> <h4>Subheading 4</h4>
We would also notice that the text in between the headings is enclosed in the paragraph (i.e.</p>…</p>) element which indicates to both your browser and someone using a screen reader that that these are paragraphs of text.
<p>Some paragraph text.</p>
The markup is giving structure to the web page that a web browser and a screen reader can understand. Using markup correctly to create this structure is key in ensuring your content is accessible.
You don’t need to add the HTML tags yourself
Luckily you don’t actually need to add the HTML yourself in order to create accessible web structured web pages. All you need to do is ensure that you are using the WYSWYG toolbar correctly when editing your documents. You are using the toolbar correctly when you use it to format your document with headings, paragraphs and lists when the content demands it.
Web pages are ‘structured documents’
I am aware that I have been using quite a lot of jargon in this section so far and I apologise for that. However, if you can ‘get your head around’ what these phrases mean it will definitely help you get a deeper understanding of how web pages are constructed. And crucially, it will give you a better understanding of how to ensure your pages are accessible. So on that note, I will introduce the phrase ‘structured document’ into the proceedings.
A web page is a ‘structured document’. This means that the document is ‘marked up’ (i.e. labelled) using the a markup language in a way that reveals its structure. That structure consists of headings, paragraphs, lists, images block quotes and so on. And in this case the markup language to describe the structure of web pages is Hypertext Markup Language, HTML for short.
Marking up a document just means that you are adding labels to the different types of content so that a computer can understand what they are and how to process them. A web browser such as Firefox, Google Chrome or Internet Explorer reads the document (i.e. a web page) and because the content is clearly labelled it is able to understand it.
What your web browser understands is, ‘this bit is a heading, this bit is a paragraph and this bit is an image’. That means it can display these elements appropriately.
This is important not just for web browsing software, it is also important for search engines such as Google.
Google is reading those same tags to understand which bits of the page are the most important and therefore which bits it should add to its search index.
It is important to screen reading software because it means it knows which bits it can use to provide a quick summary of the content to the screen reader user. For example, it can do this by listing all of the headings on the page or listing all of the links or reading out the text label of an image.
Every document has a structure whether online or offline
A newspapers is a good example of an offline structured document. It has Banner headings and small sub-headings to draw your attention to stories and it has paragraphs of text and photographs that write about and illustrate those stories.
Ok that’s enough about structured documents, let’s get back to ensuring our web pages are accessible. I’ll just quickly mention a technique I see people using a lot but which is very bad practice, I.e. styling text to make it look like a heading instead of formatting it as an actual heading.
Making it bold and bigger doesn’t make it a heading
It is possible to make pages look as if they have appropriate headings by visually making headings bolder and bigger (by using the bold button on the WYSWYG toolbar and increasing the font size) – however, that is not a good idea because it doesn’t add any heading tags to the page. It might work for you visually but it won’t work for the computers that need to process and understand that page content and it doesn’t work for human beings who are unable to see the page.
If you fail to add proper structure by using the appropriate tags (i.e chosen from the WYWYG toolbar menu) not only will search engines no longer know what bits of text on the page are the most important, a screen reader user would no longer be able to easily summarise or navigate through the content.
Just so I’m clear, tell me again, what does the phrase ‘mark up’ mean?
‘Marked up’ content just means that content has been labeled appropriately, as a heading or a paragraph or a quote or a list or a table…., e.g. in the following example the heading has been marked up using the h1 element:
The h1 is saying to the web browser, ‘this is the main heading on the page, please display it appropriately’. It is also saying to a screen reader, ‘voice this in a way that indicates it is the main heading for this page’. And it is saying to Google, ‘this is the main subject of this web page please index it as such in your searchable database’.
‘Marking up’ the elements of a page ensures that the organisation of that content is accessible to people using screen readers; the screen reading software will know which bits of the texts are headings and what the relationship is between those headings.
How it works in practice: how to create headings in WordPress
Now that we are clear that you need to add headings to your page it’s time to learn how to use the WordPress WYSWYG toolbar to markup your page content appropriately.
When creating headings you need to highlight your text and then use the format pull-down menu to format your heading, i.e. as a Heading 1 or a Heading 2 or a Heading 3 or whatever is the correct level for that particular heading in the page.
When you want to create a list you highlight your list content and click the list button on your WYSWG toolbar and if you want to create a paragraph you highlight your text and choose ‘paragraph’ from the formatting menu.
Paying attention to this aspect of page content creation ensures that you are adding a logical structure to your pages; which will be very helpful to the people visiting your page.
It’s as simple as that. 🙂
Do you need to do delete your mailing list? GDPR in six bullet points.
Published: May 11, 2018
It is clear form the conversations I am having with my own network (mostly within the voluntary sector) that the GDPR is causing a lot of the stress. Each individual I talk to seems to have a slightly different idea of what the requirements are and what they have to do to meet them.
With that in mind, here is my particular interpretation. I am not a lawyer and I’m not putting myself forward as the GDPR expert, however, I think a short summary of the main points is required – so I am trying to do that in this article.
The good thing is that if I’m getting it wrong it gives an opportunity for the real experts to put me right – hopefully as a comment that others can then read. So here is my interpretation of GDPR in six bullet points.
1. You can only data for the purposes agreed to
The GDPR legislation requires that consent must be specific. This means you can’t add people to your general mailing list if they signed up for something else; i.e. if they signed up to get a free download or to register for a webinar your can’t start sending them your newsletter.
‘Consent’ is the key word here. If you can’t demonstrate that consent was given you must you must stop emailing them (from May 25, 2018). You must also keep a trail showing how they joined and how consent was given.
If you cannot prove ‘consent was given’ not only must you stop emailing them you must remove them from your mailing lists. Consent must have been actively given, i.e. they clicked a checkbox or choose something from a pulldown list or clicked a link during a double opt-in process. You are not allowed to have pre-clicked checkboxes saying that they are agreeing to be on your mailing list.
1.1 If the people on your mailing list gave consent in the past do you need to seek it again?
You do, only if the consent provided was not in accordance with the GDPR guidelines and if the reason for having the data falls within the GDPR consent requirements.
In such an instance, on my analysis – you do not need to seek consent once again. However, I am happy from GDPR experts who can tell me that I am wrong – so please get in touch to confirm or deny my interpretation.
2. You must explain how data will be used
You are not allowed to collect data without explaining how you are going to use it. Clearly this is related to point 1; i.e. if they register for your newsletter you tell them you will be sending them your newsletter; if they register for your webinar you deliver your webinar.
Unless you have specifically said you are collecting their data to share it to a third party or to market specific services or products – that is not something you can do. Each of these activities requires separate active consent.
3. You can only collect the data you need
You are only allowed to collect the minimum amount of data for your purpose. If your purpose does not require a physical address you can’t collect that data; if your purpose does not require an individuals age you can’t collect their age.
4. You can’t keep data indefinitely
You should not keep data about people forever if here is no reason to keep it. If you have no reason to keep data you must delete it.
5. You must protect the data you collect
You have to take reasonable steps to protect the data you collect. This means that when you are collecting or storing information on your website you should provide a secure connection and data should be stored behind a secure wall (e.g. password collected).
- Your contact information.
- Details fo the information you collect and why you collect it.
- What you intend to do with the data including who else will access it.
- Their rights under the GDPR.
I am not a lawyer or a legal expert on the GDPR; so please do not take the information provided above as the gospel truth. However, I recognise that this is a topic causing a lot of stress for the people in organisations I work with – so I have attempted to summarise and clarify my understanding in the clearest way I can. Hopefully I have got it correct and that there are people who will find this summary useful.
Contact me if you have any corrections about what I have written above and I will update this page.
Digital Access consultant
5 ideas to improve your online presence and make your site more secure in 2018
Published: January 9, 2018
Happy New Year. I hope you had a restful break. 🙂
This is the time of year to make plans; freshen up your website; reach more people or try to do things more efficiently.
Here are five things to consider as we move in to 2018. Click the appropriate link for information about those activities you are interested in:
1. Make sure your website has been upgraded or re-designed to work well on mobiles and tablet computers. 2017 was the year that mobile usage finally overtook desktop browsing. Every website now needs to be a ‘responsive’ website and able to operate on all devices. Is yours?
The importance of having a mobile friendly website is, of course, not new. In 2016 Google made changes to the way they rank sites, to the extent that more mobile friendly sites are moved up the rankings. It is no longer simply about usability, it’s also about whether you can be found at all, ‘on any platform’. Gianluca Fiorelli wrote in the Moz* newsletter (Moz are an SEO consulting company) that, ‘Google is steadily moving to a mobile-only world’. Get in touch if you would like to discuss upgrading yours site to work well on mobiles.
2. Consider commissioning an accessibility audit of your site. You may be breaking the law without knowing it. If you web content is not accessible to disabled people that is considered a form of discrimination under the Equalities Act 2010.
If you ensure your website is accessible you are likely to increase the audience for your content. Accessible websites also tend to be easier to use for all visitors. This is an area I have over two decades of experience in so if you have any questions or if you would like to commission an audit get in touch. Get back to me within two days of receiving this newsletter and I promise to provide an unprecedented good deal on a website accessibility audit of your site. I will check your site against WCAG 2 level 2, or whatever level you require.
3. Ensure your website is protected against being hacked and that if you are hacked you have your content backed up. I am currently providing a discount on my standard website backup service.
I also provide a 24/7 monitoring (and cleanup) service to ensure that if your website gets hacked you will know right away. Immediate action is required if you website is hacked:
- If you are hacked and Google detects that your site has been hacked then your site will be blacklisted. This means that Google will start to tell visitors that your site is dangerous. Clearly that is not good for your credibility and, of course, you will lose much of your traffic as not many people will override a Google warning to visit your content. Once Google has blacklisted your site you need to clear your site of malicious content and then you need to try to get Google to remove the blacklisting.
- Hackers can add malicious code and content to your site and serve adverts to your visitors without you noticing. If you visit your site directly it looks fine. However when people are finding your site via Google it appears to be serving drugs or porn or some other malicious content.
In other words you need your site to be monitored and you need to be alerted right away if malicious code or content has been added to your site. You might think it won’t ever happen to you. Not true, it is almost guaranteed that you will be hacked at some point. 43,000 sites get hacked every day and 10,000 sites get blacklisted by Google every day. Get in touch if you have a WordPress website and you are not already using a monitoring and cleanup service. Not only can I give you a great deal, I’ll also install the monitoring software for free.
4. Make sure you are ready for the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). The GDPR is the EU data protection regulation which replaces the current Data Protection Act. It aims to simplify regulation and give individuals more control over their personal data. I recently wrote a short summary about the GDPR I think you will find useful.
5. Get a brand new accessible, mobile friendly, feature rich website; one that is designed from the ground up to help you meet your goals, whether that be to get more members, sell more products or get more people registered for your newsletter. If it’s been on your mind for a while now’s the perfect time to take action.
Get in touch if you want to chat about any of the above. Tel: 07810 098119 Email: email@example.com
All the best,
Quick Summary of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for Third Sector Organisations
Published: October 11, 2017
The GDPR is the EU data protection regulation which replaces the current Data Protection Act. It aims to simplify regulation and give individuals more control over their personal data.
For Third Sector organisation already working within the constraints of the Data Protection Act it is unlikely to mean enormous changes to their approach. However, it does come with some additional duties and and some additional anxiety, due to the enormous penalties for non-compliance. The penalties for non-compliance will make organisations think twice about their use of personal data (i.e. fines can be up to 4% of worldwide turnover).
The regulations become enforceable from 25 May 2018. From that point on organisations who process personal data must comply with the new regulations.
For example, regulations will apply to data stored and processed for campaigning, for fundraising and for volunteer management. It should also be noted that volunteers are to be treated in the same way as employees, i.e. they must have appropriate training in the area of data protection.
Organisations must arrange an audit of personal data held and know:
* Where it comes from?
* Who it is shared with?
When asking for consent to store someone’s personal details:
* You must explain why you are collecting the data.
* Explain why you are retaining it .
* And provide clear information on how it will be used.
Explicit consent is now required to sell or share data with third party organisations. For example, when building an online mailing list a pre-ticked box on a form is no longer allowed. Consent must be unambiguously indicated through an action of the subscriber, i.e. they must tick the box themselves.
Everyone who is on an existing list must be aware that they are on the list and why they are on there. Consent is not however required for all forms of direct marketing – organisations can still make calls or send direct marketing material by post provided they can satisfy the ‘legitimate interest’ condition. Situations where you do not need consent are set out specifically in the GDPR* (see my notes at the foot of this article).
Individuals will have a right of access to their own data at any time. Organisations therefore will need to plan how to handle data access requests and decide on timescales and procedures.
There is also a new ‘right to be forgotten’ choice and individuals can request to be removed from data lists. Data also has to be kept up to data; so regular checks will be required on existing data. This will require privacy policies to be updated to outline procedures for individuals to request removal of their data. Individuals also have to be able to find out what data you hold about them.
Procedures need to be in place to detect, report and investigate any personal data breaches.
The new legislation provides an opportunity to review current practices and ensure you are not contravening any of the additional protections required by the new act. And of course it needs to be taken seriously due to the severe penalties for any organisation found to be in breach of the the new legislation.
What about Brexit?
Brexit will not put paid to this legislation; it is almost certain that the UK will adopt most (or all) of GDPR legislation.
Do you need help with compliance?
Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design can help your organisation comply with the new regulations in the following areas.
Making your online content more secure
If you are holding individuals data on your web site (e.g. members, volunteers, clients) you need to be active in ensuring your website is secure. I can help you by hardening security on your server, providing security monitoring services, enabling secure connections (e.g. an SSL Certificate) and providing backups for all of your online data (both database content and files).
Ensuring online forms comply
I can review your existing forms to check compliances and update any that need to be updated.
Providing a website compliance audit
I can also provide an audit of your website and website data to check how you are collecting and storing users personal data.
Contact me now for help with GDPR compliance.
* The UK’s Data Protection Regulator’s (ICO) highlights four factors in relation to whether you can rely on Legitimate Interests to hold an individual’s data:
- You need to show that you have balanced their interests with your interests when processing their data.
- Your assessment needs to be documented, be available and be open to challenge by affected individuals on the Regulator.
- You need to be able to uphold the individual’s right to object to such processing.
Contact me If you value experience (over 20 years as a web developer) and unrivalled technical know-how. Get in touch. Tel: 07810 098119. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll see you at Independent Living Scotland 2017!
Published: September 27, 2017
I have a stand at this year’s Independent Living Scotland exhibition. Seek me out for a chat and for a free ‘live’ accessibility audit of your website. 🙂 Yes that is correct I will check the accessibility of your website while you are there.
I’m located in the Ability Fest Pavilion at stand number 23.
Here is the blurb from the exhibition organisers including information about parking.
“It’s time to get inspired at Scotland’s largest disability lifestyle and independent living event, 4-5 October at the SEC, Glasgow.
Doors open from 10am – 4pm each day. Make sure you get there early to hear from Sally Magnusson! The renowned journalist, broadcaster and Playlist for Life founder will be opening the show! (10am, Wed 4th Oct).
Register now to take advantage of FREE ENTRY & PARKING!
Visit us at the event to see, try and test our latest products and services!
What’s on at ILS 2017:
- Visit the Inspiration Theatre and hear from Skills Development Scotland, Guide Dogs Scotland, Racing Driver Mike Courts, wheelchair Rugby Paralympian Mike Kerr plus many more!
- Free sight and hearing tests from Black & Lizars
- Visit the Alzheimer’s and Autism Awareness areas for advice and support
- Be prepared with the Energy in Scotland Area where the leading energy suppliers will be on hand to provide advice & support for emergency situations
- FREE One to One Moving and Handling sessions from a PhysiCare Chartered Physiotherapist
- Visit the new Ability Fest Pavilion for advice and support from charities, voluntary and support organisations
- Healthcare Professionals can gain valuable knowledge with the two day CPD accredited seminar programme
- Discover inspirational products and services from daily living aids, wheelchairs and scooters, home adaptations, telecare, energy advice, leisure options and more!
- Take advantage of some great show only offers!
To find out more visit www.independentlivingscotland.org
Please note parking is free at the SEC surface level car park (excludes multi-storey) when you register in advance for the show.”
I hope to see you there.
All the best,
What Can I Do For You? Outlining My Approach to Web Design
Published: September 18, 2017
Here is the text transcript of the video:
“So how can I help you? Now I’m a web designer, web developer, web accessibility specialist mostly working in the third sector.
But I don’t really think of myself as just a web designer. I have a wider view of what my job is. My job is to help your organisation achieve your aims, through your website.
The website you have should not be, it should be a pretty picture but it should not just be a pretty picture. It’s a tool – depending on what type of organisation you are – it’s a tool for your marketing or it’s a tool for you to deliver your services, it’s a tool to provide training, it’s a tool to communicate your message – whatever it is. And you have got some kind of audience that you are try to deliver that service to.
So before I would start any kind of design I would make sure that we discuss all of these kind of things: what your aims are as an organisation, who is your target audience (or target audiences), can you rank those audiences, what are the most important audiences that you are probably funded to serve or service? And looking at those different audiences – what are they after, why would they turn up at your site? What service are you are marketing to them – what are you are trying to do for them, what is the most important thing?
And what is the most important thing they are after? When they arrive at your site. So if we know all these things and you have said: the target audience is this, the most important thing they are thinking about is this and when they arrive at my website they probably want to look for… whatever.
Knowing that of course, knowing all that, impacts the visual design of your site knowing all that, impacts how you organise your content. It’s obviously not going to be any good if your main, if an individual, from your target audience, turns up at your site and the most important thing they are there for is buried somewhere five levels deep and it takes them half an hour to find it.
They have got to instinctively think: I can see they have thought about me. I can see that they are delivering something very quickly in a way that I don’t even have to think about it – because they have already thought about what I’m after.
And doing all of that you putting less stress on the visitor, your credibility as an organisation goes up many notches, because it’s clear that you have thought about your target audience and you are doing a good job as an organisation.
I’m not saying that how your website looks is not important. Of course that’s incredibly important because again your credibility relies on having a professional great looking site.
That’s actually one of the things that a lot of organisations fall down on. They think that maybe: they are small organisation and they’ve not got much of a budget they could maybe just employ a student to build the website or they could even just get somebody in-house to download a WordPress theme – something they particularly like the look of – install that and that’s the organisation website.
It’s a false economy. Not just a false economy, it damages you as an organisation. People might not be tremendously sophisticated when it comes to web design – but they know instinctively when they look at your site – whether you are taking the whole – delivery of your content or your message on the web – seriously or not.
They know there is something quite right- it’s not quite branded like the rest of the your organisation – the content’s not well organised. They don’t know exactly what’s wrong with it but they know it’s not quite right. And that is damaging you as an organisation.
They are less likely to come back and your credibility is going down the pan. So it’s a false economy. It’s got to look professional it ‘s got to look well designed, it’s to got be well organised it’s got to reflect your branding as an organisation. And it’s got to absolutely meet the needs of your audience.
Ok so, to reiterate your earlier question. what can I do for you. Well I can do all the usual web plumber stuff obviously – which is a beautiful website that is responsive, completely accessible and has all the features that you require. All the back-end development all the content management etc. I can make sure it’s absolutely beautiful because I do believe that’s important. So I will use my colleague Amanda Taylor – who is a graphic designer – she will do the visual design and I will do all the technical aspects. And I will do all of the stuff I was talking about earlier on. To absolutely ensure the focus, which is your aims as an organisations and your aims to meet the needs of your audience.
So if want somebody who is thinking of you first. And is thinking in this wider context, give me a shout.
Actually I forgot to say – just in terms of my credibility – I’ve been doing it for a long time and in that long time we have won a number of awards. Probably the most notable was: the Global Bangemann Challenge which I won – along with my – well for the Making Connections Unit – I won that along with my partner of the time Glasgow City Council. So we went over to Sweden – got that award off the king of Sweden. Won a number of other awards as well but I thought I’d just mention that.”
Ten tips to make your web text easier to read
Published: September 7, 2017
1. Left align text
Align your text to the left and leave it ragged on the right. Left-aligned text increases reading speed. The straight left edge helps to anchor the eye when starting a new line.
Never fully justify text as it can create serious readability problems. Even if you personally like the look of fully justified text, don’t do it. Word spacing is likely to go awry and you will end up with large gaps between words and ‘rivers’ of white space running down your pages. Those rivers make reading your content difficult, if not impossible, for people with dyslexia. Anything other than left-aligned text can cause problems for people using screen magnifiers.
2. Think about line length
There seems to be little agreement on what is the best line length for optimum reading speeds. The most commonly held view is that limiting line length to 9 or 10 words can increase speed and comprehension (based on the assumption that the eye can only focus on about 3 inches of a page at a time). However recent research appears to show that the rules that apply to off-line print don’t necessarily apply to online print.
It is suggested that line length can actually be longer for online content. However, having said that, don’t go beyond about 80 characters as at that point readability will start to suffer.
Reading speed and user preferences are not simple matters, consider the following conclusions by Melissa Youngman and Dr. Lauren Scharff (1998)
“Users read faster when line lengths are long, although they tend to prefer shorter line lengths. When designing, first determine if performance or preference is important. If user performance is critical, use longer line lengths to increase reading speed. However, if user preference is critical, use shorter line lengths.” Usability.gov
3 Get your ‘leading’ (line-height) right
Set the leading larger than the default – as a rough guide 1.3em of leading (130%) will make a big difference to the readability of a web page. Leading and line length however are related; the longer the line the bigger you need to make the leading.
Newspapers have very short line lengths and very little leading. They do this so that they can fit as much text into a small space as possible. However, given the variable nature of the devices people use to view web pages, we can never be sure what the line length is going to be for every user. In relation to leading my rule of thumb would be, if in doubt go bigger.
As an aside: you might be wondering why line-height is called ‘leading’. Well, in the olden days typesetters used pieces of lead to set the space between text lines. If you like typography and typography jargon – which I do – here’s a couple more. The space between characters is called kerning and the space between groups of characters is called tracking.
Need more exciting typography jargon? Here’s a glossary of typography terms.
4. Use the correct font
Choose a font that is suitable to your subject matter. An article about ancient manuscripts can justify the use of a flowery old font whereas an article about the design of modern art galleries can’t. For the article about the design of modern art galleries you will be looking at using a clean and uncluttered san-serif font.
Don’t use more than two fonts on a page. It will look like a ransom note. Clearly that will be distracting for visitors and draw attention away from your content.
Off-line, headings are commonly set in a sans-serif* font, with body text set in serif. However, on-line, sans-serif are often used for both headings and body text; the cleaner outlines of the sans-serif fonts tends to make them easier to read on low resolution screens.
Don’t mix serif and sans-serif fonts in your body text, as it makes you look like an amateur, which isn’t good. You may not have considered it as important but poor typography decisions can damage the credibility of you and your organisation.
* Serif fonts are those with little decorative flourishes on them and sans-serif fonts are the clean and tidy ones. Compare Times New Roman with Helvetica and you will get it.
5 Avoid large blocks of italics
Avoid using italics for small text sizes. Italicized fonts can look particularly bad at small sizes as italics are not easy to render using a square pixel grid. If you must use italics, avoid using them for large blocks of text.
6 Be spare in your use of capitals
Don’t use all caps for bodytype – or even capitalise all words in headings. The uniformly of size and shape of capitals make them harder to read than lower case letters.
Readability is increased when only the first letter in a heading is in capitals; each capital – being less recognizable – acts as an interruption to the eye as it scans across the text.
7 Ensure adequate contrast
Ensure good contrast between the text colour and the background colour. If the contrast between your text and background colours is low, some of your visitors won’t be able to access your content. That’s why the WCAG contains guidelines for colour contrast. For complying with WCAG AA standard text the contrast ratios need to be 4.5:1 for standard text and 3:1 for large text. Large text means 14 point and larger (typically 18.66px).
8. Underline links
Make it easy for visitors to understand what is a link and what is not a link. Don’t rely exclusively on mouseovers to identify links, as this can be confusing and reduces usability. (From Usability.gov).
9. Use lots of headings
For service based websites in particular, arrange your text for scanability, i.e. have lots of headings and provide the most important ideas at the start of paragraphs. Use lists rather than dense passages of text when possible.
Most of your visitors will not be interested in reading every word on your page. So make it easy for them to find the information they are seeking quickly by using headings as signposts; signposts for the various issues and topics you are covering in you text.
10 Use appropriate language
Use a writing style and language that is appropriate for your audience. Don’t dumb down or dumb up. Think about who you are writing for and write for that audience.
Ignore the idea that you should never use jargon. If your audience expects it and when using it will actually make your meaning clearer, use it.
On the other hand if you are not writing for a specialist audience don’t try to be clever by using jargon just for the sake of it. Think about your audience and tailor your style to suit.
Don’t strive to use ‘easy read’ thinking that that will make your content accessible to a wider audience. It will accommodate one part of your audience but it will put another part off (probably the larger part). Easy read is designed for people with learning difficulties – an easy read version is an alternative version, i.e. a version aimed at a particular audience.
Contact me If you value experience (over 20 years as a web developer) and unrivalled technical know-how. Do you need a new beautiful responsive, accessible website? Get in touch. Tel: 07810 098119.
Website Accessibility ‘WCAG A’ Audit Deal
Published: June 29, 2017
I’m offering a technical website accessibility audit and report to Level A of WCAG 2.0 for only £950. The audit will be completed and a report delivered to you in five working days.
I have been working in the area of website accessibility since 1996, so you can be sure that no-one else will bring more experience or expertise to the auditing process. If you want to have a chat or if you have any questions feel free to give me a phone on 07810 098 119.
Here is a summary of what an audit of your website would involve.
- I will check your site against the WCAG 2.0 guidelines (A). Take note, I always go beyond standard tick box checks. I will check if your website is accessible to the real people who visit your site. I also highlight any usability issues I notice as I check the site and will mention these in my report.
- I will carry out manual checks highlighting any issues that are having an impact on the accessibility of the site.
- I will use a range of tools to test your website, including a screen reader, text only browser, colour analyser, CSS and HTML validator. The screen readers I will test with include Apple’s built-in screen reader and the JAWS screenreader. These are the tools many disabled people use when browsing your site so it makes sense to use them as part of our auditing process.
- I will also run the site through automated tools to check which issues are highlighted. These are the tools that accessibility campaigners will use if they test your site so we must also use them so we are aware of the issues they throw up.
- All relevant accessibility issues will be highlighted in a report with suggested solutions. The report will start with the a summary of the most important issues, i.e. the issues that will have the biggest impact on the accessibility of your site. The report will be clear and easy to read, i.e. I will do my best to avoid using jargon and I will explain technical issues as clearly as I can. The report will also contain a summary table of WCAG 2 checkpoints showing whether the site passed or failed.
- I will provide a summary table (i.e. of the WCAG 2 Priority A Checkpoints) and a more detailed report when the findings merit it. There will be a detailed discussion of any failed checkpoints with example code and screen shots.
Email and telephone support will be provided after the report has been delivered. I will answer any questions you may have and guide you towards the actions needed to fix the identified issues.
The cost of the accessibility audit includes a retest after the issues identified have been fixed.
What will be checked:
After discussion with yourself we will choose representative pages and sections and functionality of the website. For example, if you have several different layouts or pages with particular functionality those will be included in the sample.
Here is some feedback I received from different organisations I have worked with.
“I have vast confidence in Jim’s abilities, and am frankly quite amazed that he met all of our very demanding requirements so quickly and so professionally! Many developers claim to have knowledge in these areas, but in my experience, very few if any have the practical knowledge and pragmatic approach that Jim has. I would advise any organisation looking for a high quality accessible website to talk to Jim. You won’t be disappointed (he’s also incredibly easy to work with).” Jane Hatton, Founder/Director, Evenbreak.
“As an advisory service on technology and disability it was critical for us that our Publisher Lookup website scored well on accessibility. I was delighted recently when a blind colleague was surfing round the site and spontaneously exclaimed ‘This is a really accessible website’. I told her we like to use people who know their stuff!” Alistair McNaught, Senior advisor, Jisc TechDis
“Jim has worked with the Scottish Accessible Information Forum, (SAIF) for over 10 years and we regard him as our resident expert on accessibility and the web. Last year, Jim redesigned our website to give it a fresh new look while keeping accessibility as a priority. He is always willing to help out with any questions we have and gets back to us promptly with a solution. We would have no hesitation recommending him to other organisations, and we frequently do whenever we get the chance!” Susan Burn, Project Development Officer, SAIF.
“Jim conducted an accessibility audit of the Health Rights Information Scotland (HRIS) website. The report was extremely detailed. It explained what the WCAG guidelines mean, how compliance was assessed, what problems were identified and how these could be fixed. We are confident that implementing Jim’s recommendations will greatly improve the accessibility of our site. The report was, as far as possible, free from technical jargon, and Jim was always more than happy to have a chat about things we did not understand. This evaluation has been extremely useful.” Health Rights Information Scotland Website
Phone me on 07810 098 119 if you would like to chat about any of the above or get in touch via the website accessibility audit contact form.
Developing An Accessible Searchable Directory For Evenbreak
Published: June 6, 2017
I’d like to tell you about a project that I have recently been working on called, Evenbreak. They provide such a fantastic service that I feel I need to spread the word.
The aim of Evenbreak is to help disabled people and inclusive employers find each other. Employers upload jobs and disabled people register their employment interests and upload their CV’s. Evenbreak was set up by Jane Hatton as a social enterprise and it is one of those rare projects that is run by and for disabled people.
“With Evenbreak, inclusive employers can be confident that they will attract additional disabled candidates that they may not find through any other recruitment channels. Disabled jobseekers can be confident that employers who have chosen to place their vacancies on this site are serious about looking beyond their disabilities to identify what skills they have to offer.”
“Evenbreak is run by disabled people, for disabled people. As a social enterprise we are keen to promote a positive image of disabled people in employment, and any surplus income will fund positive publicity campaigns promoting the benefits of employing disabled people, to balance out some of the current negative, and inaccurate, portrayals of disabled people in the media.”
Jane Hatton got in touch to ask if I could develop a new companion website that would provide employers with “confidence around the practical issues around inclusion and accessibility in the work place.” The new website would be a searchable resource of content related to inclusive employment. It would be a members only website.
Although the visual design of the site was already existed (i.e. the existing Evenbreak site), my job was to create all the functional aspects. I.e. all of the membership requirements (registration, secure login, members access levels and so on), a way to add, edit, tag and display the content, a way to hide content from non-members and alternative ways to search the content. Although most of the content would be hidden there would need to be a way to show some ‘teaser’ content to encourage new members to join.
Jane already had a huge amount of content to add to the new site, including over 300 documents on every imaginable subject related to employing disabled people. All of this content needed to be stored, categorised and tagged appropriately to ensue it could be found. All the forms needed to be accessible and easy to use.
Within the constraints of fulfilling the aims for the site I was given a free rein in terms of the technologies used and the approach taken.
As the budget was small I decided to create the site using WordPress and where possible to create the functionality using existing technologies and modifications of existing plugins. The budget did not stretch to creating a custom application from scratch.
The other constraint, apart from money, was time. It all had to be functioning by the time of a pre-arranged meeting that Jane had set up to show the service to a room of potential corporate clients. The meeting date was set for 6 weeks from the point Jane got in touch.
Given the complexity of the project this was an incredibly tight time-frame. However, I did manage to provide a fully functioning website by the time of the meeting. The site was still located on my development server rather than on the evenbreak server at that point but nonetheless it was a bit of a miracle to get it done so quickly. The new site had to include a huge number of document and rsources so that the breadth of content could be demonstrated during the presentation.
The website is now live and can be found at Evenbreak Best Practice website.
I was delighted when Jane provide the following ‘testimonial’ which is so good it would get my in to heaven. 🙂
“Jim came highly recommended from experts in web accessibility, and so we engaged him to take over the Evenbreak site for us. However, Evenbreak is an online job board, and therefore a very complex site, with facilities for employers to pay for and post their roles, candidates to register and search for jobs, and many other complexities. Jim took all of this in his stride, having to understand the thinking of the previous developers very quickly. In addition to all of this, we asked Jim to design a bespoke portal for us, with very little lead-in time, which he worked on tirelessly, ensuring it was up to a fantastic standard for when we launched it.”
“I have vast confidence in Jim’s abilities, and am frankly quite amazed that he met all of our very demanding requirements so quickly and so professionally! We will be asking him to entirely re-build our site using his talents to build in both accessibility and responsiveness from the start. Many developers claim to have knowledge in these areas, but in my experience, very few if any have the practical knowledge and pragmatic approach that Jim has. I would advise any organisation looking for a high quality accessible website to talk to Jim. You won’t be disappointed (heąs also incredibly easy to work with).” Founder/Director, Evenbreak.
Give me a shout if you have an idea for a development project you would like to see realised. Tel: 07810 098119