Quality Management for digital Accessibility

Once the website is complete, major changes are rarely made. There is the big relaunch every five years, some security updates, a new function is added here and there.

In eCommerce it is exactly the other way around: many shops are constantly working on optimization. They talk about conversion optimization or landing page optimization, which triggered a hype similar to that of search engine optimization back then.

It's easy to overdo it, but some methods are certainly interesting for normal webmasters as well. I keep seeing large-scale relaunches being tackled. The interface often looks sleeker and more modern, but neither usability nor accessibility are improved. Old problems are solved, new ones are created. Strangely enough, as a website operator, you least notice the problems with your website: on the one hand you spend most of your time in the backend, on the other hand you know how it works because you planned it yourself.

Article Content

Accessibility Optimization

For me, the solution is to put the budget into constant optimization of the website instead of a relaunch. Financially, it should be about the same in the end. However, a relaunch requires that you invest a lot of time at a certain point in time, while with constant optimization you can plan very precisely how many hours you want to spend on optimization measures per week or month.

It' sounds banal, but many website operators still don't pay attention to the fact that dead links to other websites are repaired or 404 error pages are fixed. For example, outdated information is also a major problem. Many pages are not dated, so the user does not know how current the information is or when it was last updated. This can be extremely important for recipients of social benefits. Outdated information is incorrect information. Ensuring the functionality of a website is a quality assurance measure.

Ensure accessibility

When relaunching or developing their website, many providers make sure that it is accessible, but they are sloppy when it comes to new functions, which are usually based on newer technology.

People should also be invited to report existing difficulties. The normal webmaster has an unhealthy distrust of people's opinions. Suggestions for improvement go unnoticed because "our website is perfect". This is not how you sell products or services.

However, the greatest insights are made by experts. For example, you can specifically invite people with disabilities to gradually evaluate the site in order to gradually improve it. An annual checkup can also take into account new assistive software or end devices.

Web Analytics

Web Analytics can only be used to a limited extent to measure accessibility. One possibility is the use of heat maps, which depict mouse movements and click behavior. This can probably also be used to measure the dropout rate for drop-down menus.

Heatmaps, or more precisely clickmaps, can be used to monitor where users clicked. If there was nothing to click, the page should be checked to see if there is a problem with the design.

By tracking forms, you can see where the most common mistakes are made. In addition to a poorly structured form, poor error management is probably the most common reason why the filling process was aborted. The nice thing is that when you make adjustments, you can then watch very closely how the error rate develops.

In fact, specific behaviors can be observed with current commercial solutions. At eTracker, this is called event tracking. For example, you can specifically observe how often a dropdown menu was called up, and it should also be suitable for forms. In this way, you can also collect hard, valid numbers about how many visitors capitulate to the CAPTCHA.

User tests on living objects

Basically, user tests with people with disabilities are not that difficult to implement. A closed beta area in which people should do certain tasks is conceivable. The advantage of such tests is that disabled people can work from home and use their own technology in a familiar environment. In combination with A/b tests or multivariate tests, it can be tested which version works best. The think-aloud method can also be used over the phone or via Skype.

Train editors

Editors should be constantly trained so that they can develop a basic understanding of accessibility and, above all, know what is actually important.

Training sounds kind of boring and certainly doesn't knock anyone's socks off. For example, instead of a lengthy learning unit, a blind person can be invited to show the editors how they surf the web .

Editor's Guide

Every editorial office has an editorial manual. If your editorial team doesn't have one yet, then it's about time. Principles such as text formatting are recorded in the manual. However, it is also recorded which formulations should not be used - a kind of poison cabinet for technical jargon and empty phrases. This is the ideal place for information on how texts and images are offered without barriers.

Documenting instead of hiding

If someone has taken the trouble to make a website accessible, they should also document it instead of bashfully hoping that nobody will notice.

No best examples for Accessibility

In my workshops I am often asked for best practice examples for accessible websites. I then have to disappoint the audience. There are different reasons for this. A website can work beautifully for one group and be useless for another. I have yet to see a website that has completely won me over.

The other reason is that website accessibility can actually change on a daily basis. That's why you can't say that accessibility is making constant progress. A lot has improved though. But the increasing complexity of websites also means that barriers are increasing rather than decreasing. Let's look at a few examples.

First of all: It is far from my intention to pillory anyone. However, the companies mentioned are quasi-monopolists in their field. In addition, I'm always a customer and I don't see why a blind customer is obviously worth less than a sighted one. I contacted the companies and received no or only half-baked answers.

Deutsche Bahn

As a frequent traveler, I regularly buy tickets from DB. The purchasing process, which is already complex for blind people anyway, is constantly changing. With the last purchase you had to decide whether you wanted to select a flexible price or a saver price. However, there was no element in this area that would have been recognizable as clickable for blind people. Only by trial and error could one find out that one had to press the spacebar at the bottom of the respective element in order to select the element.

Worse still, there was a checkbox on the last page before submitting the order. Unfortunately, the checkbox was completely invisible for the screen reader.

The problem existed for a few weeks, but has since been resolved. But the question arises as to why Deutsche Bahn does not have a publicly visible contact person for accessibility. I had another useless conversation with @DB_Bahn. After minutes of quizzing me about the issue, the social media guy directed me to an email address of some sort to contact. That's service at Deutsche Bahn: First ask questions, then refer them to someone else instead of forwarding the message directly or pointing me to the correct contact person from the start.

DHL/Deutsche Post

We find similar problems with Deutsche Post/DHL. CAPTCHAs with no alternate audio to reset a password, mis-tagged form elements, and hyper-complex order pages for package brands.

A negative example is the Packstation, although it is not a website, the problems are quite clear here. In the past, you could enter the PIN using the haptic block of 10. Both the postal number and the PIN now have to be entered using an on-screen keyboard. Fun for the severely visually impaired. The Packstations are not accessible to blind people. So DHL manages to really steadily worsen accessibility. Here, too, there is no feedback mechanism or a contact person for accessibility. That's why I decided not to contact the Post right away, also because I don't have the impression that they're particularly interested in the issue of accessibility.

Deutsche Telekom

An unfortunately extremely negative example is Deutsche Telekom. The Connect app, which enables you to log into hotspots, has been completely accessible since the last update. Seriously, if you need a prime example of what an app shouldn't be, check out Connect. Practically none of the information can be read with VoiceOver. Hardly anyone else manages this feat on iOS. Apparently, all the guidelines that Apple provides to the developers have been ignored. According to reports, other Telekom apps are also difficult to access.

Now I have written publicly and privately to Telekom. There was no public reaction. On @Telekom hilft I was told that the problem was known and that it would be fixed in one of the next updates. That was on March 21st and nothing has happened to date. The update mentioned took place at the beginning of the year, so we have now been waiting for almost half a year for the app to be usable again. Accessibility is apparently a beta or gamma feature at Telekom, maybe they'll take care of it tomorrow, maybe not. And of course there is no feedback option or a contact person for accessibility at Telekom either.

Conclusion: It can't be that

Now these are big companies that are complex and sluggish. However, thanks to their size, they also have the resources to carry out reasonable quality assurance. What is part of it?

  • A feedback mechanism that allows accessibility issues to be competently addressed in a reasonable amount of time.
  • the willingness to consider accessibility as an important feature, no big company would let a buggy app exist for half a year without fixes, but without accessibility, that's not so bad.
  • A process of ongoing quality assurance. This includes structured testing through automatic test procedures, qualified developers and disabled employees both during development and during operation.
  • Monitoring of adjustments/changes in terms of accessibility

Of course, mistakes cannot be avoided. But you can reduce their probability and fix them quickly if a suitable message appears. If you don't do that, you don't really take accessibility seriously.

More on Testing & Evaluation