Questions by Siteimprove's Bryn Anderson, answers by the web team at Chichester District Council.
What was the motivation for building an accessible website?"As a team we’ve always been very eager to make our website as accessible as possible. Our old site was fairly good, but we were limited in what we could achieve due to how the site was initially built, for example, having an outdated table-based layout. Moving our site onto a new technology platform provided the impetus to make the site more accessible."
Did you need to get buy-in from your boss? "We had buy-in for the design and implementation of the new site, but in terms of accessibility there was only ‘buy-in’ from within the web team. As we were starting essentially from scratch, accessibility was just one of the things we built into the development process."
Did you use any tools to assist you with building an accessible website? "During the initial development of the site, we used browser plugin tools to check for obvious accessibility issues, like color contrast check. Once we had a working site, we arranged for some pages to be added to our Siteimprove account which enabled us to thoroughly test the site before launch."
How was the production process different from non-accessible web builds? "It is difficult to gauge how accessibility affected the production process as this was just one part of the process. In designing the new site, our main goals were to reduce the number of pages on the site, move to a task-centric layout, and to use a responsive design so that we could cater to more ways of accessing our site. I don’t think that including accessibility as part of the process really added much in terms of time or complexity."
Were there any other departments or individuals involved? "Other departments were included as part of the content review, and we received positive feedback on the design of the site."
How was the testing process? "Since we’re a small team, there wasn’t really a workflow as such. Initial testing was undertaken on our development server manually by the team. Once we had moved the site to our live server, we then used Siteimprove to clear up the remaining issues."
How do you plan on keeping the site accessible? "I would say there’s no ‘big challenge’ as long as you consider accessibility from the start as an integral part of the design and development of the site."
What would you do differently, if you had to do it again? "We set ourselves a goal of publishing the new site before this year’s Socitm review, which gave quite a tight deadline. This did very effectively focus the team on the goals of the re-design. If we were to go through the process again, I would like a slightly longer timeframe to allow for a more iterative testing process."
What do you think of the saying “Accessibility is a process, not a project”? "We very much agree with this. As I’ve already mentioned, accessibility was just one part of our overall design and development process. If we had treated it as a separate project it would have been a lot harder, as we would have been second-guessing design decisions we’d already made."
What advice would you give to other web teams on building an accessible website? "It’s not as hard as it might seem, if you make accessibility an integral part of your site design process."