After Ministry of Testing featured the 30 Days of Accessibility Testing Challenge, we wanted to take the opportunity to further examine what it means to make your website or application accessible in today’s digital landscape.
At CrossBrowserTesting, we believe that software and design should be of the highest quality no matter what browser or device you’re on. But even more than that, we also know that the best software is optimized for every audience and every potential user.
When the smallest details such as the shade of blue in a link can affect how well someone can view your content, it goes to say that these elements suddenly become crucial to creating an equal user experience.
Keep reading to learn more about how tech organizations are focusing on accessibility testing and how you can similarly develop more accessible software.
A Culture of Champions at Slack
Since Slack first began their mission to approach accessibility, they’ve released features like sidebar themes, screen reader improvements on iOS and Android devices, adjustable zoom preferences, and the option to stop automatic animations. They also have plans for upcoming keyboard navigation support for people without a mouse.
Each one of these features has in mind a different disability or assistive technology that had not been supported previously.
“The attitude we’re adopting at Slack is that building an accessible product makes for a better product overall,” said Slack Accessibility Product Manager George Zamfir.
“When you consider how different the user experience is for a blind person using a screen reader or a person with limited fine motor skills who relies on their keyboard to navigate, it quickly becomes clear that addressing accessibility needs can’t be left to the end of the product development cycle, they have to be factored in from the beginning.”
When talking about making accessibility a part of the culture, Zamfir suggests that providing training for people that are invested in the idea of accessibility testing helps them become “champions” for the cause, and in turn, they advocate the practice throughout their teams.
By communicating the value that fostering accessibility in those products brings to the organization as a whole, people in any role from design and QA to customer experience can contribute to the overall quality of service Slack provides for differently abled people.
Best Practices in Salesforce Accessibility Testing
“[Disability] can include people who are blind, color blind, or have low vision, those who are Deaf or have hearing difficulties, people with mobility impairments which may be temporary or permanent, or people with cognitive disabilities,” said Principal Accessibility Specialist Jesse Hausler.
When considering which audience to design for, Hausler makes it apparent that making a universal product is the only acceptable solution. “Design for people who are young, old, power users, casual users, and those who just enjoy a quality experience,” he said.
A few things he says designers can keep in mind when thinking about accessibility testing include making sure there’s enough contrast between text and background, not solely relying on color to convey information, defining and labeling form fields, optimizing menus and autocorrect, attributing images, and making links more visible.
The process of making things accessible isn’t always an easy fix, however, and there can be a lot of testing to make sure that adjusted design is actually an improvement. In fact, one Salesforce Product Designer helped build a tool called ColorSafe to help designers better choose accessible contrast colors and make the task less repetitive.
Shopify Self-Reflects On Its Mission
Shopify has also shared how they make an effort to establish accessibility testing.
“At Shopify, our mission is to make commerce better for everyone. […] To us, a quality web product means a few things: certainly beautiful design, engaging copy, and a fantastic user experience, but just as important are inclusivity and the principles of universal design,” said Shopify Front End Development Lead David Newton.
“We take our mission to heart, so it’s important that Shopify products are useable and useful to all our users.”
Instead of creating an “Accessibility Team” they instead focused on creating a more inclusive and accessible culture and implementing new processes into already established product teams. Additionally, a large component of this culture shift was dispelling the myth that accessibility meant lacking function or design.
Shopify acknowledged that making things more accessible was certainly a challenge since it wasn’t something they regularly thought about before. However, just by making some small changes like writing more semantic HTML, applying closed captioning, or just documenting common accessibility requirements, they were able to outline clear expectations for developer and designers, while making the organization more accessible to a larger audience.
With the help of accessibility testing tools such as AChecker, Color Oracle, NoCoffee, and WAVE, it was also much easier to go in and adjust the components that were already working well without starting over.
Additionally, as designers became more accustomed to including accessibility testing, it also made them better designers as they were more intuitive to the details that go into creating a great user experience.
Including Accessibility in Your Testing
With numerous disabilities come numerous assistive technologies; from screen readers to modified keyboards, accessing a website through these various methods is going to create a different user experience for each person.
When one front end developer points out that testing your website with every assistive technology would be the equivalent to testing your product with every device, browser, and operating system, we can relate to this manual tediousness at CrossBrowserTesting and don’t recommend going to this extent.
However, as we’ve discussed, there are many simple fixes, new methods, and tools that you can implement into your website to help your site design be more universal, while also making your team into better developers and your product of higher quality.
Which companies have you noticed are making strides in accessibility? Tell us about them in the comments!