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Creating an accessible website

Before deciding whether you are going to create your website in-house or commission a web designer you need to have a clear idea of:

  • how you want it to look
  • what you want it do
  • what sort of information you wish to include
  • how interactive (dynamic) you want it to be, for example, videos, blogs, social media, forums
  • how you are going to update and maintain it and what training you might need
  • your initial and maintenance budget

It is a good idea to draw up a structural plan outlining different sections, how they are connected and what common elements should be included on each page.  This will help to create a logical website and give you an idea of how many pages you will need. This plan can be changed as you go along if necessary.

Creating an accessible website in-house

Depending on your level of technical knowledge, you can create an accessible website in-house.

Advantages

  • Potentially more control over form and content
  • Cheaper
  • Satisfying

Disadvantages

  • Time consuming
  • Labour intensive
  • Increasing need for technical knowledge the more complex and/or inter-active the website becomes.

Sources of reference

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – www.w3.org
  • Web Accessibility Code of Practice BS8878 – www.access8878.co.uk

Online Tools

External help

  • Students from University Computing Departments.
  • Intern Programmes

Make sure that anyone helping you in a voluntary or paid capacity understands the principles of accessibility.

Choosing a professional web designer

If you decide to commission a professional web design company, the previous sections will have made you realise the need to find someone who understands:

  • why accessibility is important, and
  • how to produce an accessible website.

A good starting point is word of mouth recommendations from other organisations in your sector with recent experience of commissioning a website.  Do their websites fit your requirements, are they well designed, easy to use and do they pass basic validation and accessibility checks? (See section: Checking Accessibility)

Tender document

We suggest that the following requirements are essential:

  • The Website must comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 Level AA (as at 2015). This requirement helps to ensure that the content of websites will be flexible enough to adapt to unpredictable user needs.
  • The website must be created using valid (X)HTML. This requirement provides the best chance that sites will work on all hardware platforms and all web browsers.

Guidelines for what else to include in an accessible website tender document can be found online, for example www.jimbyrne.co.uk/category/tendering-documents

Questions to ask at interview

  • What will be the total cost of design?
  • How much will it cost and how long will it take to update page design or add pages to the website?
  • Will you be able to update the site yourself? Unless you specifically do not want to update the site in-house, it is possibly a good idea to make this a requirement rather than an option.
  • What accessibility and usability tests will be carried out during the design process and on a regular basis? (See section: Checking Accessibility)
  • Are regular visitor statistics available?
  • What are the hosting arrangements and how much do these cost?

 

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