When Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web, he stated, “The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
Accessibility in website design and development is at the heart of what we do at Optima, not as a box-ticking exercise but out of respect for our incredibly diverse world.
Access to online information is vital in all aspects of work and life. So it is essential businesses provide equal access opportunities, not only to comply with the guidelines of their country but to enhance their brand, drive innovation and reach wider audiences. Accessibility features not only enhance the online experience of those with disabilities – whether visual, auditory, neurological, or physical – they also assist other users, for example:
- People using different smart devices for browsing websites
- Older people with changing abilities, including sight deterioration
- Those whose situation or environment means they might have to use the web differently, e.g. using audio rather than visual
- People who have a limited internet bandwidth
Whether on we are building you an ExpressionEngine, WordPress, or Ecommerce website, accessibility makes the online experience as easy and intuitive for as many visitors as possible; however they choose to browse the site. Each website we build conforms to a minimum level of accessibility standards. This starts early in the design process with careful consideration of the user journey, established web conventions and norms and screen contrast.
Some clients worry that accessible website design might stifle creativity or discourage us from delivering beautiful user experiences and innovative design features. This is not the case, as many accessible features are implemented below the surface.
WCAG 2.1 standards
Accessible web pages are measured against the series of success criterion from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. These standards are grouped into three levels of compliance; A, AA and AAA. Laws governing who must adhere to the WCAG standards vary in each country; in the UK, AA compliance applies to most public sector companies and organisations. Optima have a great deal of experience in delivering websites to WCAG 2.1 standards and always aim for compliance to level A as a mimimum.
We can conduct accessibility testing using specialist software intially to automatically identify accessibility issues and improments. However, automated testing can only audit a portion of the accessibility requirements and a number of the standards to be tested against need to be assessed manually. Where a specific level of compliance is required, Optima can perform manual assessments checking against each of the WCAG sucess criteria using assistive audit technologies and using screen readers and alternate input devices. This process will provide reports for the web pages being assessed outlining the areas (keyboard navigation, colour contrast, multimedia, etc) where improvement is required and the associated failed WCAG success criterion. The reports can then be used to improve the code or content for each highlighted area to ensure the web pages are accessible.
Additional to producing responsive web pages that are as accessible to as many visitors as possible, it may be required to publish an Accessibility Statement – this is also a legal requirement for most public sector bodies. An Accessibility Statement is a legal document with specific wording requirements and should be published as a HTML document linked from your website’s homepage. Optima can help advise on the content of the statement inline with the state of compliance of your website and any non-compliances that should be identifed, if there are any.
Optima work closely with clients to develop a shared understanding of their business objectives and user needs. We listen, absorb and reflect on what you tell us. We ask lots of questions and challenge preconceptions, and we will always bring new possibilities and ideas to the table based on our experience and skills.
2. Scoping and specification
Optima undertake research that, depending on your needs, may include UX workshops with different stakeholders and users, a review of analytics and competitor analysis. During this phase, all the resources and requirements needed to build the website are detailed and aligned with user and business strategies and objectives.
3. Site structure
Optima then design a website structure defining how users will interact with the website and how the system will respond to these interactions. We create a detailed sitemap determining how the website is organised, and information is prioritised. An SEO audit, strategy, and consideration of the customer journey through different digital touch points underpin this process.
Optima creates ‘skeleton’ page plans for each website that show the arrangement of elements and content on different devices. These plans are essential to understanding site navigation, the responsive grid and the priorities of different content. We refer to these skeleton plans as ‘wireframes’ as they demonstrate the website architecture underlying the visual design.
5. Website design concepts
Building on the previous steps, Optima design stunning websites which develop a distinctive online brand presence for your brand. We ensure the design treatment fits your website and business objectives and reflect your brand vision and values. We consider specific design elements and how they contribute to user experience and create memorable associations with your brand.
6. Website development and build
Optima build robust websites on a variety of content management systems. We build page templates and stylesheets to current web standards and mobile responsive technologies and deliver pixel-perfect web pages. We have built hundreds of responsive websites using HTML5/CSS3 and are experienced in delivering websites to W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1.
Optima complete a high level of testing before websites are deployed. Our code is rigorously tested across the main browsers and devices, and any bugs are addressed. We also test website functionality, such as forms and data capture and do a final proofread, ensuring no placeholder content is visible before it is presented to the world.
8. Website launch
Optima coordinates website launches in collaboration with client teams to ensure a smooth and timely transition. Pre-launch, we confirm we have the necessary details to deploy the website to a client’s server or in the server space we provide from our trusted UK providers. We are proud of the websites we launch, and each go-live is celebrated by ringing a bell in the office!
9. Website maintenance
Optima continue to monitor and tweak the performance of newly launched websites to ensure they are working effectively. Beyond this, we offer a range of maintenance packages which enable us to continue to update the site and monitor site health as it develops and grows alongside digital technologies.
10. Website promotion
Optima can assist with promoting your website to ensure it is discoverable and remains visible to your audiences. We offer various digital marketing services to support this, including SEO, pay-per-click, digital advertising, content marketing and email marketing.