Website accessibility testing is crucial to make sure that a website is as usable as possible for everyone. Regardless of the method you use, it’s best to plan testing into a project from the start. Rather than waiting to test later, continue to test throughout the project. Leaving an accessibility evaluation until the end could mean spending twice as long fixing accessibility issues that have been highlighted.
Accessibility testing methods – user testing Vs automated testing
There are two types of website accessibility testing to consider; user accessibility testing and automated accessibility testing.
Automated accessibility testing
Automated testing is achieved using an online or downloadable piece of software. It scans through the code of the website and determines how technically-sound the website is. Usually assessing its conformance with the standards set out in the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1). Using pre-scripted tests, their function is to compare the actual results with the expected results of an accessible website. It is able to spot accessibility issues that are buried in the code.
Automated testing is great for when you have changed one aspect of a site and want to test that it functions correctly. It is also great for removing the risk of human error. Testers can get tester fatigue if they have seen the site before and know how it works. They become able to navigate a website better than a new user would be able to due to experience. This can create false positives in tests.
This is where human testers use a website or digital service and provide an accessibility evaluation of what they have found. At HeX, we use Shaw Trust Accessibility Service’s genuine disabled testers to go through the wireframes, initial build and the final build of all of our websites. This ensures that everyone will be able to access it using assistive technology. Testing methods include the use of a screen reader, keyboard tabbing, voice commands, and more.
The best part of this method is getting the human aspect of the testing. The real-life feedback that is received can be very valuable. A piece of software is great for spotting technical accessibility issues. However, a person with a disability is the best person to inform you as to where a problem lies in the user interface and design.
Specific user-journey testing is also available with this method. This means a tester can run through a specific scenario, for example:
- Looking for and buying a product using the website.
- Navigating to the contact page and filling out a form.
- Creating an account on a digital service.
- Booking a table, flight or hotel room.
- Selecting a service and finding out more about it.
User journey testing allows for effective assessment of the interface, the experience and the technicalities.
Which website accessibility testing method is best?
One gives you the freedom and the time to carry out other tasks, whilst the other provides real-life results. One method of testing isn’t better than another. When used in tandem, they provide the recipe for a better and more usable website.
Despite the broad coverage of an accessibility testing tool, disabled user testing should never be underestimated. Automated programmes can highlight issues with web content, such as:
- Missing alt text on images.
- No link descriptions.
- Inconsistent heading structure.
However, they can never accurately tell you things a user tester will be able to. Such as:
- A website’s colour contrast being too low for a low-vision user.
- The user interface not being logical
- The content structure being complex and difficult to scan for a user with processing difficulties.
At HeX, we use three different web accessibility testing methods to be confident of a good result. We start with an automated test to run through accessibility issues on the site. We then perform a technical manual review where one of our expert team members runs through the site checking the code. Finally, our Shaw Trust user testers run through the web content fully providing an in-depth user experience. If you’d like to find out more about our accessible websites and user testing, get in touch with us.
What information do we require to conduct an accessibility audit?
For us to be able to conduct an accessibility testing audit on your site, there is certain information that we need to gain from you first.
The audit scope
We’ll need details of what software product or website you would like auditing. If a user journey crosses multiple sites, then testing should take place on these as well – so any adjacent URLs should also be provided. (Liability for third parties systems, within the public sector, still currently remains the responsibility of the service provider.)
Making sure that your customer is going in the right direction through your site is essential. Our team will need to understand how your site works, assess your user’s experience and see what journeys are being completed.
For this step, we will ideally need to review your sitemap, wireframe and pattern libraries to fully understand the customer’s journey. If you are unsure what this means, please get in touch and we’ll happily talk you through it.
We will be reviewing different functionality aspects, such as navigation, content types and content elements, and different technologies in use.
If you already have accessibility features implemented then indicate these areas to our team and we’ll see if they are doing what they are supposed to be.
Further questions about accessibility testing
If you’d like to find out more about our testing or find out what accessibility issues may be preventing disabled users from fully accessing your website, please get in touch with us.
Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about the web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.1) please click here.