According to a new study of accessibility, 97% of web sites are not geared up for disabled Internet users. That means your site (and mine) probably fail the basic tests of being accessible for a variety of disabilities. Interestingly, the study found that 89% of sites had “poor navigation”. Considering that yesterday I wrote about a perfect web site and pointed out that the most important factor was easy navigation, this new research is an important reminder to anyone with a web site to check out their navigation and make sure it is completely easy to follow. A further factor for people with a disability is the use of colour. Almost eight out of every ten web sites use colours that make it difficult for people to see things correctly. In the study on the perfect web site I mentioned yesterday, the researchers pointed out that clear design was neceessary and that fancy colours were a turn off. So, once again, the “rules” for a perfect web site also appear to work well for disabled Internet users. Taken together, these two pieces of research point to one single fact: that web site design is focused on the web site owner and not on the web site users. That is reflected in the copy of most web sites which includes phrases like “we do this” and “we do that” – in other words, self focus rather than visitor focus. Web designers are critical of the accessibility study, saying that consultants on accessibility don’t share their knowledge enough. You can’t make a site commercially successful and accessible, according to one person quoted in the BBC News story on the research. But that view just shows how focused on themselves and their clients web designers are. If you consider that Tesco has just announced a further rise in sales we all should learn something. Tesco was an “also ran” supermarket in the UK, but is now the nation’s top retailer. That change happened when, according to the CEO Sir Terry Leahy, they stopped thinking about themselves and focused everything they did on their customers. Their success should spur us all on to focusing our web sites on our users, not on ourselves. In turn that will obviously influence design and with it, accessibility.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+