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  1. #1
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    Checking the numbers / Accessibility

    I was listening to an older WebDev podcast, in which they were interviewing the head of Accessibility.net. In the interview he stated that an accessible site can increase SEO by up to 70%. He also mentioned that in some studies 80-90% of sites are not accessible.

    Both of these numbers struck me as being very high. Can anyone help to explain why they would be so high if standards are improving ?

    I will also be sure to go through the links in the sticky.

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    Robert Wellock silver trophybronze trophy xhtmlcoder's Avatar
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    It depends upon what context they are talking about. You could possibly say 99% of websites have issues with being "truly accessible". It's a subjective matter or perspective in some senses. Though if they said 90% failed a specific set test criterion then I can well believe that.

    Not so long ago 2006 about 60% of UK Government websites contained HTML errors. In 2004 (according to Nomensa) only 57% of UK Government websites met the 'single A' minimum standard defined by the Cabinet Office e-Government Unit. Even though it has basically been the UK law since 1999.

    Why? Because people [many commercial businesses/webmasters] are either; ignorant (purposely or not), lazy, don't fully understand web accessibility (thinking it's a tick-box or buzzword), or know they are very unlikely to get successfully prosecuted/fined. Hence high figures.

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    om nom nom nom Stomme poes's Avatar
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    In the interview he stated that an accessible site can increase SEO by up to 70%. He also mentioned that in some studies 80-90% of sites are not accessible.
    You'd have to see who he stated actually did the studies so you could read them yourself, to see what the criteria were.

    You can't increase SEO by 70% by "adding accessibility" if that means increasing the contrast for text... SE's don't care. So you see it would totally depend on what "accessibility" meant.

    If I were reading that statement, I'd assume this meant taking a tabled layout with no headers or other proper markup and Javascript used to add much of the content and images without alt text for links, and turning that steaming pile of code into Modern Semantic Valid Well-formed code... if so, sure, you've taken a site that possibly wasn't very indexable by SE's and now it's 100% available... and at the same time, this ends up helping the accessibility of your site (or vice versa: you use semantic valid code for accessibility reasons, and since the googles are your most common blind visitor who can't do Javascript, you've automatically improved SEO).

    You may also want to find out what their definition of "accessibility" is. For some people it only means "disabled people can use the page". For others, it includes disabled and non-disabled, and includes technology/hardware/software limitations (people have different ways of connecting to the innernets).

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    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stay_gold74 View Post
    oth of these numbers struck me as being very high. Can anyone help to explain why they would be so high if standards are improving ?
    OK first of, I listen to that podcast and I remember the interview. In respect to the first point, it is true that accessibility can improve the SEO of a website... why is this? Well it's partly due to the recommendations set out in accessibility such as WCAG. If you read the specification for WCAG you will notice certain recommendations which can dramatically increase the SEO value of a website as a side-effect. One of the best examples I have of this is having an alternative to scripted content (such as that laid out in Flash or JavaScript). Search engines have real issues with indexing sites that use content which is interlocked in a format (or in the case of JavaScript, is dynamically added to the page or requested through AJAX). By having alternatives to such information presents the search engines with something they can index (take flash: the alternative content will act as a normal website for those who cannot take advantage of the Flash content, and search engines will navigate and pick up on all the subtle uses of semantics - a flash site on it's own would have nothing worthy of indexing, and what does index wouldn't have any semantic value, therefore a poorer and more leaky indexing issue). Not all accessibility recommendations help with SEO (like stomme suggested) but accessible web design in general does tend to improve the quality, meaning and value of code and make it inherently richer (in my experience).

    As for standards improving, we currently are in a situation where accessibility IS becoming more of an issue and more widely recognised, however as things currently stand, until the European union (EU) and other nations adjust disability legislation to include web accessibility, people will still continue to ignore it (and it's inherent benefits). The web is still very inaccessible in terms of following the recommendations and while web standards are becoming widespread, writing good code is totally different to making a website accessible. You could have perfect HTML and CSS but still have major failings on the accessibility front.

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    One significant contributor to SEO is meaningful link text. That's also a vital part of accessibility for people who must rely on screen readers.

    Most screen readers let the user hear a list of links in the page, either in the order in which they occur or alphabetical order (the user can choose the order). So if all of your links are "Click here" — as in "<link>Click here<endlink> to order [title of book here]" — people who are visually disabled will hear "click here, click here, click here" when the list is read to them. If you leave out the "click here" and instead use "Order [title of book here]" as the link text, then people who are visually disabled will be able to find that link — and order your book — easily.

    So meaningful link text is essential for accessibility.

    Also, search engines determine page ranking by, among other factors, the text in links that point to the page. So if all your links to the page for ordering your wonderful book say "click here," search engines will decide that the page for ordering your book should appear in search results when people search for "click here." You probably want them to find it when they enter words in the book's title as their search terms. So let's look back at the wording on your page and see how you can make that happen. It turns out to be simple: Just make the link text "Order [title of book here]" — the very same thing you did to make your page more accessible.

    And that makes sense, if you think of search engines as having visual, aural, and cognitive disabilities.

    So the short answer is, "Believe it."

    Both numbers.

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    thanks for the feedback. It does help to clarify a few things for me.

    I took it upon myself to email Accessibility.net to ask a few questions. I also invited them and Glenda Sims (self appointed web accessibility goddess @ University of Texas) to drop by the Sitepoint ,Accessibility forums some time to share some of their knowledge.

  7. #7
    om nom nom nom Stomme poes's Avatar
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    Stay-gold, that would be so incredibly awesome. Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by i4design
    Most screen readers let the user hear a list of links in the page, either in the order in which they occur or alphabetical order (the user can choose the order). So if all of your links are "Click here" as in "<link>Click here<endlink> to order [title of book here]" people who are visually disabled will hear "click here, click here, click here" when the list is read to them. If you leave out the "click here" and instead use "Order [title of book here]" as the link text, then people who are visually disabled will be able to find that link and order your book easily.
    This is maybe why I've never ever asked for all the links on a page.

    That and when I do want links, I would only want certain links: the menu links, or the product listing links, or whatever. But when I get told "page has one thousand two hundred and ninety five links" I'm like, whatever. I mean, Sitepoint has lots of links on the main forum page... I'd use almost anything else to navigate the pages.

  8. #8
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    I think there are two factors why so many sites continue to be inaccessible.
    • Forgiving Browsers
    • Lack of Web Accessibility Knowledge


    If browsers weren't so forgiving...the web would be almost unusable now...so I'm certainly not asking browser to become strict about web standards compliance. (Mind you, I want browsers to be standards compliant...but I don't want them to block any web content that isn't full compliant...because we would loose way too much content.)

    I am seeing more sites become accessible (or at least not so terribly inaccessible)...so I know there is progress. And there are so many more opportunities for people to learn how to make sites accessible.

    I'll be honest...one really big reason for the uptick in accessible sites (IMHO) is accessibility laws. It is quite the motivator for some. But really smart web developers realize that accessibility isn't just a legal obligation but a strategic advantage...greatly broadening the reach of your site by improving SEO and building a solid/robust foundation of quality code that tends to be significantly more future proof (to new versions of browsers and browsers on mobile).

    Since you happen to be in Austin...you might want to join us at the Opera Tech Talk on the Open Web on Wednesday, March 10th on the UT Campus. I'll send you the link to the Opera Tech Talk via email (since I'm too new in this forum to post a link).

    Onward!

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    Quote Originally Posted by goodwitch View Post
    I think there are two factors why so many sites continue to be inaccessible.
    • Forgiving Browsers
    • Lack of Web Accessibility Knowledge
    I don't disagree with you, but I'd add a few more:
    • Greed
    • Ignorance
    • Lack of empathy
    Birnam wood is come to Dunsinane

  10. #10
    om nom nom nom Stomme poes's Avatar
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    Which reasons do you think account for Vancouver Olympics oversite?

    I mean really now, it makes it seem (to those not in the know) that it's somehow HARD or EXTRA WORK to make accessible sites. Srsly, wth.

    Forgiving browsers gets under my skin. But I've thought of something... instead of acting like XML when there's an error, how about the page automagically gets filled with pink unicorns everywhere? Unless the page you're building is indeed meant for girls 4-8 years old, this oughtta be incentive to fix the errors. (ok, not accessibility, but just plain HTML errors).

    Glenda, you can post the url if you wrap the dots with parens and leave off the http:

    google(.)com/foomanchoo

  11. #11
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AutisticCuckoo View Post
    I don't disagree with you, but I'd add a few more:
    • Greed
    • Ignorance
    • Lack of empathy
    I downright disagree with greed being an issue (even if the dominating factor is added cost), the facts show that if a website is accessible, more people can use it, less people will be frustrated with how it works (usability going hand in hand with accessibility) and more importantly, that website is less likely to incur future legal costs (when people start suing - and I'm sure it'll rightfully happen when the EU changes the legislation), and of course, less visitors able to use the website means less customers and a direct result would be less financial gain. It's almost paradoxical to say it but the investment of money in accessibility is more "greed-worthy" than the conservation of capital, after all, while the ignorant may totally be oblivious to the benefits, a greedy person would jump at the opportunity for as much revenue as possible, even if there was a smaller up-front cost. The other two examples are totally bang on the mark though.

  12. #12
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    Alex and Glenda (the Good Witch ), I would add shortsightedness to the mix. Many people look at the guidelines for accessibility and assume that it's a lot of work with no real benefit. But then they've never thought about how easy it is to completely change the appearance of a fully accessible site by editing the CSS (or an equivalent process). And they've never thought about the fact that accessible sites tend to work better on mobile devices. I've been dabbling with my church's website for a little more than a year. One of the very first things I did was to make the code valid and the content accessible. Suddenly people who had never been able to view the site on their cell phones were telling me how easy it was to find out what was going on.

    But not everyone will realize that those benefits go hand in hand with making the site accessible. So to them, it will always seem to be an additional burden with no tangible payback.

    Education is the answer, but it's hard to educate people before they're paying attention.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexDawson View Post
    I downright disagree with greed being an issue
    Feel free to disagree, Alex, but I'll stick with what I said. I've read too much even on fairly enlightened forums such as this one, not to believe that greed is the main issue.

    Lots of people are in this business because they believe that they can make loads of money with no heavy lifting. Buy a templated site, slap on a ton of advertisements and sit back and watch the money roll in.

    These people don't care about an in their eyes negligible minority, especially if – as they (often wrongly) believe – catering for it would cost money. Even the few who understand what you wrote about accessibility ROI don't care. They'd rather lose a few dollars/euros/pounds/... than actually having to learn such immensely complicated things as HTML, CSS and JavaScript and spending actual time on fixing their bad sites.
    Birnam wood is come to Dunsinane

  14. #14
    Robert Wellock silver trophybronze trophy xhtmlcoder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by poes
    [...] how about the page automagically gets filled with pink unicorns everywhere ...
    <ot>Yes, but you'd have to "reverse genocide" them first with a Scroll of Genocide while still "hallucinating"...</ot> Though I agree there possibly should be some irremovable warning consuming the page. ;-)

    Out of playful interest; let's assume this EU Law did get passed in some watered-down form unfortunately it is highly unlikely it would change much anyway. If going by the past record of what has happened regarding enforcing web accessibility laws. Looking towards home-soil; just count how many websites in the UK have been successfully dragged through the courts and have be nationally publicised, what a handful? In the last 10-years.

    Then we had the amazing 2020 Olympics video on the "official promo website" triggering epilepsy seizures. Truly amazing stuff! It was one of the examples, I gave to the panel (concerned with their college website) of one of the UK's largest FE Colleges during a face-to-face meeting with them. At the moment it is the fourth largest FE College in the UK.

    Well, I suppose we can always hope it will steadily improve.

  15. #15
    Robert Wellock silver trophybronze trophy xhtmlcoder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xhtmlcoder View Post
    [...]the amazing 2020 Olympics video ...
    Obviously I meant 20[12], but the logo is like a badly implemented CAPTCHA so the requirement of 20/20 vision was strolling through my mind.

  16. #16
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AutisticCuckoo View Post
    Lots of people are in this business because they believe that they can make loads of money with no heavy lifting. Buy a templated site, slap on a ton of advertisements and sit back and watch the money roll in.
    Seems to me in this case greed is really a side effect of the condition and the main cause of inaccessibility is pure ignorance (as in they aren't aware that by just throwing together a piece of junk will cost them a huge number of potential customers). While the incentive to get rich quick is an indicator of greed it's the pure ignorance of accessibility and it's implications which are the main driving force here as to whether someone makes their site accessible or not. Most get rich quick enterprises don't have the slightest clue what a good website is mean't to be, therefore any consideration of accessibility is a total non-issue in that regard. Their not outright saying "sorry, no disabled people here we don't want your money", they almost always end up saying "wait? disabled people can use the web? what's wrong with my site? meh, didn't know... maybe that's why I don't have as many customers"

    Quote Originally Posted by AutisticCuckoo View Post
    These people don't care about an in their eyes negligible minority, especially if – as they (often wrongly) believe – catering for it would cost money. Even the few who understand what you wrote about accessibility ROI don't care. They'd rather lose a few dollars/euros/pounds/... than actually having to learn such immensely complicated things as HTML, CSS and JavaScript and spending actual time on fixing their bad sites.
    And in this case about knowing where accessibility failings are it's not greed that's the dominating factor, it's discrimination (and partial ignorance). It's a given that inaccessible websites will make less money as their ignoring what could be a huge proportion of their market audience. I don't know any get rich quick scheme or person trying to do so who would knowingly want to DROP their potential profits for the sake of cutting what aren't a "few corners" but are in fact major elements (and those that do really don't understand how easy accessibility testing is). I do understand your perspective tommy but I really can't put the factor down to greed... greed is only the wish to make as much money as you can, and since accessibility plays a fairly significant role in that, it's paradoxical to say that greedy people would want to slim their profits out of the wish to make money... it's much fairer to say that greedy people slim their profits either accidently (due to ignorance and not spending the time to learn) or deliberately (through ignorance and discrimination against potential customers). Greed doesn't require education, it just requires motive, and the wish to make money is just a factor in the scheme they try and undertake, not the dominating reason. At least that's my take

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    Alex, I've heard the point made that people with disabilities are far more likely than others to engage in commerce online rather than in brick-and-mortar stores. It makes sense — at least for people with mobility or visual impairments, the very disability that makes using the Web a challenge makes getting to a store even more of a challenge.

    The significance of that is that the relatively small (as in "much less than half the general population") number of people with disabilities are a somewhat larger chunk of the group that engages in online commerce, in the first place, and somewhat more likely to buy from an online merchant, in the second place. But they're also highly likely to ditch a site that isn't accessible in favor of one that is.

    So whether they're ignorant, biased, lazy, or greedy, by ignoring a few percent of their potential customers these online merchants are losing a goodly chunk of their potential sales.

    In time, the situation might become self-correcting. One can only hope so.


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