So you think you’ve created an accessible website? You’ve added all of the alt-text and metadata, built pages with the proper coding, carefully designed the navigation, and written flawless copy. Your job is done, right?
Not so fast. You now need to test your website to see how accessible it really is. Companies like accessiBe are offering a free and automated way with its auditing tool accessScan, or manual testing by experts and people with disabilities. Let’s look at what user testing is and how you can use it to evaluate and enhance your website accessibility.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility is a set of guidelines and best practices to ensure that your website is usable and understandable by people with disabilities. These users may have visual, movement, and cognitive conditions that can impact their ability to use a website.
When you focus on accessibility, you’re making sure that all aspects of your site, including on-page copy, layouts, navigations, interfaces, are built with these users in mind. While there are many different approaches to web accessibility, the most commonly accepted international standard is WCAG 2.1.
While people with disabilities are typically the focus of web accessibility, it actually benefits all users.
What is User Testing?
Unlike automated testing, which uses software to gauge accessibility, in user testing you recruit actual or potential users to navigate through your site in real time so you can see how they respond to the user experience you created.
Steps for Conducting User Testing for Web Accessibility
To conduct user testing for web accessibility, you should follow these steps:
- Create Accessibility Guidelines: Define which specific accessibility requirements and standards you will be testing for in each session. You don’t need to test for all of them at once.
- Identify User Profiles: Create personas based on specific disabilities and have users test according to what those users would see. For example, a persona for a visual disability would test using a screen reader.
- Create Test Scenarios: Determine what tasks or goals you want the users to test, such as navigating to a certain section, completing a form, or just analyzing the color contrast on a page.
- Identify Tools and Resources: If your testers require any specific tools or additional guidance to conduct your tests, have those available and ready for their use.
- Conduct the Tests: You can test either remotely or in-person, using both monitored (where you watch users test) and unmonitored methods. The type and frequency of tests will depend on your resources, timeline, and budget.
- Analyze the Results: Review how your testers did, and plan to address any gaps found by their experiences. Remember, it’s not just about whether they accomplish the goal or not, but the specific actions and amount of time they used.
Developing what you think is an accessible website is only the beginning. You need to test your site to truly see how other people use it, and user testing is a critical component to help you make sure your website fully meets your audience’s accessibility needs. By effectively going through these steps, you’re on the right path to creating valuable experiences for all users.
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