The need for a new website
As a pan-disability charity, Scope’s new website needed to be accessible to people with a range of hearing, sight, movement and cognitive ability. Of course, it also needed to be WCAG 2.1 compliant and have accessibility at its heart. It’s important that anyone who wants to access Scope’s services can do so, without experiencing digital barriers.
Ceri Balston, Scope’s Head of Digital Experience and Optimisation, wanted the new website to combine great design with excellence in accessibility and experience. It was important for us to become a web accessibility leader and show others how to do it.
We wanted to launch our new digital platform to follow with the announcement of Scope’s new, accessible brand, developed by The Team.
Placing user needs first
Our new website needed to work better for the disabled people we serve. It needed to align with Scope’s broader investment in self-service content for its customers.
If we could empower users to find all the information they needed through the site, it would also help to reduce pressure on our telephone support service.
The development process
If a website is well-designed and coded, people with a range of conditions should be able to use it. When redesigning a website, the most efficient way to build accessibility is, is from the very start of the project.
Making the most of our experts
To ensure we integrated the highest standards of accessibility from the start of the project, we needed help. To start with, we partnered with development agencies and accessibility experts.
Both partners shared the Scope team’s belief that accessibility should go above and beyond the legal requirements.
As well as providing digital accessibility support throughout the project, Hassell Inc. was responsible for staff training. Focusing budget on training instead of auditing meant that we could make lasting change.
Because of Hassell Inclusion’s comprehensive accessibility training, we now have a team who are far more confident on how to deliver accessible digital experiences. Our new in-house expertise means in future we can test the accessibility of all of Scope’s digital platforms without having to pay for outside help.
Ceri Balston, Scope
Founder Jonathan Hassell emphasised the importance of Scope’s web management team in being self-sufficient when it comes to accessibility auditing. Every member of a digital team has a role to play in monitoring and maintaining accessibility best practice. Project and product managers, designers, developers and content writers from Scope were all brought in at this stage of the project.
Scope’s website contained lots of different webpages. Each with varying amounts of traffic and complexity. The digital team came up with a metric called the AX Factor to enable them to categorise the risk of each webpage and allocate resources accordingly.
We can calculate the AX Factor by multiplying the number of visits each page receives in a month, by the number of changes each page receives in a year:
AX Factor = (k visits a month) x (number of changes a year)
The 10-week design phase started with sketches and wireframes, before moving on to interactive prototypes. At each stage, we tested each new design with a team of disabled users. This feedback would then inform the next round of designs.
This approach allowed all Scope staff working on the project to develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be accessible.
Information architecture and navigation
For something to be accessible, it needs to be usable. Designing the navigation and page layout for Scope’s Advice and Support services was a challenge.
The existing information architecture and layout was confusing to users. It was hard for people to find the information they needed, quickly. With advice on subjects like applying for Universal Credit, we needed to present this information clearly. Especially if website users needed to access these pages in a hurry.
Complete content review
Ensuring your content is easy to find, and read, is a crucial aspect of web accessibility.
One of the team compared the old Scope website to an overgrown garden. While there was lots of great content, it needed tidying up.
To address the inaccessibility of the existing written content, we had to reassess the use of standard plain English on every page. Knowing that the average UK reading level sits at nine-years-old, we needed to remove all instances of complex language and jargon that could prevent a user from understanding the page.
The content design team reviewed these pages, looking for opportunities to clarify the existing content. The team removed multiple pages, rewritten or improved by the addition of new content. In total we went from more than 1,720 webpages to 450 in total, all much easier to read and find.
Thoroughly testing all aspects of this new digital platform was critical to ensure an inclusive experience for everyone. While automated accessibility audits can get you so far, testing with real-life users is fundamental to any web development project.
And, there’s nothing quite like working with people using assistive technologies (like screen readers) to really understand the challenges and barriers people face every day.
That’s why we consulted and tested the website with disabled people at every step in the project, more than 45 users by the time we launched. Scope has an in-house 200-person panel of disabled users, also tested this new content and approach rigorously.
Did you know? By the time the website launched, we carried out approximately 24,000 accessibility tests and audits over the course of three months.
Websites change and evolve over time. Pages need adding and removing, updates need installing and content needs updating. New functionality is often needed.
To maintain these standards of accessibility, Scope carries out manual audits every month.
Our inclusive design and accessibility journey in numbers:
- Three-month design and development journey
- 48 disabled users involved in the design process
- 1,720 webpages reduced to 450 in total
- Configured to support eye pointing technology
- Accessible with a screen reader
The feedback we have received so far has been that the site is “much easier” to use and a “vast improvement”.
“Love the fresh new look!”
User feedback on the new website
It’s important to note at this stage that accessibility is a continuous journey. Indeed, no website can ever be 100% accessible to everyone, all the time. Almost all complex websites will have areas of accessibility that need improvements. There is nothing wrong with admitting these vulnerabilities, as long as you have a plan to address these.
The new Scope website launched in February 2019, with a few minor accessibility issues remaining. Scope continues to be transparent about these issues and has a prioritised action plan to fix these.
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