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The WCAG 1.0 guidelines, published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), are widely regarded as the definitive guidelines on how to create accessible websites.
A level of compliance to the guidelines can be covered by using automated accessibility checking tools. But the best way to check the usability/accessibility of your site is to carry out some form of end-user testing throughout its various development stages e.g., early designs, actual built HTML pages, pre-launch and when the site is live.
- To see your site through fresh eyes. The needs of your audience should determine the content and design of your site.
- To understand how visitors use your site.
- To uncover new ideas.
- To improve your website.
- Because Oxford University has made a commitment to providing an accessible web presence - see University Accessibility Standard for more details.
- The widely accepted methods of end-user testing are to set a selection of testers a series of tasks, using either paper prototypes or on-screen pages from which to work.
- Before testing begins, reassure the users that they are testing the site, not themselves.
- Ask them to think out loud as they carry out the tasks, as this can result in some interesting observations.
- Each tester should carry out the same set of tasks and the session should be monitored by one or more observers, who should take notes throughout.
- You may also want to create a feedback form, to be completed at the end of testing, for more general comments.
- Ideally testing shouldn't take more than 1 hour.
It is essential to know what you hope to discover each time you test. In a general test you may want to know:
- how users interact with your website
- what they find difficult to achieve
- where they get lost
- what makes sense to them
- what are their likes and dislikes
In a specific test you might want to know, for example:
- can the users accomplish a key task?
- can the users find something specific?
At the end of testing, gather all the notes from the Observers.
- Write up a detailed report of all feedback.
- Analyse results and create a list of possible actions.
- Prioritise this list; some will be essential, others desirable and others just opinions that may need no further action.