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Web development & accessibility

Not mutually exclusive!

I have recently had a number of web design tenders come my way, some that I have won, others lost. The sticking point appears to be accessibility. As another of the articles I wrote shows, accessibility is vital for ALL websites - both as a legal and moral requirement.

It is a legal requirement for any business over 5 employees to have an accessible site. How many do not, and that still includes many of the FTSE100 companies! If you have a new business, and you want to grow, would you start with an inaccessible website, grow your business and then reinvest in a new website? Probably not.

There are some developers who still have not grasped the need to develop websites accessibly, and charge much less for it - an example was a bid I made for a website for a recruitment company. I was undercut, by 50% by a developer who admits that he does not understand the DDA implications on websites. He then approached me to get a quote for my company to make the website he was developing, accessible. Funnily enough, it would cost 100% of what he was charging. The company have a website that fails even at the basic Priority 1 level.

Another case, where the competition did not include accessibility caused the client to have near heart failure when the developers offered to develop an accessible website (from scratch) at 300% more than the original non-accessible site. This is outrageous!

What to look for

If you are embarking on a new, or a reworked website, you should not accept any excuses from developers about the DDA. Even if your business is not of a size that requires an accessible site, surely you want to include ALL your potential customers? And you want it to let the Search Engine spiders index your site correctly? And do you want to have to reinvest in a new website once you reach the lower threshold?

If a website is built from scratch, it is very straight forward to make it comply with at least Priority 1 standards. Reworking existing sites do cause some problems. Web developers have appeared out of the woodwork over the last 9-10 years, many of whom have no formal education in web design, and most dangerously, they do not understand their own limitations. These are people who are taking YOUR money, and potentially destroying your brand.

What you should do

The most important document is the web design brief. This should document YOUR requirements, based on your understanding of YOUR customers, competitors and business environment. You may find that the web developer can help you develop this, alternatively, you could employ a developer to help you put this document together, and just pay them for this work alone.

The brief should then become your checklist. A developer will confirm what they can and can't do, and you can tick the various tasks off as they deliver them.

It is in this document that you can, and should indicate that you need to have an accessible website, and you can stipulate the level of compliance (the higher the compliance, the higher the potential price). The quotes should, however, not be any higher than if you did not want DDA compliance - it is illegal for developers to develop websites that are not accessible.

If you want higher compliance levels, or have fussy or unusual components that you want to use on your website, you should expect to pay more for your website. There should never be any reduction for non-compliant pages or components - this is illegal!

So far, we have just spoken about the financial aspects. Morally, you should allow access to every part of your website, and failing to do so will alienate them and lead them to visit your competitors, and become their customers. You may also want higher search engine rankings - the search engine spiders (the code that evaluates and indexes your web pages) should be seen as being disabled human visitors. Make it easy for them to find your content, and to navigate around your website and you will appear higher on the search engine listings.

As our sister company - DDA Audit - tells visitors, DDA compliance is not rocket science! (link opens a new window)

About the author

Thom Poole is a Chartered Marketer with the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and a member of the Marketing Society. A marketer with over 16 years experience in online marketing and web strategy, Thom is strategic digital marketing consultant for Jack Marketing Solutions, working with SMEs. He also teaches people web design from beginners to professionals, as well as CRM, eCommerce, etc., and is a lecturer for Birkbeck College – University of London. A regular speaker on the CRM and digital marketing event circuit, Thom has also written a book on ethical e-marketing, called 'Play It By Trust'. The book is available at the publishers as a hardback or download.

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