Website Awards in focus

In his blog post entitled “Why award-winning websites are so awful” Gerry McGovern  says “Practical and functional websites rarely win prizes for design but they do win sales and make profits, … The Web is a functional, practical place. A great website drives the customer to act… The shiny surface wins awards. Real substance wins customers.”

Sadly, the same goes for web accessibility awards as for other web awards.
We have noticed that in reality accessibility of web sites that win awards is not always perfect. While awards are offered to encourage accessibility in design and build of web sites as well as reward those that are truly accessible must be attention given to accessibility standards and best practice.
We were therefore surprised and disappointed to see the , ALGIM accessibility award winner, the Rangitikei District Council with a site that was far from accessible. It seems that there are still some misconceptions around accessibility. Giving a nod in the direction of accessibility will just not do.
This reflects a wider problem of a lack of understanding that disabled people and others who face information barriers are customers and users of web sites. For some it may be the only, or the best way of finding information they can use.
Accessibility is still not taken seriously enough by some, it is seen as a lightweight consideration, a “nice to have” if time, energy and resources permit, but not important. The effectiveness, elegance and plain common sense of universal design principles are still not widely grasped.
Some examples of fundamental accessibility errors from the winning site are;

  • Lots of “read more” links which with no information for a screen reader user tabbing through links
  • Inaccessible CAPTCHAs on the form for collecting information for a community organisation database and the fix-it form
  • Incorrectly marked up tables for layout on several pages
  • Headings are used for formatting rather than for syntactical structure and there is incorrect heading hierarchy structure
  • Accessibility statement with the access keys is only findable using the site map.
  • The location map does not meet the colour contrast standard.

If this is the best there is, and no sites are of a sufficient standard then it would be best if no award was made.

1 Comment

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One Response to Website Awards in focus

  1. Kevin Prince

    As someone closely involved in this award I can confirm that the criteria are absolutely standards-based but, necessarily for practical reasons, it concentrates on specific, limited, aspects of the site. In this case it’s some key points on the homepage and contacting the council concerned. From that standpoint I fully accept your point that “accessibility of web sites that win awards is not always perfect.”

    If the process merely stopped at that I’d agree that it were better no award were made however I can assure you that the very existence of the award creates a desire to work on those other aspects of sites that you rightly note and I have seen a general improvement across the broad range of ALGIM membership. It also opens the dialogue as to what full accessibility means and gives it a profile that is helping to promote universal design. Are we there yet – of course not but there is a real journey underway.

    After 3 years with basically the same criteria both ALGIM and I have been discussing changes to the checkpoints for next year but this can only ever be a broadbrush approach but the value lies in opening a dialogue and the recognition of the good work that is going on out there.

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