Web accessibility testing

Torresburriel Estudio
5 min readMay 29, 2024

--

Web accessibility testing is a crucial part of user experience design on the web. These tests are conducted to ensure that websites are accessible to all people, regardless of their abilities or potential disabilities.

Web accessibility is important because it allows everyone to navigate the web and access the information, services, and products offered.

Web accessibility testing in UX involves evaluating various aspects of the user experience, such as navigation, content, and interaction with the website. These tests are carried out using specific tools and techniques that we will explain in this article.

Photo byNangialai Stoman on Unsplash.

Conducting web accessibility testing is important to ensure that websites meet the accessibility standards set by international organizations and governments. Moreover, web accessibility is a fundamental component to comply with laws and regulations that ensure equal access to services and information online.

When should accessibility testing be done?

Web accessibility testing in UX should be conducted at all stages of a website’s design and development. This includes from the initial planning phase, through to implementation and ongoing maintenance of the website.

It is crucial to consider accessibility from the beginning of the design and development process, as this can save time and money in the long run.

Conducting web accessibility testing from the early stages also allows for the identification and resolution of accessibility issues before they become more significant problems.

It is important that such tests are conducted regularly, especially when significant changes are made to the website. This ensures that the site remains accessible and meets accessibility standards.

However, despite the need to conduct these tests at all phases, performing them in the final phase of the development process carries two risks:

  • Projects tend to exceed time and budget constraints. Testing is often rushed, skipped, or overlooked due to pressures to complete the project.
  • It is more laborious and costly to fix problems discovered late in the process than to do things right from the start.

Who should conduct web usability testing?

There are essentially two distinct groups that perform accessibility testing: experts and users.

Experts, being fully knowledgeable about the website’s technology, act as a hub of knowledge exchange about different user groups. It’s highly unlikely that a web developer will use a website in the same way as a common user. Therefore, gathering data from their accessibility testing can be very important for introducing improvements to the site.

There are four key approaches to conducting expert tests:

  • Tool-guided evaluation: the tool searches for accessibility issues and reports them to the evaluator.
  • Simulation: the expert simulates an end-user’s experience on the website.
  • Inspection: the evaluator uses a tool to probe how different parts of a website work together.
  • Code review: the evaluator looks for issues to fix in the website’s code.

On the other hand, conducting tests with users is also crucial, as they are closer to the final outcome of using the web. User testing also has a more subtle advantage: it humanizes accessibility and connects developers with end-users. It can increase motivation to create accessible websites.

Testing with both experts and actual users ensures a comprehensive approach, covering both technical compliance and real-world usability. This combination helps to create websites that are not only technically accessible but also genuinely usable, providing a better experience for all users.

Web accessibility evaluation

Generally, conducting a web accessibility test involves reviewing the site’s functionality across multiple web browsers and different screen resolutions, as well as checking spelling, links, and other factors.

There are several ways to test the accessibility of your website. Here are some options:

  • Automated tools: these tools scan your website for common accessibility issues and provide a detailed report of problems that need to be resolved. Some popular tools include WebAIM, AChecker, and WAVE.
  • Manual testing: involves manually reviewing the website and testing different aspects, such as navigation, color contrast, compatibility with screen readers, keyboard usability, and other accessibility elements. You can also use assistive technologies, such as screen readers.
  • User testing: as previously mentioned, user testing is an effective technique to evaluate the accessibility of your website. You can invite people with various abilities to test your website and provide feedback on its accessibility and usability.

Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM), an organization funded by the U.S. Department of Education, recommends the following process to assess accessibility:

  • Validate your HTML
  • Validate for accessibility
  • Check keyboard accessibility
  • Test with a screen reader
  • Verify your pages for WCAG compliance
  • Conduct user testing
  • Repeat this process

Overall, it’s important to conduct regular web accessibility tests to ensure that your website complies with accessibility standards and provides an inclusive user experience for all users.

Web accessibility tools

There are several tools you can use to test the accessibility of a website. Here are some of the most popular tools:

  1. Contrast WCAG. Checks color contrast levels based on WCAG 2.2 requirements.
  2. HeadingsMap. Generates a document map with the web’s headings. Shows errors in the heading structure and also functions as an HTML5 Outliner.
  3. WAVE. Another online accessibility evaluation tool that scans your website for accessibility issues. It generates detailed reports on the accessibility problems found on your website. Highly recommended.
  4. Color Oracle. A free color blindness simulator for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  5. Stark. Allows you to design with accessibility in mind from brand conception to product realization.
  6. Spectrum. Tests your website with different types of color vision deficiency.
  7. Axe. An open-source tool that can be used across different web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge. Axe provides detailed reports of accessibility issues and suggestions on how to fix them.

These are some of the most popular tools you can use to test the accessibility of a website. It is important to remember that these can only provide a preliminary assessment of your website’s accessibility and that manual testing is necessary to obtain a more complete evaluation. We can be aware of the importance of making a website accessible and inclusive for everyone, as, in a way, it benefits all of us, both users and experts.

--

--

Torresburriel Estudio

User Experience & User Research agency focused on services and digital products. Proud member of @UXalliance