It came as a huge surprise to everyone expect me and five other people that websites still are not user friendly.
Interacting with badly built websites may not be routine for most of you, but for disabled people, this is how it is. Every single day.
“The 1.3 billion living with disabilities worldwide are no stranger to the kind of exclusion the coronavirus has forced on the rest of the population.” — https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/covid-19-isolation-disabilities/
Quarantine? Check. Isolation? Check. Unemployed? Check.
Slow web connection?
This is my world. It is this way for my friends who also live in rural areas where fast internet access is not provided or too expensive to even hope for.
I was fine working from my home office until my husband was forced to work from home when his employer designated that everyone work remotely to avoid being exposed to Covid19.
Every day we fight over whose computers get to be turned on and need to plan in advance when to schedule meetings, uploads, downloads, and the simple act of booting up a laptop. I rise at dawn sometimes so that I can make local backups of websites and listen to my favorite Podcasts.
You can forget about Roku during work hours. In fact, we have one TV operating by the antenna spread eagled on the roof of the house that gives us access to 2 local channels on a clear day.
This is the new normal for us.
It is the same old normal for many other people.
They are the people I work for.
It is my job to help companies develop websites that work for everyone who wants to use them.
Since 2000, by my estimates I have reviewed 350 websites and been part of a team of designers for about 200 more, not counting software apps. If you were to count the enterprise level website properties with gobs of pages, I have taken countless thousands of web pages for test drives.
The most alarming verticals that fail are state and local government websites, followed by retail. Which is all the more concerning since government websites in most countries must meet accessibility laws.
Public facing websites, the group which the rest of our websites fall into, are up for grabs as far as being accessible, usable, searchable, and mobile.
Content Management Systems
There are two kinds of Content Management Systems, Proprietary and Over the Counter. Neither of them gives designers complete access because we are not provided with the keys to open the doors.
Over the counter web designers have been building websites based on a model that leaves us co-dependent on the vision and expertise of the theme designer, and an annual renewal fee.
Proprietary CMS are lively situations guarded by their inventors who have all the code living inside their head and dies with them, or if they are let go for any reason from the company, the ship has no Captain.
Regardless of the way the website is born, if we could GET to the source code, we could add ARIA labels to social media icons in WordPress templates to tell screen readers that yes, that is a Facebook link and icon and next to is Twitter.
If we could GET to the source code we could edit code ourselves without the need for a plugin whose job it is to break into the site with a coat hanger, roll down the window part way and let us pry open a tiny spot to edit.
Such luxuries like custom code are for those who want to pass every guideline and score 100 on every web page test.
And who know that lurking behind every innocent user is that one person who is viewing every page with a browser webmaster tools window open studying your code for imperfections.
I see you.
I realized the other day that web design patterns start out with great expectations.
Take, for example, your first Halloween adventures as children, when the costumes were hand made by someone who loves you and you were excited to wear it. This is what many websites start out as.
They are mere babies with their site owners cooing and showing them off as they parade them around the neighborhood.
After a few years, the costume is not as important as hanging out with your friends and counting your overloaded king size pillowcase candy haul. Websites at this stage are maintained by someone else now and you are drinking shots at the Ti-Ki bar, telling your friends how awesome your business is doing online and how you do not even need to be doing anything.
The final phase of a website is the teenager age, when you don’t even bother to put on a costume or if you do, it is a hat or maybe eyeliner and the adults shoo you away from the porch because, they say, you’re way too old to be out trick or treating.
These are the websites left on the internet gasping for air and ever so slowly breaking apart because their theme, CMS software and plugins are no longer updated. But they show up in searches and when users arrive, they immediately leave because the website has outgrown its usefulness, and nobody wants to spend half the day battling your outdated version of reality.
If you do not want to be THAT website, you will need buck up and get your act together.
It Takes a Tribe
Let me assure you that if you opt for free help, the risk is not hiring people with skills. Hiring one person to design, maintain, and promote your website indicates your lack of knowledge about what website ownership is.
Somebody needs to tell you the truth and it may as well be me.
I am happy to teach you what you need to know, but it has been my experience that teaching people who think they know more than you do is a lost cause.
It is like being a parent during the years just before your kid graduates high school and leaves for college and they and their friends know WAY more than you do about FREAKING EVERYTHING.
It will cost money to put a business on a website and introduce it to the world, or the next town.
What is the first step?
Making a commitment. Find people you trust. Let them do their jobs.
Do your own research into what website ownership is. If your business website is not built properly, you might end up with an ADA lawsuit because it was not designed for disabled persons.
It may not show up in search engines. Your brand may not become a household name because there is no plan to tell anyone it exits.
The competition is crazy on the web. It is not like leasing a small shop in town or working out of your garage, shed, studio, backyard, or barn.
Your website is DOA unless you invest the time, interest, money, and desire to keep it running.
The possible edge is that so many website owners gave up and what we are witnessing now are websites that many people cannot use.
Do not be THAT website.