Do You Want to Be THAT Website?

kimkrauseberg  

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.

Teenage Stage

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.

No Question Too Dumb

kimkrauseberg  

I interviewed an old friend who reminded me of the tagline for an online community I once owned and ran for twenty years. Our tagline was “There is no such thing as a dumb question.”

The people that found themselves joining the community were natural born self learners who did not hesitate to share their knowledge with others.

I built my first website in 1995. Thanks to several mentors who believed in me, I developed confidence and was inspired to keep trying new things. I taught myself how to animate images but required help when it came to handcoding nested tables in HTML pages.

I taught myself website promotion techniques, which later became known as search engine optimization (SEO). Whatever I was unclear about I knew where to find teachers, most of whom I remain friends with to this day.

Donna Cavalier came to my online community as a member, then became a moderator and finally one of the technical administrators, which were necessary as the forums grew and required better software. She was one of my most trusted advisors, not only because of her technical skills, but because she never made me feel dumb for needing help.

One of the reasons I started this new blog is because I needed to return to a time in my life where learning was fun and sharing knowledge wasn’t about competition or ego.

As a self starter and endless research maniac, I can spend hours trying to teach myself something new. I learned a very long ago that people who know what you want to know are often happy to teach you, without judgement.

I do enough of the self critical analyzing mumbo jumbo as it is. This video is my first time ever conducting an interview using Zoom. I’ve conducted interviews before, and been interviewed, but this was my first step into using Zoom as the platform.

I pulled the file into my Camtasia so that I could edit it and add an intro and exit credits and a few other fun things. Later, when I wanted to make more accessible, I tried to teach myself transcription but ended up learning how to create subtitles and uploading the edited text.

I gained more knowledge by doing and a newfound empathy for those whose job it is to make sure our words are available to those who like or require the assistance.

Zoom Interview with Kim Krause Berg and Donna Cavalier

Why Do I Need a Usability Site Audit?

kimkrauseberg  

If you have ever used a website and become frustrated with it, you know first hand why a usability site audit is necessary. And, because there are so many websites that are difficult to use, you may not be surprised to learn it was never tested to begin with.

Every website has a short shelf life.

During the 1990’s when website design was in the exploratory stages the common mantra was “build it and they will come”. They did because there was no other place to go and if you were lucky to be the first website, you could get away with imperfections. This is no longer the case.

For the past 20 years web designers, programmers and marketers have watched how people search for and interact with web pages. We learned that everyone wants in. That means making web pages accessible regardless of age, handicap, or device. Competition brought on brand challenges. Where there were once hundreds of thousands of directories and search engines, today Google dominates the search engine space; so much so that when they declared they wanted to index only mobile-ready web pages, everybody ran back to the drawing board for redesigns.

With each new programming language comes new opportunities for developers.

We are long past HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. There are so many ways to build a web site or internet application that picking one requires serious consideration.

Small businesses with tiny budgets learn the harsh realities of web site ownership in a playing field where companies with more money can pay for better built web sites that rank well in search engines and perform well for their visitors.

It is website performance for people that counts most of all.

We know from years of studies in human factors and neurosciences that when someone arrives at a web page or mobile application, for example, their need must be met in under 5 seconds. The most basic need is “Do they have what I came for?” If that question requires page scrolling, clicking links, browsing menus and searching for content, that experience has to be pain free and effortless.

Companies are sometimes less informed about their target market.

They have a limited perspective, ideas based on hope, and they rarely ever consider human behavior, special needs, country cultural differences, or thought to watch anyone use their website in various environments.

Usability website testing should be set up and ready to go during the development stage and after the site goes live.

It should be part of ongoing maintenance during the life of the website property. There are web design standards and guidelines established by the World Wide Web Consortium that provide unity and cohesiveness for the Internet experience, but those standards are constantly re-visited and revised.   In several countries, including the US and UK, there are laws pertaining to doing business online with special needs people. There is a lack of knowledge of what a special needs user is. The definition includes people who wear corrective eye wear, are ADD or ADHD, are colorblind and those who use special computer devices that do not come with a mouse.

Certain countries do not use desktop or lap top computers. Their populations rely on cell phones. Language, terminology and grammar are not universally understood. This makes the role of an information architect vitally important for web design and digital marketing.

A website usability audit should be performed when:

  1. The data indicates traffic declined after a redesign.
  2. The data indicates traffic bounces after landing on the site.
  3. Revenue is not meeting expectations.
  4. Revenue tanked.
  5. Pages rank well but conversions are poor.
  6. There was a redesign and all hell broke loose after that.
  7. The site is a few years old and no longer meeting user or business expectations.
  8. A professional SEO insists that one is needed to provide support for their marketing strategies.
  9. The site was never tested to begin with.

A usability site audit helps to determine the success or failure of the website users’ experience.

You should be concerned if your website is not tested by an expert in the usability field.

Companies are not hiring the right website designers.  It takes a team of people to build, test, maintain and promote a website. One person can not do it all, despite every possible attempt by people to do it this way. A graphic designer is not a performance engineer. An SEO is not an accessibility specialist.  A user interface designer is not a data analyst.  Someone needs to be trained in programming, mobile design, information architecture, human behavior, persuasive design, functional testing and content writing.

The smart website owner leaves nothing to chance. Their investment must be competitive. A usability audit may result in a strong recommendation to redesign the website. An official report with documented findings provides proof and actionable recommendations, mockups, sketches, resources and data to be used for the new design. It may recommend user testing, mobile device testing, accessibility testing, performance testing and search engine optimization enhancements.

What Do I Need in My Website Usability Audit?

A full website audit for a large website may be expensive when performed by trained usability specialists. If a site owner has a good idea where an issue is located, that area can be the focus. Sometimes the audit is to test for mobile user experience only. What is not recommended is when a site has a global target market and an ecommerce section, and the site owner wants under 5 pages audited.  Those 5 pages will not represent the performance or user experience of an enterprise website that targets customers from many countries. They can be, however, proof of concept or examples of a larger audit or used for discussions with stakeholders who may need convincing that a full site audit is warranted.

What is The Value of Getting a Website Usability Audit?

Your brand. Your reputation. Sales. Conversions. Search engine rankings. Your customers’ satisfaction.  You value those things. It makes sense to do whatever it takes to properly support them.

A website audit and site testing are worth the investment if you want your online business to be successful and risk-free for a long time.