Web accessibility - don't do stupid stuff

A number of years ago I shamefully helped to copperfasten low quality accessibility on a large website. And I did it by validating that it was accessible according to WCAG guidelines.

You see I was asked to make a judgement as to whether the site met AA standard in a very legalistic-type way.

My initial response was:

"Look, forget the guidelines. That's all they are: guidelines. If we want to check if this site is accessible, let's test it with visually impaired users. If they say it's accessible, then that's good enough for me."

But it wasn't good enough for the client. Their requirement was to certify the website met the guidelines - not that some people found it easy to use.

So was it compliant?

Well, yes it was - based on a strict legalistic interpretation. But, it was going to be a really awkward & cumbersome experience for the visually impaired and others.

I was reminded of this when reading Lawrence at Sitemorse's new article about 10 Ways to Improve Website Accessibility.

Meeting an impossible standard, sometimes means ditching the standard. Follow the spirit of the guidelines and "don't do stupid stuff".

Making Digital Governance Work

It is difficult to think of any collection of people or type of activity that is not underpinned in some way by a system of governance. There seems to be a basic human condition that craves structures for the organisation and management of our collective affairs.

Unfortunately, little thought is ever given to such ideas when it comes to the activities of Website Management. In fact, many firms continue to to believe that the only governance they need is a part-time 'web guy' who will take care of everything.

In my visit to UK Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (hosted by JBoye) I explained why this is so wrong. (Slides from my visit are below.)

Whilst there I also got to speak with James Thornett of GOV.uk which was pretty special for me. The reason is that James's team and GDS in general have done such an incredible job of restructuring government online since 2012.

Struggling with Web Governance in a member association?

Why is it that member organizations and associations struggle so much web governance?

The clue is in the name.
Association - An organized body of people who have an interest, activity, or purpose in common; a society. (Merriam-Webster) 
In contrast with the command systems typical of a corporate entity, “associations” are by nature far less rigid and operate based on consensus with multiple priorities and initiatives competing for attention.

Indeed, an overly robust approach to governance could backfire badly in an organization where participation is essentially voluntary.

And yet, some type of unity is still needed.

Read how to "Implement Web Governance in an Association" in my new guest post in co-operation with vendor Vanguard Technology.

Masterclass for Web & Product Managers | Online training

Achieve the Industrial Peace you need to focus on online goals. Sign-up to my new online video Masterclass for Web & Product Managers.

The new Masterclass is composed of 8 informative & engaging videos, divided into 2 parts and lasting 4 hours. (Read a full course outline here.)

After you sign-up, you can dip in-and-out of all videos as often as you like and view them on as many devices as you like.

With over 15 years' experience of tacking governance issues, I designed this course to provide clear, step-by-step solutions to the real-world problems encountered by Web Product Managers. This includes:
  • How to ensure clarity in online ownership, leadership & authority.
  • How to define clear roles & responsibilities for a web team.
  • How to identify the right tools & processes needed to manage complexity.
  • And perhaps most importantly, how to create a Business Case that can persuades executives to act - and implement a transformation project that can deliver on the promise of better governance.
Each lesson is backed-up with lots of downloads, including transcripts for all eight videos.

The purpose is give you everything you need to create a more stable work environment for staff - and an improved online experience for customers.

Ultimately, you’ll learn how to use Web Governance as a new means of competitive advantage, so that as traditional disciplines like design and content are gradually exhausted as differentiators, you can continue to stay well ahead of your peers.

3 Steps to Better Web Governance

The concept of Web Governance is currently attracting a lot of attention.

It seems as if its moment has finally arrived - which is encouraging because until recently few industry commentators or senior managers were interested in the details of managing a website.

The shift to Web Governance highlights a realization that if the trajectory of online experience is to be maintained, a more professional approach to operations is needed.

New article: "The 4 Megatrends of Web Governance"

It seems it is finally happening. The discipline of website management is at last getting some attention.

The realization has dawned that if the trajectory of ever improving online experience is to be maintained, a better approach to operations is needed. And not just for aesthetic reasons.

The real motivator is competitive advantage. 

Just as other specialisms like design and content have changed beyond recognition in the past 10 years, so too is Web Governance catching-up with online needs - primarily as the result of 4 Megatrends. These are:

Megatrend #1: Growth in the volume & complexity of online operations. Megatrend #2: Fragmentation & specialization of online roles. Megatrend #3: Professionalization of online management. Megatrend #4: Sophistication of new tools to support digital operations.

See how these Megatrends affect you - and find out how to react - in my new article "The 4 Megatrends of Web Governance".

New video "Web Governance for Government Websites"

In September, I hosted a webinar with Siteimprove on a long-standing interest of mine, "Web Governance for Government Websites".

For instance, back in 2009 I wrote that many governments would be far better off spending web budgets "on newspaper ads, on door-to-door visits, on sky writing aeroplanes, on anything" – just not another unsupported website!

The reason is that creating a web presence has become little more than a box-ticking exercise - characterized by poorly understood goals and inadequate support.

Of course, I am not the only person who thinks so.

“It’s Groundhog Day. Hundreds of millions of dollars, large-scale IT enterprise technology, no real user testing, no real focus on users, all done behind a black box.” 

These are the words of Mike Bracken describing his dismay at the problems experienced by Healthcare.gov last year. And there are some excellent reasons to listen to Mike.

As Executive Director of Digital for the UK government he has led the greatest transformation yet seen in how state services are delivered online.

In my presentation you'll find out just what Mike and his team have been able to achieve.

Download the slides below, or click here to watch a recording of the webinar.

New video "Roles & responsibilities on a web team"

On June I hosted a webinar with Siteimprove entitled "Roles & Responsibilities on a Web Team".

As we know, people are the most important part of any system of Web Governance. However, job descriptions and demarcations have often not kept pace with changes in online activity. This has led to dangerous gaps in operations, as well as tension among staff.

This presentation demonstrates a better way to plan Roles and Responsibilities for your team.

Download the slides below, or click here to watch a recording of the video.

The 3-legged stool. Satisfying users, staff and management

Really interesting post and another gold star for GDS: "The tricky topic of governance."

The hard-to-balance 3-legged stool of satisfying users, satisfying staff & satisfying management seems well supported. 

However, one thing to ponder is what would happen if - in order to satisfy users - you had to dissatisfy staff or management?
  • For example, what if staff had to work long weekends or postpone holidays to get a project done? 
  • Or what if you had to ask management to invest far more than planned in order to ensure delivery? 
This is not easy to answer. (Plus, it looks like the current process at GDS is flexible enough to cope.)

The basic question is how far to push things in pursuit of user satisfaction, whilst balancing staff & management concerns? 

For instance, I have experience of teams that deliver amazing user experience, but from caustic work environments & over-demanding senior management.

Read some more thoughts about the 3-legged stool in my article "The new analytics of web governance."

Better web management in UK universities

UK universities have so much history and tradition (i.e. complexity), it makes web management much harder to sort out than in other similar sized organisations.

Yet, 3 essential steps remain:
  1. Beef up on good web management practice.
  2. Do the simple things first (whilst planning for 'better').
  3. Build the 'better', e.g. new roles, responsibilities, processes, etc.

Of course, the biggest challenge can be making the business case to get started on this journey - despite the fact that benefits will come (it just takes time).

I have worked with several people in this bind and recommend the steps outlined in my new guide as a plan of action.

Download your copy of the new guide to 'Better web management in UK universities' now.

The 3 benefits of better management