How can I ensure my A/B tests are accessible for all users?
This interview is part of Kameleoon's Expert FAQs series, where we interview leading experts in data-driven CX optimization and experimentation. Marion Ranvier is passionate about accessibility and truly thinks that learning about differences can be an innovation driver for companies. Born and raised in France, Marion Ranvier is the founder and former CEO of AdapteMonWeb, an assistive technology acquired by Contentsquare in October 2020, promoting web accessibility for all. Today, Marion is the Director of the Contentsquare Foundation, a nonprofit organization that fosters digital accessibility in education, technology, and corporate social responsibility.
Marion has mild dyslexia, one of the so-called ‘invisible’ or ‘hidden’ disabilities. She has turned her experience with dyslexia into one of the most innovative solutions addressing the issue of digital inaccessibility today.
How can I ensure my website A/B tests are accessible for all users?
To ensure that your A/B tests will be accessible to all users, it’s essential to;
- Ensure all parties on the project understand what accessibility is, entails, and requires.
- Evaluate the accessibility needs on the project. This can be defined in the research phase during problem discovery. To do this you should;
- Include profiles of users with disabilities in your research panel.
- Make sure the materials being included in your user research (web documents, pages, software, etc.) are accessible.
- Make sure that the tools (software and hardware) you are using to run the user research are accessible and allow the use of assistive technologies.
- Train your researchers to work appropriately with people with disabilities to ensure they respect and address them properly and respect their privacy (as well as health and data privacy).
- When designing research tasks, ensure that the research protocol is accessible, readable, and understandable by all users, whatever their disability. For example, avoid asking a blind user to click on an element based on its position or visual appearance.
How can I check that my website meets web accessibility standards?
Your website or application needs to meet the criteria put together by the W3C in the WCAG - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1.
You also need to know what legislation is in place in your country. The W3C has compiled a non-exhaustive list of government policies related to web accessibility worldwide.
To check your website meets such standards or complies with a law, you first need to detect all issues and know your accessibility score. For that, we need to run an accessibility audit by an expert. Bear in mind that automatic audits are not enough because they detect only 30 to 40% of accessible issues (depending on the website content.) However, automatic tools can come in handy for maintaining a website to ensure basic criteria are covered. But it’s likely you will still need to continue looking at the full criteria through manual auditing.
Two major things to consider before the new production line is ready;
- Why do I need to make my website accessible? It’s important to understand how many people have difficulty accessing content and what kind of difficulties they have. Understanding how people with disabilities use the web, why they need assistive technology, and how assistive technologies work on websites. For me, it is a major starting point: understand how tools work that people with different kinds of disabilities use to browse the web, and comprehend the barriers they encounter due to poor design.
- Train people who will work on your website in accessibility because you can’t ask your UX designer or web developers to start accessibility projects without any information.
Can you recommend any inclusive and accessibility complaint tools my A/B testing team can use in their daily work?
Accessibility checker tools in this list are helpful for developers, but it’s essential to understand the limitations of automated accessibility testing. Depending on how the site is coded, the automatic tools will not see the same errors as real users. Today, an automatic tool will catch 30% to 40% of accessibility errors. That's why it is essential to perform manual audits.
We often think of accessibility in terms of websites, but this tool helps you make documents accessible too.
If I’m conducting in-person user research, how can I ensure it’s inclusive and accessible for everyone?
You need to have your checklist and start your homework with humility. It's ok not to know everything regarding digital accessibility. The important thing is to ask yourself the question before starting.
As I mention below, people can’t imagine how people with disabilities live if they do not have a disability themselves. So first, try to understand how people with disabilities navigate, what tools they use, and why the WCAG requires a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. You’ll soon realize that all these requirements are not only useful for people with disabilities but for all.
I recommend you read the Digital Accessibility handbook that we have launched, it:
- Teaches you about impairments that affect people’s ability to use the web.
- Provides actionable insights about creating better user experiences for all.
- Gives you a handy checklist to ensure accessibility on your website.
Then you can practice by taking the basic Digital Accessibility course (for registration, use the code: “csf2022”).
Try to engage or meet with associations that work with the type of users. This kind of non-profit organization can help you find a tester panel for your research.
Ultimately, there is nothing better than talking to people with disabilities. You will learn so much more than by reading articles on the internet, you will understand how they compensate for their disability in their daily lives, and I assure you, you will be amazed.
These discussions or research sessions may be uncomfortable for you because you are new to the subject of digital accessibility. Be honest and humble, don't hesitate to ask a lot of questions, and explain that this is new to you and that you are conducting your research in all sincerity and honesty to get to know their daily difficulties.
Research is an integral part of the design process, but it's only one step toward making a product accessible to all users. Let's think of it as universal design; it's worth it for everyone.
What are the most common accessibility issues people encounter online, and how can I fix them?
Lack of contrast is one of the most common problems; an accessible contrast ratio makes it easy for people with low vision, cataracts, glaucoma, and other sight conditions to interact with your website. Use a font that’s not contrasted enough, and you’ll be excluding one hell of a lot of people from your content.
An accessible contrast ratio is 4.5:1; you can check you meet this yourself thanks to tools such as:
The second "basic" mistake that comes to my mind is the hierarchy of titles. Indeed, often aesthetically problematic, this can be a real issue for assistive technology because headings are meant to be scanned, both visually and with assistive technology. Headings should explain what the page or the section of the page is about. By crafting descriptive headings, you make it easier for screen-reader users to determine a page's structure and navigate its headings.
It’s essential to not think uniquely about design and have a clear heading hierarchy that shows readers where to find information and how important it is.
Globally, the ten most common digital accessibility issues are;
- Color contrast.
- Image alt text errors.
- Not providing a visual indication of the current focus.
- Failure to use proper labels.
- Non-descriptive text for hyperlinks.
- Link areas are too small.
- Tables markup.
- Improper use of heading elements.
Why do so many businesses fail to meet accessibility standards?
Companies are not sufficiently aware of the risks involved. Governments have voted for laws, but laws and standards aren’t being used well by companies because of a lack of knowledge and training. Not only software engineers and UX designers, but everyone needs to know digital accessibility basics. And like all important projects, digital accessibility needs to have executive buy-in to become a real transversal project.
From my point of view, we must see digital accessibility as a societal issue, not a legal constraint. The change of mentality and the awareness of digital exclusion will lead to a movement of inclusion.
It’s why Contentsquare and Contentsquare Foundation aim to position themselves as a contributor and facilitator of the movement of digital accessibility transformation. To spread the word and encourage other companies to initiate their own digital accessibility transformation.
Brands should see it as a:
- Social issue: ensuring that your website is compliant creates a better experience for all users.
- Brand contribution: 92% of consumers are more likely to support a brand that is accessible.
- Legal obligation: Forty accessibility laws around the world and fourteen thousand lawsuits filed in the US.
- Business opportunity: Reach an audience that has difficulty accessing the web today.
Marion, you started your business with your father. Any advice for people who are considering working with their family?
I was pretty lucky to have an amazing father but also a serial entrepreneur father. It was an opportunity for me to launch this business with him. We were very complimentary; he had a technical background, and I was more commercial. But I have to say that it isn’t easy. Working with family members allows you to take liberties you would hardly dare to consider with ordinary associates. I sent messages outside working hours about non-urgent matters and started talking business with my father during breakfast. My mother was exasperated.
So it's important to get some distance and set some rules and boundaries. Bringing in someone from the outside the family can also be beneficial. This third-person prevents family grudges from being settled in the business. I can’t thank my father enough for his patience because, in retrospect, I must have been difficult to deal with :)