There is more than one way to test a website
There are a lot of website accessibility testing strategies being used today. Some are centered on testing a list of web pages independently of each other, essentially considering each web page in isolation. There are other strategies that focus on the most popular or prominent pages, like a home page or landing page, placing less importance on deeper-level pages. Many other variations exist, and it isn't hard to understand why these approaches are appealing — after all, home pages and landing pages are front doors and they're incredibly important, and testing pages independently in their entirety should help you catch accessibility issues.
So what's the problem?
To be clear, any effort to test and improve accessibility is a good thing. That said, here's the problem with the strategies identified so far: they're not representative of how people actually use websites. Nobody reads or interacts with a web page top-down, left-to-right, as its own masterpiece separate from the rest of the website. They don't visit a web page and use the elements according to a script to make sure they've experienced everything it has to offer. People also don't knock on the website's door (home page or landing page) to stop there — they want to explore inside (although if they do want to leave after visiting the first page, that's called a bounce: here's how accessibility improves bounce rates).
Testing more closely to how people use and navigate a website by including use cases is critical to accessibility.
What's a use case?
People visit a website to do or learn or find something. A use case represents a process or key action a typical user would want to accomplish on a website. Each page and each element that's part of that sequence is vital to the accessibility and usability of a website.
Put another way, if the home page of an e-commerce website is very user-friendly and accessible, for example, but the final checkout isn't accessible, a segment of people with disabilities will be unable to do what they came to the site to do, and the accessibility of the home page won't matter — the use case of checking out and thus the website are not accessible.
Carefully developing custom use cases and including them in manual accessibility testing reduces the possibility of this inaccessible scenario from ever happening.
What's the best way to test for accessibility?
Whole pages and the most prominent pages of websites need to be tested, certainly. Added to that scope must be custom use cases that make sure people can accomplish the very things they came to accomplish.
We believe our four-point hybrid testing provides the best path to achieving, maintaining, and proving digital compliance. Our comprehensive testing combines the best of human and artificial intelligence. Why? Automated testing has great benefits but it also has limitations. At the end of the day, people of all abilities, not machines, are using websites. So, real people testing under scenarios representing a variety of disabilities are required to understand the true accessibility of a website.
Learn more: A Look at Our Four-Point Hybrid Testing
How can we help with your accessibility initiatives?
Our team of accessibility experts is here to help. To begin customizing an accessibility compliance strategy for your business, contact us. Or, get started with a free and confidential website accessibility scan.
We look forward to helping you achieve, maintain, and prove digital compliance.