How to Write Accessible Content – Part 2

Choose the Right Platform

website constructionIf you don’t have the right platform (CMS, Cart, Blog), or have it set up correctly, then any accessibility improvements you want to make will be pointless.

So choosing the right platform at the start and making sure your IT staff or developers have the knowledge to set it up correctly is critical.

Get it wrong and you can be in for years of pain.

These days most modern Content Management Systems (CMS), ecommerce shopping carts and blogging platforms are more than capable of producing accessible, standards compliant content.

That is most, though not all.

Even so, sadly in my experience almost all content, ecommerce and blogging installations I’ve come across in the past 15 years have not been correctly set up.

Usually this is because the IT and development staff simply don’t know what is required, or they simply haven’t been briefed correctly.

Often they make arbitrary setup decisions that prevent the system from being able to comply with accessibility and standards guidelines.


Get Professional Help

It’s an unfortunate circumstance where the business commissioning the work doesn’t know what to specify in the development requirements.

This is ideally where you should hire an independent consultant, someone who knows how a website should be put together, to make sure you get a finished product that ticks all the boxes.

Especially those things that you don’t know you don’t even know about.

Of course this adds to the upfront development cost, but it saves you the huge cost from having to reconfigure and rewrite everything years later.

In part 1 of this series I outlined the legal reasons why you need to produce accessible content. In this post I outline some of the technical requirements you need to be aware of.

I’ll be going over what you need in detail over the next few months, but in order to get you started I’ll briefly list what you need to look for below.


1: W3C and WCAG 2.0

Firstly make sure whatever solution you choose states that it produces W3C Standards Compliant and WCAG 2.0 Accessibility compliant pages. It may or may not say this, so you should check with the supplier.


2: Write Proper Project Specifications

Specify the above compliance to your IT team or developer in your project brief and specifications document.

The above two points will spare you from the tedium of having to spell out everything, however you will still need to check compliance before you sign off on a completed project. In that regard you may want to engage an accessibility consultant to check it all for you.

Again, this increases the upfront development cost, but spares you from any costly rebuilds later down the track.

In any event, here’s what to look for.


3: Use Friendly URLS.

 Make sure you can rewrite the urls. Many systems default to something like this which is meaningless. You want to be able to replace the 7105_16609.aspx name with a meaningful word or words. You also want to be able to remove the .aspx extension.


4: Custom File Names

Related to the above, make sure you can specify the file names.


5: Titles

Make sure you can write and rewrite your documents’ titles.


6: Headlines

Make sure you can specify the main headline and mark it up correctly with an H1 tag.  (I’ll explain this further in another post.)


7:  Document Outline and Templates

Related to headlines, you must make sure you can easily edit the document outline. This will usually be in the page templates you use. However, often the outlines and parts of the templates are hard coded meaning you can’t change them.

Wherever possible you want maximum flexibility to change any and everything in your content system.


8: Meta Data

Make sure you can write custom meta data for each and every document.  Again, this is often hard coded in a template and every document ends up getting the same document meta information.  This includes data such as keywords, description, author data, location data etc.


9: Links

Make sure you can write custom titles for any links.


10: Images

When inserting images make sure you can write both “titles” and “alt titles” for all images. Also make sure you can include a caption for all images.

The above are some of the key areas you need to look out for in order for your staff to be able to produce compliant content. I’ll expand on each of these points over the coming months.

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