Joomla Accessability ADA/508Today I want to talk a bit about usability, accessibility and where Joomla fits into this. A few months back we started to see more municipalities posting RFP’s so we put out a brief report with some information about ADA/508 Accessibility. While there are lots of good web links and books on the market this is still an area many developers shy away from since it requires a significant amount of discipline while you are developing the site and extra training for your customers on how to interact and perhaps manage content in it.

There is also a lot of additional testing that eats up time in your development process and this can frustrate even those with the strongest will for perfection. Since we focus now exclusively on developing our CMS sites in Joomla, I wanted to make sure we not only could support this better than our competition but also offer information to help our customers understand the additional steps required for implementing this capability into their sites. You are more than welcome to contact me and I will send you our ADA/508 Compliance report. I welcome andy input and debate since these documents are always a work in progress. Another great resource would be to check out; Joomla! Accessibility A quick guide to creating accessible websites with Joomla! Author: Joshue O Connor  Packt Publishing

 Below are some concepts and excerpts I found interesting since I think it is very important to first understand your limitations and the real definitions of the terms. While creating accessible websites with Joomla!, it is very important to understand the limits of the technology.

Joomla! will not magically transform anything the developer or author throws structured and accessible content. Although, sometimes we may wish this We often, on a subconscious level, believe that new technology will automatically be able to fix everything so that we could then spend more time hanging out beach. However, this is unrealistic. Technological advances have not lead us of leisure, rather we often work harder, deal with more diverse tasks, and for hours!

Within the context of using a Content Management System like Joomla! the adage "garbage in—garbage out" holds true. It is important for you to understand that much of what you can do to create accessible websites comes from what have acquired over time, with good development and design practices.

Let’s explore some terms.

Usability: Usability looks at the quality of the user experience and tries to determine how successfully a user can complete a task and how satisfying a device or interface is to use. Including usability in your workflow is also a very important part of good designing and development.

Areas where user interaction can be improved therefore come under usability. While usability and accessibility (strictly speaking) are different disciplines, there are close connections and crossovers between them.

Following are some definitions of usability picked from some good websites:

"A measure of how easy it is for a user to complete a task. In the context of Web pages this concerns how easy it is for a user to find the information they require from a given Web site."

"The ease with which a system can be learnt or used. A figure of merit or qualitative judgment of ease of use or learning. Some methods of assessing usability may also express usability as a quantitative index."

"The effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction with which specified users can achieve specified goals in a particular environment. Synonymous with 'ease of use'."

Donald Norman, one of the daddies of usability, mentions the following on his website:

"I caution that logical analysis is not a good way to predict people's behavior (nor are focus groups or surveys): observation is the key. I caution that the time frame for adoption of new technologies is measured in decades, not the months everyone would prefer. And I help formulate new products and services. For both products and services I'm a champion of beauty, pleasure and fun, coupled with behavioral and functional effectiveness."

User Testing: User testing is where you get users with varying levels of ability to use your website. These tests can be videoed and analyzed later, and help to give everyone involved in the project a good idea of what works and what doesn't.

Involving users in the design process like this is a great thing to do. It is using technology in an inclusive way to increase the quality of the web interfaces, and it truly democratizes technology, creating a level playing field for everyone.

There may be user testing facilities in your area that you could use, and it is worthwhile getting someone who has experience of running user tests and other aspects of usability to do this for you. They know what to look for and can advise you about improving your website's design based on the feedback they get from the test.

Using Personas: If user testing is not possible then what else can you do in order to simulate real world use of your site for your users? This is where using personas can be useful.

A persona is like a distilled archetype of user groups. This is a fancy way of saying you make a model of what you think an average user from a particular group would be like and you build a persona around them.

The idea is that if the various personas are accurate, so will be your simulation of their experience, and you can then modify your design around as per their needs are and experiences of each persona.

If you set out to develop a Accessibility compatible Joomla site, I am going to recommend that both clients and developers grab a copy of Joshue O Connor’s book since if you and your customers or hopefully us and our customers can all be on the same page as far as the concepts, requirements in the development phase and ongoing so you can establish clear priorities.

I have seen all too often scope creep or misunderstandings that can lead to an unhappy customer relationship by either party by now making sure there is a common understanding of the practices, processes and requirements necessary to achieve the targeted business goals.

So if you are going to implement ADA and 508 you are going to need good information dispersed across your team, practical goals that meet all requirements, an ongoing testing and support plan and a lot of due diligence to execute the details and test them across the community that will be using them.

Joomla is an evolving project that is moving closer to lofty goals for supporting effective accessability with less effort. As the platform evolves, awareness improves and developers are less reluctant to support this capability you will see more sites that impliment this and even more resources to assist with simplifying the process.

I hope this was helpful information and again if you want to get a copy of our ADA/508 Compliance resource guide please contact me for a free copy.