Accessible websites perform significantly better for all users

Data collected for Socitm's Better connected 2015 survey shows that websites that are accessible for disabled people also perform better for all visitors.

Better connected is the annual survey of all 407 UK local authority websites, now in its 17th year. The aim of the survey is to identify and promote good practice in council website design and presentation.The main survey is carried out by a team of reviewers using more than 280 structured questions.

Websites that provide useful content and services and are easy to use encourage citizens to ‘self-serve’ their needs rather than using the more expensive phone or face to face channels. 176 UK councils (43%) were rated as satisfactory. The performance of these councils in the main Better connected survey was then compared to that of the less accessible (57%) councils.

First, we looked at the average number of top tasks (eg ‘Find out how to register a death’, ‘Report a bonfire problem’ or ‘Apply for a council tax reduction’) that achieved the Better connected standard (maximum of eight being possible for any one site). The average for accessible websites was 3.5 compared with 2.5 for less accessible sites, a performance 41% better by accessible sites.

Second, we looked at the difference in performance as measured by reviewer rating. Reviewers give an overall rating to each site on a scale of 0-3 at the end of their 280-question review. Accessible websites perform 23% better by this criterion than those that failed to achieve our accessibility standard (getting a rating of 2.16 compared with a rating of 1.75).

Both of these comparisons suggest a significant relationship between the accessibility of the websites for people with disabilities and the more general usability of the websites for everyone. Accessible sites for the disabled are indeed more usable for everyone.

The 2015 survey has seen a recovery in the proportion of sites passing the accessibility test after this fell to 26% in 2014. The large drop from 45% in 2013 was largely attributed to the introduction of testing on mobiles.

More about Better connected 2015

Better connected 2015 will be published on Socitm's website on 2 March and can be accessed free of charge by any employee of an organisation that subscribes to Socitm Insightexternal website. Around three quartersexternal website of UK councils currently subscribe, but non-subscribers can pre-order a copy of the printed reportexternal website.

Better connected is published by the Society of IT Management (Socitm), the professional association for IT and digital managers working in UK local public service organisations. Socitm provides a range of services external website to help public authorities improve their websites.

Accessibility testing for Better connected was carried out by the Digital Accessibility Centreexternal website, a non-profit social enterprise passionate about digital inclusion.

Article written by John Fox external link published 17th February 2015