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A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

If ever there was a worthy pursuit which required Bruce Willis, Ringo Starr, Dame Edna and Alice Cooper to give it a more exciting and relevant name it is the noble cause of Web Accessibility. This cornerstone of web success has suffered from an identity crisis from which it may never recover. “Would Walter Willis ever have achieved treble AAA Accessibility Accreditation?” just doesn’t strike fear into our hearts that we might be missing something if we don’t have it.

As the popular advert for a well known insurance provider proposes, sometimes we can only truly fulfil our potential when we have the right name.  Think of how different the world might be if things were called what they actually were.  We could rename Grand Designs as Millionaires–Who–Care–Too–Much–About–Taps–And–Handles.  Britain’s Got Talent would become People–Who–Are–Good–Singers–But–Not–The–Model–Of–Physical–Perfection–Get–Patronised–Without–Mercy.  Snakes on a Plane is the only show which might be confident of keeping its name.

So what should we rename Accessibility as?  Something more than a change of name.  Something to show the world what it’s always wanted to be!





Whatever way it is branded, we need to make sure its new name reinforces that Accessibility is a right wing hard hitting commercially relevant sales generator.  Too often it is portrayed as a woolly liberal, left wing wishy washy discipline for flat earthers who believe that the world will be a better place if we threw more bureaucracy at our activities.

Of course there is a social inclusivity element to Accessibility and this should be celebrated.  It is the right thing to do.  But its power and potential lie far beyond extending the audience reach of our web endeavours.

Quite correctly, Accessibility is often referenced in conjunction with its bedfellow Usability.  As both sides of the same coin, they provide the best roadmap to making good decisions about what your site should look like, how it should be built, what words it should use, how it is linked and its underlying technologies.

Accessibility will ensure that you site doesn’t preclude those with visual, hearing, seizure or physical impairment.  But it’s in the fifth element – cognitive disorder – where the link between Accessibility & Usability is most real.  What person without cognitive disorder doesn’t at one time feel stressed out, wrecked, brain dead, impatient, or lost on a website?  In other words, Accessibility & Usability benefit us all, not just those who have impairment.  And surely helping all of us by just a few percentage points can only be a good thing.

Without accessibility and usability studies, Net–A–, the online fashion and high brand retailer wouldn’t have realised that adding the length of their handbag straps onto their handbag product information pushed sales up by 75% instantly.

Had ignored accessibility and usability, they would never have known that showing pictures of the bottom of their hiking boots was the silver bullet which launched their online sales.

Pioneer might never have increased footfall to their stores, by changing their call to action from “Find a Dealer” (organisation speak) to “Locate your Nearest Shop” (customer speak), if they had felt accessibility and usability were irrelevant.

Perhaps Accessibility is so uncool because its benefits are tangible only to the customer.  It is the person looking for your product, or navigating your website, or comparing your prices with your competitor who will get the greatest benefit from your Accessibility efforts.  As an organisation building a site, you can only understand the benefit if you watch your traffic reports, read what Google thinks of you and ask your customers what they thought of their experience on your website.

It is only once you start to do those that you can truly understand the value of Get–More–Customers or Winning–Friends–And–Influencing–People, AKA Accessibility.

By Gareth Dunlop

Gareth formed Fathom in 2011 and has been in the business of design performance for over two decades.

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