2.2: I’ve just launched my website. Now what?
David: So Sandi, let’s say I’ve just launched my website. So now what? What does that mean? What am I finished? Is there anything else I have to do?
Sandi: Well, David, I’d say you’re never finished when you have a website. It’s always evolving, but certainly, when a site is newly launched, you want to make sure that you’ve actually gotten what you paid for and what you expected to get from the people that developed the site for you. So, sometimes it’s easy to have just a simple checklist of items that you go through and maybe even before it’s actually launched to see that things are what you expect that they would be.
So probably the first thing you would want is to make sure that the site is accessible. The developer may have been contracted to deliver an accessible website, but did they actually do it? Have they done any testing? Have you done any testing? Did you get any of your users to test the site to see if it actually works? So, I’d probably start there, and once you’re happy that it is actually an accessible website, you have to start thinking about some other things because websites are, they really are a living entity. They change over time. We add new content. We take content away.
So, how do you make sure that your content is in good shape? Whether it’s the content that you just launched the site with or when you post a new blog post or add a new page. How are you going to make sure that that new content is still accessible? How are you going to make sure that you’ve verified the accuracy of it? You know, have you done a spell check? It’s one of those simple things that is often overlooked. But proper spelling is really important and helpful for people who use a screen reader because they rely on technology to pronounce words. And if those words aren’t spelled properly, then the technology is going to have a tough time pronouncing them. So, we want to make sure that we have done a spell check.
What about search engine optimization? Have you thought about that? Is that on your checklist? Have you considered how you’re going to let the world find your website? Just because you have a website doesn’t mean people are going to land on it. So, you have to think about how are you going to make sure that the search engines know how to find you. And if they can find you, then your potential users are going to be able to find you as well. And having an accessible website goes a long way towards helping with your search engine optimization. If you’ve got proper heading structure, search engines like that. If you’re using meaningful link text, search engines like that. So, they go hand in hand, but you still need to put a little bit of effort into making sure that your website is optimized for the search engines.
And probably one of the most important pieces after you’ve launched a site is to have a process for monitoring it. How are you going to maintain it? How are you going to make sure that any security issues are avoided? How are you going to make sure that the site stays accessible, especially when you’re updating content?
If you need a new feature, how are you going to make sure that that new feature doesn’t break the site that you had built for you?
So, having a new website is great. It’s almost, it may seem like it’s the end of the road, but in some ways it’s actually the very beginning of a whole new process of monitoring, maintaining, and taking care of nurturing this new baby that you bred into the world.
David: So, when I want to want monitor the website to make sure it stays at the level of standard, I expect it to be of accessibility, what are some of the things I need to look for? So, I guess, like one of the things is, would be important is feedback. I really should have a feedback mechanism on the website so people can let me know if there’s problems, is…?
Sandi: That’s a great idea. And you probably want somewhere on your website, an accessibility statement that says, you know, the process that you went through to get this site built, what kind of testing was involved? And if you know that there are certain things of your site that aren’t accessible, maybe it’s something that just you’ve got, some really fancy widget that it just is really difficult to make accessible. Sometimes maps can be like that.
You have a statement that says that there’s issues and that you’re aware of it. And if you’re planning to fix any of these accessibility items, you need to specify that on your accessibility statement page. And that’s probably one of, you know you could put it on that page, a link or a way to contact the site owner if there are issues. And maybe you have it on your contact page. You have some sort of a feedback form, a very simple one. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but something that makes it easy for anyone to get in touch to say hey, I tried to do this, but this is the problem I had, can you help me? Or can I get an accessible version of maybe a PDF? Maybe have an old PDF on your site that you weren’t able to get remediated or it was too expensive to remediate, but you do have an accessible alternative version. Then you need a way for people to contact you to say hey, can I get that copy, please?
As far as monitoring it or you know the tools that you could put in place. If you’ve gone through the process of making sure that when the site was launched it was accessible, the functions were accessible, the content was accessible, and all you’re really doing with the site is adding new content. There are simple tools out there that can help you check to make sure you put in alternative text or used proper heading structure. But if you’re doing more complex changes to the site, you may want to use the services of an accessibility consultant to maybe do a quarterly or a half yearly or yearly audit or review to make sure that things are still looking as good as they were when you first launched the site. And you’ve gone to the effort of having an accessible site with accessible content, you don’t want it to just fall apart because it’s being neglected or forgotten about. So, sometimes it can be valuable to even have a consultant or an accessibility specialist review your site occasionally to make sure things are still looking good.