Web Accessibility Audits – Quick vs Comprehensive
Web accessibility audits let you know how well your site complies with WCAG standards. They provide a snapshot of the current state of your website and give you a guide to what you might need to fix.
Web audits can vary from quick to comprehensive. The kind of audit you conduct will depend on your goals.
A quick web accessibility audit takes little time to complete but also isn’t as robust as other audits. It usually involves a combination of quick keyboard and screen reader testing and some sort of automated testing.
This type of audit is often the first one done before conducting a more detailed audit. It’s great for identifying quick fixes – things like missing alternative text for images – and doesn’t involve any detailed reporting.
Structural web audits check the compliance of the common elements of a website such as the header, footer, newsletter signup and main navigation. Because those elements appear on all (or most) of the pages of a website, they’re integral to the compliance of the site.
A structural audit involves more thorough testing. When issues are identified, they may not be a quick fix but they will impact the whole site. These audits generally reference specific WCAG criteria – explaining what the issue is, why it fails and how to fix it.
Content audits are specific to the content on a site – words, images, video and attachments such as PDFs. If the content is not accessible, then the site is not accessible.
Usually, a set of sample pages are selected for auditing rather than a full page-by-page review. This kind of audit can identify missing alternative text on images or perhaps a missing transcript for a video.
A comprehensive accessibility audit is a thorough review of particular process or widget on a site, for example a multi-page form. Testing and reporting is like structural and content audits but is isolated to the specific element selected for the review.
When should accessibility audits be done?
What type of audit you choose often determines when it should be completed. Content audits are great for websites that are WCAG compliant when they are launched but have content that continues to be added to the site. Structural audits work well when you’re trying to choose between a complete revamp of your website or an upgrade to the existing site. Quick audits can also help you make that choice.
Audits of any kind help you keep your site in compliance with WCAG. And if you’re doing that, you’re keeping your site open to as many visitors as possible.