Live Web User Testing – Last night I gave a live user web test to an audience of web developers. I had been invited by Kimberley Tew, a freelance on-line editor with a particular interest in accessibility. I have user tested websites for Kimberley before. Previously testing consisted of the two of us in a room, but this time we took to the stage to reach more people and spread our mutual message. Our mutual message was so well received that it was quite over whelming.
As a visually impaired person the internet presents an amazing opportunity to open up the world to me. Being unable to see print is a major barrier to accessing information and opportunities. The internet is my gateway to widen my exposure and participation to all the world has to offer.
All too often this is denied due to poor web design. I find this especially frustrating as I am excluded due to what amounts to lack of consideration or disregard of my needs. So, I welcomed the opportunity to show those who make decisions just how the decisions they make affect a user like me.
My user test involved trying to buy a bag of coffee from a website. It became evident that I can run a business but I can’t buy a bag of coffee! While I found it a bit uncomfortable not being able to do a seemingly easy task, it transpired the audience felt more uncomfortable watching me try.
Our presentation was called, Accessibility for Humans. It is humans who use the internet and so it goes without saying that humans should be at the heart of web design. Put like this everyone would agree, and yet somewhere along the line it starts to become about what developers think they know about the average human. The thing is, that taking this approach excludes more humans than they realise and this excluded group is a growing group.
Kimberley described how accessibility should be an integral part of any web build and that it’s a common misconception that web accessibility is difficult to accommodate. I demonstrated why it is important.
During the test I was concentrating on the task, and as I can’t see the audience I didn’t have a sense of how the audience was feeling during the presentation. I was therefore really thrilled with the positive reaction we received. Great feedback is always great, but this went beyond great feedback. The room was suddenly on my side in a way in which I could only have hoped for. Everyone was talking about how seeing me access a site with my screen reader made them feel.
It has been said that, ‘people will forget what you did or said, but they will remember how you made them feel’. When I took a look at Twitter people were managing to say how they felt in 140 characters!
“You’re so right about the human element. People seeing other people becoming frustrated has a real impact.”
“I have to say that what happened on stage last night was an amazing eye opener. Amazing presentation. Thank you”
“It was a compelling demonstration of how important accessible web design is. Thank you”
“Amazing insight into the problems and techniques used by visually impaired people”
“Hearing one of my sites read out through a screen reader changed the way I build sites forever. Every developer should do it.”
“It’s uncomfortable to watch someone struggle using a website because of the way it’s built and their needs haven’t been considered”.
I have been heard to say on many occasions how the lived experience of disabled people can be a very powerful component for change. In our small way we achieved this last night:
“I think you have just converted about fifty people to pay attention to what they are doing going forward.It was phenomenal.”
However, my favourite tweet of the night was this:
“The torrential shower, lack of coat and a bus breakdown: none of these could detract from the awesome mood following Second Wednesday last night!”