July 14, 2017

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - Compliance for Websites

Many organizations think ADA compliance pertains only to physical, tangible items such as wheelchair ramps or bathroom handrails. However, there are numerous guidelines regarding websites and ADA compliance.  ADA compliance is about fairness and providing the same accessibility to goods or services to the web.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990. In recent months, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has made it clear that it interprets the ADA as applicable to websites and mobile apps and has already begun enforcing it.

WCAG 2.0 - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 is the industry standard organizations should look to regarding their web content. These guidelines are designed to address the accessibility of a website and user elements. WCAG 2.0 is the gauge used by the DOJ in its court cases so far. (Click here to read the DOJ's position in their announcement of the Peapod Settlement Agreement.)

WCAG 2.0 has varying levels of guidelines: A, AA, AAA.  Level A is the weakest and has minimal impact to website style and design, but it also has minimal effect for users. Level AA guidelines encompass a larger number of users with disabilities, but is not so restrictive that it strips out all of a site's look, feel and functionality. The DOJ wants to see website compliance with Level AA.

How to get started

While WCAG 2.0 has been around for a while, this topic is still unfamiliar to many businesses and organizations - and website and marketing agencies, for that matter. It is important for organizations to understand the accessibility of their web content. Finding a website partner to review your site for accessibility compliance is the first step.

If you need assistance or more information, contact Encore Web Works. We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss your needs regarding website accessibility.

Making your website compliant and accessible for users with disabilities can enhance customer satisfaction and minimize vulnerability or risk.  It is simply the right thing to do.

April 22, 2015

Google just changed the world again

Yesterday, April 21, 2015, Google began rolling out their "mobile-friendly" update to their search algorithm.

You can see the details here.

You may be asking yourself, "How does this affect me and why should I care?".  I know.  I ask that question all the time and usually I answer my own question with: "It doesn't and I don't."  Or, sometimes, I answer with "It does affect me and I still don't care."

Granted, there are way too many things to care about (Google changes or otherwise) to care about them all.

However, if you're a business owner, content manager, advertiser, SEO nerd, website manager, or simply have a hobby web site, you should care about this one.

In the simplest terms, this change means that if you own a website and want to be found by the bulk of potential visitors (i.e. mobile visitors), you need make your site mobile friendly.

This change is like when the government rolls out new standards governing water heaters or incandescent light bulbs.  The difference with this Google change is that there is no grandfather clause. If you have a website, Googles rules DO affect you and they affect you starting now.

Google has made a helpful tool to analyze your site to make sure it is compliant.  If you get the dreaded "Not mobile-friendly" message, you should update your website as soon as possible.

There are several ways to make your site mobile friendly.  As with most things that increase with complexity over time, it is best to have a web professional "fix it" for you.  But, if you're feeling brave, here are some resources.

February 19, 2013

Predicting the future: Will apps still be a “big deal” in 2 years?

With the prevalence of smart phones, apps are everywhere.  Need a suggestion on your next tattoo?  “There’s an app for that.”  Need to see if your kids made it home from school?  “There’s an app for that.”   Need to predict if you will have a good hair day…no kidding…there’s even an app for that too.  There are apps for nearly everything you can imagine.

The big question on the minds of business owners is “How can I use an app to my advantage?”  I’m often approached about apps and this is usually how the conversation goes:

Business Owner:   “Steve, can you guys build an app for my company?”

Steve:   “Absolutely we can (my answer is always ‘absolutely we can’). What do you want it to do?”

Business Owner:  “Um….I don’t know.”

Steve:  “OK, what are the goals you’re trying to accomplish with an app?”

Business Owner:  “I don’t know.”

Steve: “What are the business challenges you’re trying to solve with an app.”

Business Owner:  “I haven’t thought of any.”

Steve: “Why do you think you need or want an app?”

Business Owner:  “Because everyone else has one.”

Steve: “Sigh….”

While it would be easy to just build useless apps for everyone who asks for one (and there are a lot of local companies that will do this), we don’t believe in doing anything that won’t add value for our clients.  So, I often talk more clients out of apps than the other way around.  Even more importantly, I don’t believe apps will be as “big a deal” in 2 years.  Here is why:

Problem Number 1 - Apps can be expensive to build – There are 2 major flavors of apps today: Apple and Android.  Each has its own OS (Operating System) and thus apps need to be built for each platform. This means at least twice the development cost as building an app just once.

Problem Number 2 – Apple’s App Store is restrictive – As a developer, I have to admit that I’m frustrated with Apple and I’m glad to see them losing their iron-death-grip on the app development industry.  Currently, they control everything that goes into their app store and can deny an app for any reason they choose.    This does not sit well with developers and their clients who invest in an app, only to have it rejected by Apple.  (Note: the Android Play Store allows all apps). 

Solution - New Technology is (nearly) here- There’s a new “Sheriff in town” and his name is HTML5.  This is a new version of the web-page language which is designed to include all of the things that apps do well: animations, video, user interface enhancements, gaming, connectivity, 3d graphics etc.   HTML5 will allow developers to build an application once (solving problem number 1) and post it to the web (solving problem number 2).  This could cut development costs and circumvent the Apple dictatorship known as the ‘app store’.  HTML5 will simply run in a web browser on your phone rather than requiring you to launch a specific app.

In the end, as with all things in business, it will all come down to the “bottom line”.  The economic advantages of HTML5 will drive its usage as a development choice.

If you have questions or need some direction on apps, web development, search or social strategy, send an email to: steve@encorewebworks.com.