Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ABC Mobile Web Site Failed Accessibility Test

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation launched "ABC Mobile" yesterday. Unfortunately the home page does not appear to have been designed in accordance with guidelines for web accessibility for the disabled and may be unlawful. The ABC advertises for staff who have a knowledge of web accessibility and web standards and so would know its its obligations. The site also fails several mobile phone and other web guidelines. As well as the mobile phone compatible web site, there are Apple iPhone and Gooogle Android applications offered. However, the ABC should have put its resources into the basic site, rather than building nice to have, but non-essential features.

A test using the Test Accessibility Web tool (TAW 3.0 3/16/09 10:15 PM) against the WAI guidelines (W3C Recommendation 5 May 1999) reported: 1 Priority 1, 14 Priority 2 and 1 Priority 3 problems with the page. The Priority 1 problem is the most serious. The ABC has not included usable alternative text for the main navigation menu of the site. As an example, "Weather" is displayed as an image with no text saying "Weather" for those who cannot see the image. Instead the word "image" has been used for all the menu items, making the web site substantially inaccessible to those with vision impairment.

The W3C mobileOK Checker gave the home page of the new site 79/100 on mobile compatible tests. This would be a good result for an ordinary web site but is poor for a site specifically designed for mobile phones. The web page is designed for smart phones with large screens (about 3 inches and QVGA resolution) and would be difficult to use on an ordinary mobile phone. The page is 38KB: 9KB for the text and 29KB of images, which is too "heavy" for a mobile (W3C recommend 20 kbytes). There are 15 files required to be downloaded (the HTML and 14 images), whereas W3C recommends a maximum of 10. There are numerous errors reported with the HTML coding of the web site.

With its mobile service the ABC had the opportunity to not only provide a general news and entertainment service but one which would be of use in emergencies, such as bushfire and floods. However by not correctly designing the service the ABC has limited its usefulness.

Currently I am teaching mobile and accessible web design to second year and postgraduate students at The Australian National University in the course "Networked Information Systems" (COMP2410). The ABC home page would not be of an acceptable standard for student work on this course.

2 comments:

Tom Worthington said...

My comments were reported by Crikey.com.au:

ABC Mobile website fails accessibility test

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

ANU Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology adjunct senior professor Tom Worthington writes:

The ABC Mobile home page does not appear to have been designed in accordance with guidelines for web accessibility for the disabled and fails several mobile phone and other web guidelines, writes Tom Worthington. ...

Chris said...

Thanks Tom for your constructive feedback on the new ABC Mobile site. The ABC has already addressed some of the concerns you’ve outlined as follows:

1) Unfortunately the home page does not appear to have been designed in accordance with guidelines for web accessibility for the disabled.
ABC response: Yes, we are working to correct this.

2) As well as the mobile phone compatible web site, there are Apple iPhoneand Gooogle Android applications offered. However, the ABC should have put its resources into the basic site, rather than building nice to have, but non-essential features.
ABC response: We think it is strategically important for us to develop new services for new platforms to allow audiences to access ABC content regardless of which device or platform they prefer to use. Although the Google Android phone is still very new in Australia, we anticipate that it is likely to grow and we believe it is important to make our content accessible in as many places as possible.

3) A test using the Test Accessibility Web tool (TAW 3.0 3/16/09 10:15 PM) against the WAI guidelines (W3C Recommendation 5 May 1999) reported: 1 Priority 1, 14 Priority 2 and 1 Priority 3 problems with the page. The Priority 1 problem is the most serious. The ABC has not included usable alternative text for the main navigation menu of the site. As an example, "Weather" is displayed as an image with no text saying "Weather" for those who cannot see the image. Instead the word "image" has been used for all the menu items, making the web site substantially inaccessible to those with vision impairment.
ABC response: We have now updated the home page with alt tags integrated so text to speech software can now recognise most images for visually impaired people. The images in the navigation menu are properly identified. Thanks for pointing this out.

4) The W3C mobileOK Checker gave the home page of the new site 79/100 on mobile compatible tests. This would be a good result for an ordinary web site but is poor for a site specifically designed for mobile phones. The web page is designed for smart phones with large screens (about 3 inches and QVGA resolution) and would be difficult to use on an ordinary mobile phone. The page is 38KB: 9KB for the text and 29KB of images, which is too "heavy" for a mobile (W3C recommend 20 kbytes). There are 15 files required to be downloaded (the HTML and 14 images), whereas W3C recommends a maximum of 10. There are numerous errors reported with the HTML coding of the web site.
ABC response: The ABC has created five different mobile-optimised versions of the site designed to suit a range of low and higher end 3G phones. Larger images are served to larger handsets and smaller ones to lower end handsets. We have tested these extensively to make sure that we are catering for a wide range of audiences. Data rate also varies according to each of these five versions. We’re wondering which version you checked, Tom so we can compare notes with our tests?

5) With its mobile service the ABC had the opportunity to not only provide a general news and entertainment service but one which would be of use in emergencies, such as bushfire and floods. However by not correctly designing the service the ABC has limited its usefulness.
ABC response: This is the first phase of our ABC Mobile service. A dedicated emergency services information section will follow later this year. The editorial team would also be able to respond rapidly to emergency situations by immediately offering a lower end information service if deemed necessary.

As with all ABC services, we endeavour to improve them and add new content and functionality over time, particularly in response to audience feedback. We are already planning significant developments to the ABC Mobile site. We welcome more discussion on the site – what works well and what could be improved and we have set up a dedicated message board for this conversation at http://www2b.abc.net.au/tmb/Client/Board.aspx?b=150

Chris Winter
ABC Innovation