Our New Design
Our old website was just that: old, not responsive, and not very accessible. We decided it was time to have our website reflect our core values to make a great first impression. We put in a lot of time and effort into ensuring that every step of the way was well thought out to accomplish this.
Accessibility and Standards
Accessibility is still thought of by many as something you do for those with disabilities such as blindness. Surely you’ve experienced a slow loading website with no images and being confused as to what they're supposed to be? Or what about surfing the web on your phone in the bright sun and not being able to make out some light-colored text? Maybe you’ve had to watch a video without audio because you need to keep quiet. All of these situations also fall under “accessibility”.
The website's goal from the beginning was simple: accessibility as a standard, not as an afterthought. The user comes first, not the design. We wanted to prove that accessibility can result in a great website experience and that everyone benefits from these improvements. We want to raise awareness of the issue to help make the web better for all, beginning with out users. From the site’s early designs, the structure and content was tailored for a broad range of users.
To be accessible we couldn’t just improvise; we followed established web standards to ensure we built over a solid foundation. These rules came from the very people who determine the webs standards: the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). They’re “an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web.”
These WCAG standards require that the entire site comply with one of 3 levels to make any claims of conformance. The first level, “A” means we are enhancing accessibility for all. We should do better though so we looked at “AA” as our standard. This level also happens to be a requirement for government websites. We didn’t settle though so, wherever possible, we aimed for the top level of conformance: “AAA”. Not everything could be AAA because, “it is not possible to satisfy all Level AAA Success Criteria for some content.”
A Broader Audience
We tried to identify and tackle a broad range of disabilities to guide the new website.
People with blindness or poor vision are familiar with screen readers so we ensured to use web standards such as WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications) to make it easier to understanding our website’s content and find what you need. We added a "skip to content" link which some users like to use to skip menus to get to the page's content. We also made sure links were self-explanatory, as to not require additional context; this helps all users because it makes navigation simpler. On the topic of screen readers, we tested on some of the most popular platforms to ensure everything works.
Color blindness was addressed from the creation of Galt's new brand guidelines. We don't use a confusing color palette (where two colors can look very similar to some) and we don't rely on color alone to convey information so elements like text and links are clearly distinguishable from one another.
Not everyone can use a mouse or touch controls so we addressed motor impairment on our website by allowing full keyboard-only navigation. Users with limited mobility such as users of "switches" can therefore access our content with no issue.
Cognitive disabilities are probably the least considered of all disabilities. We tried to broaden our accessibility in this realm by having large texts and simplifying language to make content clear and simple to read. We don’t have huge flashy animations since that can cause issues for some. We also made sure the web design isn’t cluttered to ensure it's easy to navigate and reduce cognitive load on users.
While we currently don’t have any audio or video content, we haven’t forgotten those who are deaf or hard of hearing. We’ll be using YouTube to serve any future video content as it's easier to provide Closed Captioning and allow the community to contribute using their built-in tools.
Impact and connection
By providing an improved and inclusive website experience, we hope that anyone that may have been excluded form using our previous website may find it easier to find employment opportunities through using it. The new look also shows that Galt is staying relevant and seeks to grow to improve for those who either look for a job or hire staff through us. We also look to improve our site's positioning so more people can reach us.
The list of compliance issues is long with well over 50 success criterion to follow for AA level of conformance, but here are some examples aside from those already mentioned:
- Contrast. By having high contrast colors on text, we ensure legibility and easier scanning of texts. As we’ve mentioned, this isn’t just for people with poor vision, just using your phone under the bright sun can make low-contrast texts practically invisible.
- Discoverability. Too many people still design websites thinking everyone uses a mouse and so hide their links to look just like normal text. We made sure to be consistent with all links on our site, all are underlined and use the same colors so they jump out at the user saying “yes, I AM a link!”
- Text. This is a big one, taking into account good legible web typography, good font size, nice line spacing, justification, smaller blocks of text to aid with reading and comprehension on our main content and always ensuring text had good contrast so as to be readable. We also made sure underlines don’t intersect with the text to enhance readability.
- Words over images. While trendy this tends to lead to poor contrast, therefore we did away with text over images.
- Reading level. We try whenever possible to simplify the language of our main sections and avoid technical jargon or abbreviations unless they’re part of things like job descriptions.
A Team Effort
We hope that all this hard work translates into a simple to navigate website to get people where they need, whether it's submitting a resume, hiring staff, getting to know the company better, or reaching out to us.
While many still see accessibility as an option, we hope to set an example with our WCAG-compliant site to inspire more companies to take that extra effort to be inclusive. What you see is the culmination of a lot of time and effort to provide the best web experience we could. This isn't a good site for people with disabilities, it's a great site for all seeking employment.