Arts Access Victoria
The internet can be a fairly inhospitable place for people with disability. This is particularly true when it comes to visual design and the arts – the notion that elegant design and accessibility are mutually exclusive has meant that too often one of these things has been compromised in favour of the other.
We believe people with disability deserve better. The Arts Access Victoria website sets a new standard for what online accessibility can be – a world-class design experience that exceeds real-world accessibility requirements.
Connecting people and the arts for greater impact:
The site launched on February 17th, 2016, and in the initial weeks we saw an increase of 29.9% in sessions and users, and 57.8% in page views. However, the real impact of the new site was not measured in increased traffic. The new site plays an active role in helping Arts Access meet their objective of connecting people with disability and the arts sector. The site now functions as a core service for Arts Access and its users, presenting a massive shift in how they communicate with the world.
Co-designing the direction:
The team at Arts Access are experts in their field so it was always going to be important to design with them, not at them. Co-designing with Arts Access allowed us to harness their knowledge and use it to shape the new site, while also ensuring representation from the various disability user groups involved with the organisation.
A strong digital brand:
Arts Access had a logo, but no considered, detailed design system. We needed to create a comprehensive digital brand that captured the creative nature of the organisation, and that incorporated colours and typographic elements which leant themselves to meeting accessibility standards.
A key moment in this process was the presentation of five key design directions to 20 Arts Access stakeholders. Many of these stakeholders were artists themselves and brought their own creative sensibilities and opinions to the process.
Carefully considered content and accessibility:
The structure of content is an important consideration when aiming to optimise accessibility. We restructured the existing Arts Access content using an easy-to-understand hierarchy, making navigation more intuitive. Using plain language in all navigation items ensured the site was also accessible to users with low literacy.
Creating a website that went beyond best practice (AA/AAA-level) accessibility, we paid careful attention to colour contrasts and ensuring that type and icons were suitable for users with low vision. ARIA accessibility tags were employed to enhance the experience of users of assistance devices such as screen readers.
Extensive, real world user testing:
Often accessibility testing is simulated with software, but this approach can often fail to connect the final design with real user need. To ensure that our solution met the needs of real users, we carried out extensive testing with users who live with disability day-in, day-out.
Our testing with visually impaired users focussed on the tools they use in their day-to-day lives, such as screen-readers and screen magnification systems. Testing with these tools opened a number of enhancement avenues to explore, and revealed challenges we would not have otherwise anticipated.