Located on the largest seaside resort on the English Channel, Brighton & Hove City Council is the legislative body that governs the south coast city, providing a full range of local government services including council tax billing, planning applications, parking, and waste collection. To make it easier and faster for residents to access services online, the Council’s Digital First team was brought in to transform the public-facing website.
After an extensive audit of the previous website, Digital First’s ultimate goal was to build a new website that was consistent, friendly and familiar. Based on the concept of ‘patterns’ (reusable, repeatable design solutions) to increase the usability of the new website, the team needed to ensure it was accessible to all users, including those with accessibility needs who might be using the site through non-traditional means, such as screen readers.
The Digital First team faced three challenges:
1. Provide consistent user journeys across platforms. The new website was built on two opensource platforms – Drupal 8 and Mendix. A concerted effort needed to be undertaken to ensure the user’s experience remains visually and functionally consistent as they navigate between the two platforms.
2. Comply with UK accessibility regulations. Digital First needed to ensure that the website was compliant with new accessibility regulations for UK public sector websites (The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018) by the 23rd September 2019 deadline, as well as adhering to the 2010 Equality Act.
3. Document progress and pass a WCAG accessibility audit. To demonstrate that the website is compliant with UK regulations and document the steps and progress made by the Digital First team. Evidence needed to be documented via the independently reviewed and presented Soctim BetterConnected portal.
The Council has a genuine desire to build digital products that offer an accessible user experience for all and therefore wanted to collaborate with a test partner that was equally passionate about digital accessibility but could also offer consultation and testing on an agile website build. The partner needed to offer a test solution that was compliant to level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 and have access to a range of assistive technologies. The partner would also be able to provide guidance on good accessibility practices for content and development teams and to coordinate disabled user testing with members of the public.
A bespoke test solution was delivered by Zoonou after an initial on-site consultancy session with one of Zoonou’s accessibility consultants. Zoonou delivered a range of accessibility services, deployed in three phases; WCAG audit with assistive technology tests, accessibility training workshops and disability user testing.
With agile development in mind, a comprehensive WCAG audit, compliant to 2.1 guidelines was executed. At the end of each sprint, Zoonou would verify if issues raised in the previous sprint had been fixed and provide feedback where other areas could be improved. Popular user journeys for the website were tested across a range of assistive technologies.
In phase two, training workshops were delivered to the Council’s development and content teams – tailored to the roles of each department. For the content team, the workshop focused on copy writing and the use of imagery. The second workshop, delivered to the development teams, focused on areas such as the maintenance of the website’s structure, HTML semantics and key areas of consideration beyond WCAG 2.1.
The final phase of the project, disabled user testing, with a variety of accessibility needs, was undertaken to gain further insight into the accessibility of the site redesign. Testing with real users may uncover usability issues and areas for improvement that a professional audit alone may not find.
By working with Zoonou, the Digital First team has built the new Brighton & Hove City Council website with the aim of being accessible to every individual. Testing and audits have been conducted in line with the latest regulations, and the Council were very pleased to meet the 2019 deadline for the website accessibility statement. The overall user experience has been improved and the website has now reached a high rate of success in terms of accessibility compliance.
As web products are ever evolving, the service provided by Zoonou was not just about a “snapshot in time” test. Through our training workshops and guidance, the Council team has been equipped with the knowledge they require to continue to build and update content with accessibility in mind. Committing to good accessibility practices is as important as meeting regulatory deadlines.
Zoonou continues to provide accessibility support to Brighton & Hove City Council. The Council has a large network of existing digital products outside of the main website that will need to meet the September 2020 deadline for accessibility regulations, for which Zoonou and the Council plan to continue our successful working relationship.
We have a proven track record of delivering projects on time and within budget for a wide range of public sector organisations. Our services can be purchased through the Government’s Digital Marketplace on procurement frameworks including G-Cloud and the Digital Outcomes Specialists.