Allison Trapp

Allison Trapp

Digital Strategist
Hi, I’m Allison Trapp, a Digital Strategist here at KW2. I’m passionate about creating websites, digital campaigns and social content to meet the needs of users, and exceed business goals. I can often be found debating the finer points of a Google Analytics metric, occasionally over a beer. When not geeking out over data, I like to attempt over-ambitious cooking projects and spend time outside with my husband and dog.
The life changing magic of tidying up your website content. Three wireframes hanging on hangers.

Does your website content “spark joy”?

In 2014, Marie Kondo wrote a book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Its premise is that asking yourself a simple question about every item you own would lead to a tidier and more organized home, and could have positive personal impacts as well. That question? Does this t-shirt/plate/book/stapler spark joy? If so, the item should be kept and put in its proper place. If not, it should be thanked for its service and given away.

Since then, the “KonMari” method of tidying has taken the interior design world by storm, featured everywhere from the New York Times to Martha Stewart to Goop, and inspiring a sequel, Spark Joy, in 2016.

So…what does a minimalist home tidying method have to do with websites?

Building a house is a common metaphor used explain the website creation process: Your site map is like the rooms, wireframes are like blueprints, showing the size and arrangement of those rooms, content is like the furniture and items you place in those rooms, and design is like the paint colors and decorative accents you use to make your home feel warm, welcoming and reflective of your style.

Websites and homes actually have more in common than you might think.
If you’re like most organizations, your “website house” is NOT tidy. Perhaps there’s too much content, or not enough, or it’s scattered across multiple places on your site. Maybe it’s too hard to find. Maybe it’s dated, or no longer accurate. Perhaps it doesn’t “spark joy.”

A crucial part of any website project, whether creating a new site or maintaining an existing one, is taking a hard look at your website and conducting a content audit. This can also be the most daunting part, because it means going through each and every page and determining its purpose and evaluating its content. Where do you start when your current website has ballooned to over 200 or 300 or 400 pages, some of which you didn’t even know were there?

It’s not an easy task, but I think we can take some cues from the KonMari method to make evaluating your existing content more manageable:

Tip 1: Go from easiest to hardest.
When tidying your house, Kondo advocates starting with clothing before moving on to other groups of items with more emotional significance, like photos or letters. Similarly, when reviewing your web content, start with the easier items, such as content you know is out of date or pages that don’t get any traffic in Google Analytics before moving on to more current pages, popular pages or content important to your leadership.

Tip 2: Evaluate all like items together.
Just like you could store shoes in several different closets in your home, your website probably has similar content on several different pages. Review similar content holistically, and you may find that you’re saying the same thing three slightly different ways on six different pages. Reviewing similar pieces of content together make it easier to spot redundancies and streamline content.

Tip 3: Ask yourself if the content sparks joy.
This is where things get a little new-agey, but we’ll use the term “joy” loosely here:

  • Is the content relevant to your target audience, and can it help them do what they need to do on your site?
  • Does the content engage your target audience in a measurable way, which you can see by checking pageviews, time on page and bounce rate in Google Analytics?
  • Does the content communicate an important message for your brand?
  • Does the content convert prospects to customers?
  • Do you refer to this content all the time, and send users to this page for more information when they have questions?

All of those make me pretty joyful!

If the answer to all of those questions is no, do you know why the content is on your site? Maybe it’s no longer needed.

Tip 4: Put it back in the right place.
Tip 4 is the hardest of all. A big part of my job as a UX Designer at KW2 is determining what the right place for content is, but content maintenance and organization doesn’t end at site launch. It’s not just putting the content in the right place once, it’s keeping the content maintained, up-to-date and in the right place by following a content governance plan so you don’t end up with an untidy site again in six months or a year.

Why should you tidy your website content?
There are many reasons you might want to keep your website tidy and reduce the amount of content clutter:

  • Streamlining your navigation helps your users find what they need and complete the task they came to your website to do.
  • It prevents user confusion or frustration and can reduce the number of calls or emails you receive with questions because it’s too difficult to find something on your site.
  • Eliminating duplicate or redundant content can have positive SEO impacts and help more users find your site in the first place.
  • It improves site performance and ease of use on mobile devices.
  • It simplifies the path to conversion, whether that means calling you, buying an item or enrolling in a course.

Ready to feel nothing but joy when you look at your website? Shoot us a note to talk about your content challenges.

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Accessibility Illustration with Three Open Doors

Making the Web Accessible for All – Part 3: A Checklist to Improve Your Site Today

In this series, we’ve explored why accessibility is important and what barriers your audience could be facing as they attempt to use your website, such as visual impairments, color blindness or inability to use a mouse. If you tested out your site using a screen reader or voice browser, you’ve probably learned that your site is not fully ADA and Section 508 compliant.

So, what can you do right now to improve your website for all visitors?

There is no quick fix or single tool that will instantly “accessible-ize” your site. Accessibility is best achieved when considered, checked and re-checked throughout the web design process, and should be a foundational philosophy of any website project. At KW2, there are dozens of steps taken throughout the process to ensure each website we create meets the needs of all users. And, once a site is launched, an ongoing effort must be made to ensure a site remains accessible every time a new piece of content is added.

However, your next website redesign may not be on the horizon, or you may lack the time or technical resources to fully audit and fix every accessibility issue on your current site. You can still get closer to compliance: there are four big things you can do today that will improve your users’ experience with your current website:

 

1) Run a general audit

Google Accessibility offers Accessibility Developer Tools, which is a Google Chrome plug-in you can install to run an accessibility audit on any page of your site to identify major issues.

✓ Run an accessibility audit using Accessibility Developer Tools to identify major issues

 

2) Determine what helpful information is missing

Screen readers and voice browsers rely on HTML tags and meta information to help users navigate your site and content. Download a free SEO spider tool like Screaming Frog, which will crawl your website and find each page, its status, title tags and more. Make sure each page has:

✓ A meaningful title tag that explains what the page is with unique and important information front-loaded

✓ At least one headline marked up as H1

✓ Properly tagged subheads (H2, H3, and so on)

Every image on your site should also have an alt tag that is both meaningful and functional (for example, “Search” rather than “Magnifying Glass”). You can view any image’s alt tag by hovering over the image, or to find all image alt tags on a given page, install the Firefox Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar.

✓ Use the Firefox Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar’s Text Equivalents menu to find a list of all image alt tags

✓ Look for missing alt tags

✓ Look for blank alt tags (alt=””) or tags that don’t accurately describe the image

 

3) Make sure your website’s text resizes

Most browsers give users the option to increase or decrease their default font size. Using the browser of your choice:

✓ Change your font settings to confirm that the type size on your pages changes

For example, here is the New York Times’ homepage with text set to Medium (left) and Very Large (right):

New York Times Homepage Comparing Font Sizes

 

4) Make sure your text is legible against the background color of your site

Color contrast, or the difference between the color of the text on your site and the background color, can be an issue on many sites. For small text, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommends a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. For larger text (18 px or more), the contrast ratio must be at least 3:1.

✓ Use Web AIM’s Color Contrast Checker to make sure your site’s text meets the ratio of 4.5:1

✓ If it does not, and you need to find a new color, try Colorsafe, which will give you a full palette of options based on your background color, font and font size

Creating and maintaining an accessible, usable website is a constant, evolving process. Each time you create a new page or upload a new image, it’s important to check the WCAG guidelines to ensure that anyone who wants to use your site can.

If you need help evaluating your website, or would like to learn more about building a site with accessibility in mind, please drop us a line to discuss!

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Web Accessibility Part 2: Opening Doors to All Users

Making the Web Accessible for All – Part 2: Common Barriers Faced by Users

The first article in this series focused on why you should consider accessibility a fundamental component of your next web project. Reasons for creating an accessible website can vary – you may want to avoid excluding one in five users, or you might have an aging target customer demographic, or you may have recently learned that your site must be accessible per ADA or Section 508 guidelines. Whatever your reasons for considering web accessibility, understand that it’s a critical part of providing each and every user of your site with a good experience.

Now that we’ve covered why your site should be accessible, let’s focus on how different types of disabilities can impact your customers’ ability to use your website, and what you can do to make it more accessible to everyone.

Different disabilities create unique challenges that make it harder for the user to navigate and interact with your website. We’ll provide an overview of three categories of disabilities—Vision, Hearing and Physical—and how each could impact disabled users on the web.

Vision
Your users may be affected by a wide range of visual impairments: complete blindness, the inability to focus, increased sensitivity, or even lack of contrast or glare. Approximately 8.1 million people in the U.S. reported having difficulty seeing in the 2010 U.S. Census, including 2 million who were blind or unable to see.

Users who are unable to see rely on screen readers to provide navigational cues, as well as text and image content. You should ensure the following features and functionality are present for blind users relying on a screen reader to use your site:

  • Page titles should be clearly written and convey the content on that page
  • Links and buttons should be properly marked up to ensure it’s clear that they are links
  • Images should have meaningful alt tags, and more complex images such as diagrams or infographics should also have their content provided as text elsewhere on the page
  • Form fields must be properly marked up and have clear, understandable labels

Try downloading a screen reader and using it as the sole means of navigating your site. Can you navigate to the pages you’d like to visit? Do you understand all the content, including the content provided by images? If not, you could be losing 20 percent of your customers to sites they can use more easily.

  • Other users might be able to use your site without a screen reader, but have other visual impairments, such as decreased sensitivity to contrast. These users will need:
  • The ability to control and increase the size of your website using a browser’s built-in zoom features
  • The ability to control and increase the text size of your website using browser preferences
  • Text with enough contrast from the background – for example, lighter gray text on a white background can be very challenging for some users to see

Hearing
Hearing impairments affect 7.6 million people (2010 U.S. Census), and this impairment can be especially common in older users. Users with hearing impairments may be unable to discern voices from background noise, hear higher pitched sounds, or just be unable to hear your site’s video or audio files at all.

If your website relies on audio or video content to communicate with users, you should provide:

  • The option to turn on captions within video content
  • A text transcript of audio or video content
  • The ability to control video volume

Additionally, when creating audio or video content, make sure speech is slow and clear, and avoid recording in locations with a lot of background noise to help users discern speech more easily.

Physical
Some of your site’s users may have physical disabilities that reduce their fine-motor control and hand-eye coordination, or simply make controlling a mouse painful and difficult. They might have a hard time clicking on small areas, or difficulty with the coordinated gestures required by a touch interface, such as pinching or multi-finger dragging.

To help these users navigate your site, create:

  • Keyboard alternatives for all mouse actions
  • Larger click targets
  • Forms a user can tab through to complete
  • A site users can control using a voice browser

The good news is that your site may already be partially accessible. Clean, semantic HTML and web best practices such as creating meaningful title and alt tags can take you a long way down the path to a fully accessible website. After testing your site with a screen reader or using voice controls, you may find that you pass some accessibility compliance checks, but not others, and that’s a good first step.

In our final installment of this series, we’ll provide a checklist and tools you can use to ensure your site is truly accessible to all. Or, if you need help assessing, drop us a line!

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Opening Doors for Web Accessibility - Part 1 of 3

Making the Web Accessible for All – Part 1: Why Should You Make Your Site Accessible?

Web accessibility is probably not the first thing you think of when kicking off a website project. It may not even be something you consider at all. However, ensuring your website is usable by anyone who visits your site, disabled or not, is a fundamental part of User Experience (UX). Ignoring it means you could be excluding a huge percentage of potential customers.

This article is the first in a series on Making the Web Accessible for All. Part 1 will focus on why you should make your website accessible, while Parts 2 and 3 will provide you with tips, resources and tools for ensuring your site can be used by those with disabilities.

Accessibility is not easy, and there is no “silver bullet” tool or checklist that will instantly make your site accessible to those with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning or neurological disabilities. Instead, thinking about users with disabilities and how they will interact with every part of your site must be woven into every step of the process. At KW2, our UX Designers, Art Directors and Developers follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the W3C from site planning to launch.

So, if accessibility isn’t easy, and takes careful planning to carry out, why should you make it a part of your site redesign?

One in five of your customers has a disability
If your site is not accessible to those with disabilities, you’re excluding one in five of your users. In the 2010 U.S. Census, 56.7 million people, or 19% of the population, reported having a disability. Of those:

  • 8.1 million people had difficulty seeing, including 2 million who were blind or unable to see.
  • 7.6 million people experienced difficulty hearing, including 1.1 million whose difficulty was severe. About 5.6 million reported using a hearing aid.
  • 30.6 million people reported mobility issues, such as walking or climbing stairs, and used a wheelchair, cane, crutches or a walker.

Try using your site with just a screen reader or just your keyboard without a mouse. Is it easy to use, with enough information to make a purchase or decision, or is it frustrating? If your site is not accessible, you could be losing every fifth potential customer as they grow frustrated with the experience and leave.

Age-related disabilities are becoming more common
Older web users are one of the fastest growing demographics. According to Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, people over the age of 65 are the fastest-growing group on social media. And as the Baby Boomer generation ages, an increasing number of Internet users are going to be facing age-related disabilities.

These users may be experiencing vision and hearing loss, in addition to reduced fine-motor control (required for using a mouse or using coordinated gestures to control a touch screen device). Unlike those born with disabilities, these users may not consider themselves disabled, so it’s even more critical to build accessibility into the User Experience of your site, rather than bundle those features under an “Accessibility” link somewhere in the site map.

You may be required by law to be compliant
Does your business have more than 15 employees? If so, you must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requiring that businesses make accessibility accommodations to enable those with disabilities to access the same services as those without disabilities, which includes websites.

Similarly, government agencies must follow Section 508 accessibility guidelines from Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973. ADA and Section 508 compliance are different, but both offer guidance to help you make your website more usable for customers with disabilities.

Accessibility benefits all users
Many of the features that help disabled users are simply best practices, and they can be valuable to all site visitors. Some accessibility must-haves, such as appropriate and relevant title tags and descriptive alt tags for images, can improve site Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and help all users find your site quickly.

Thinking about users with disabilities when planning your site ensures your site is accessible for all users, not only those with difficulty seeing, hearing or using a keyboard.

In the next article in this series, we’ll delve into the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and show you what steps to take to make sure everyone can use your website.

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