Updating design and code in order to make a more accessible Great Western Bank site.
A bank’s ability to be accessible to all of its members is crucial to improving the overall customer experience.
But the accessibility of a bank doesn’t stop with the brick and mortar buildings. More than most, financial institutions like banks require a level of accessibility on the web equal to its financial protections. A bank can’t just be “good enough” when dealing with customers — nor should any other institution, really — and it definitely can’t be “good enough” when presenting an easy-to-access web site.
It’s with that in mind that we dove into the corporate site for Great Western Bank: to make the site clean, clear, and — most of all — accessible to as many people as possible. Yes we wanted to be sure everything was covered on a legal level, but it was also important to go beyond the bare minimum.
There’s just one question: what exactly do we mean when we talk about accessibility?
Most people are familiar with the practice of making buildings accessible for people with disabilities — building ramps, for example, or clear and understandable signage. But web accessibility means something different. It’s gotten a lot of buzz from web shops over the past several years, but it’s much more than a buzzword — it’s the practice of removing barriers for people with disabilities on the web.
Most commonly this means those who have temporary or permanent vision issues — people who cannot see the screen and rely on things like screen readers or larger text to access site content. But it also reaches out to those who have motor or mobility issues, auditory barriers, and even visual or cognitive disabilities such as dyslexia or seizures.
This means that making the web usable takes much more than updating a site for those who can’t see pictures — it means being aware of the barriers experienced by people who are color blind, or who have a temporary disability like a broken hand, or who rely on English as a second language. It means focusing on contrast, button size, and limiting the use of idioms in web copy, among hundreds of other potential hurdles.
It’s about being inclusive. It’s about making the web a better place for everyone; for making it accessible not only for those who have a legal need, but also for those who have a temporary need, or those who simply feel more comfortable with certain settings.
And that’s where we jumped into Great Western Bank’s design and accessibility project.
For Great Western Bank, the accessibility updates came as part of an overall design refresh, where we paired structural and design changes in order to make the site more modern — both from a visible standpoint and from a technical standpoint. And while this meant developing a cleaner layout that was friendly on mobile devices, it also meant baking in some of the most common accessibility solutions directly into the design.
For example, different background and link colors can cause issues in contrast for those who have difficulty seeing anything beyond “black text on white background,” so our design updates focused on adjusting the background colors and link colors to give an ADA-acceptable contrast to all elements on the site.
Additionally, we began to separate the editors’ experience from the rules of accessibility in order to make things easier for all involved. Different sized headings often get used as design elements instead of as a way to show an “outline” to a screen reader. By separating out the design headings and actual heading functions, we can allow an editor to place headings out of order for a specific design aesthetic without completely confusing a screen reader.
Of course, accessibility goes beyond the design and structure of the site — there’s also an editorial aspect. For example, our testing was able to pull up a list of images that required alternate text. This list was tackled by Great Western Bank’s editorial team. They added alternate text to every image so, even without the ability to see images, the site is understandable to anyone.
These are only a few examples. From page speed to logo placement, dozens of fixes and changes are required to confirm a site as accessible.
We are regularly asked to help out with accessibility projects, but for us it’s more than just “helping out.” It’s about building a website in the right way, so it’s usable by all. It’s something that we’re proud of — to the point that it’s included into every site we build, automatically, without fail. Accessibility is a core foundation to making the web a better place, and we’re always happy to help our clients make that happen.
In the end, we were able to help Great Western Bank's site in becoming more accessible not only to those who may have vision issues, but also get it within ADA compliance according to standards. Accessibility testing showed zero issues, and accessibility has become not just an initiative, but a full goal for Great Western Bank's web presence.
It’s not every day you get excited about getting a zero on a test, but when it comes to ADA compliance, having zero issues is a perfect score.
“What I always appreciate about working with the experts at Blend, and continue to appreciate, is that we can have candid conversations at any stage in a project. This allows us to routinely accomplish what we set out to do.”Michael Hixson, Digital Marketing Consultant Great Western Bank