We follow W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Our sites:
- Use correct DOCTYPE.
- Use CSS-driven relative font size for general content - which allows users to control the size of the page content.
- Have alternative text for all images and decorative/positioning graphics include null "ALT" attributes - which is important for text-based or screen-reading browsers.
- Provide additional navigation aids.
- Have meaningful page titles.
- Identify the content language.
- Have detailed and descriptive metadata.
- Provide hidden links in the top of each page to allow users with text-based or screen-reading browsers to jump to the preferred content on the page.
- Where possible, present main content first within the source (regardless of how the page is displayed) - again for text-based and screen-reading browsers.
We generally run our sites across a number of web-based accessibility checkers during the development phase. However, we discourage clients from focusing on a particular checking system (such as Bobby) at the expense of other checkers or good coding practices.
We do extensive testing when building sites, to make sure all pages maintain consistent layout and style across a wide range of browsers and platforms, including text-based, hand-held and Web-TV browsers. Our sites are designed to be completely accessible for older browsers such as Internet Explorer 4+ and Netscape 4+.
Valid and compliant
Our sites currently use valid HTML (4.01 Transitional) or XHTML (1.0 Transitional) and CSS 2.0. All pages and CSS files within our sites are checked and validated using W3C's online HTML and CSS Validators.
Coding for the future
The future of web development is based on W3C standards, which are moving towards CSS and XHTML. The aim is to separate style (look, appearance, colours, fonts, layout) from content. With this in mind, we have developed two strategies for clients to choose from:
Strategy 1 (backwards compatible) uses HTML 4.01 transitional code and a combination of CSS for visual style and basic table structures to position content. This is an option where a larger percentage of the target audience is known to be on version 3-4 (non-standards-compliant) browsers. An example of this would be an intranet site, where most of the users are known to be using Netscape 4+.
Strategy 2 (current and forward compatible) uses XHTML 1.0 transitional code and CSS for both visual style and content positioning. This is the preferred option when a larger percentage of the target audience is known to be on version 5+ (standards-compliant) browsers.
Users who come to a Strategy 2 site using a non-standards-compliant browser receive all the content in either a slightly simpler layout style or plain format. This strategy allows us to provide specific print versions of each CSS file - which means there is no need for print-friendly versions of each page. In the near future, when devices are more reliable, we will also be able to target other devices (such as hand-held computers, smart phones, Braille and text-to-voice screen readers) with specific CSS files.
In August 2003, we produced our 25th site using strategy 2.
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