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Maintaining website quality and usability

Warwick District Council needed a way to monitor hundreds of content creators’ work and comply with EU accessibility legislation

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Challenges

  • Reactive approach to issues
  • Web accessibility directive
  • Inconsistent content

Needs

  • Proactive issue reporting
  • Identify accessibility issues
  • Bring content teams together

Results

  • Better content optimization
  • Became more accessible
  • Streamlined workflow

About Warwick District Council

Warwick District Council’s website is managed by Matt Pearce, Website Services Manager. Part of the Media and Communications team, Matt works to ensure accurate content, usability, and efficient user journeys. The team comprises a social media manager, the graphic design team, and a PR officer.

Around one hundred web authors spread across the organization have access to the site, and they are responsible for publishing and editing content.

Web apps are created by the in-house development team, and they supplement the main website. The site runs on Jadu CMS managed and maintained by Jadu. Matt’s team has some technical input in the site but the majority of coding is handled externally.

I can tell that the extra effort has been put in at Silktide’s side in explaining accessibility issues and their impact on the end-user. This helps people who may not even know what accessibility is understand it.

Matt Pearce, Warwick District Council
Matt Pearce

We sat with Matt and asked him to talk us through his key responsibilities, the main challenges he faced in his role, the reasons he chose Silktide, and how his workflow has adapted to solve those challenges.

What are your key responsibilities and challenges in your role?

“My responsibilities include keeping the quality of the website up to scratch, making sure the content is accurate and up-to-date, making sure the processes all work, and, in terms of usability, making sure we’re getting feedback from real users and making changes if we need to.”

“I’m also responsible for web accessibility which has been a pretty big part of our work in 2020 because of the EU Web Accessibility Directive coming into force in September.”

“Accessibility has always been important to Warwick District Council as we want to make our website as usable and accessible to as many people as possible. We want to make sure we reach everyone in the district and that they can easily access all the services available to them.”

“We’ve used services such as monitoring tools and had regular audits carried out, as well as making it a requirement when procuring or developing new systems.”

“I mainly look after the main Council website. Users of the Council’s site are from a wide-ranging and varied demographic.”

“Our ICT team help with hosting because we host it ourselves. But the vast majority of website development is done by our supplier. We don’t tend to try and do any web development here on the main site, so it doesn’t interfere with what they are responsible for.”

“Our in-house Applications Support Team develop separate web apps, including things like bin collections and property searches, and these will integrate with and sit inside the website.”

“So we’re really dealing with content and accuracy, rather than delving deep into the technical side of the website.”

What prompted you to look for an automated web governance solution like Silktide?

“When I first joined Warwick District Council two and a half years ago we were using another tool, which I was really familiar with. The main issue was that we’d had it for so long it was flagged up by our procurement team, so we had to go through the exercise of getting quotes.”

“Initially, I wanted to stay with the other tool, just because I was familiar with them and knew how to use it. I was searching for alternatives against a checklist of things we needed, including spelling and broken links checks, maintaining content quality, regular scanning, and reporting of issues on the site.”

“We looked at a few tools and had a few demos of a range of platforms, but initially I wasn’t that keen on moving.”

“However when I saw Silktide, I was really impressed with the demo, the platform, and what it did, so I thought I’d give it a shot. The user interface on Silktide looked a lot better to be honest, and it looked like it did the job, so that was why we initially switched over.”

“When I first joined we had somewhere around 1000 issues with broken links and spellings, but Silktide really helped us identify them and fix them. We then started using it for ongoing monitoring.”

Were there any other features not on your initial procurement list which you discovered and found useful in Silktide?

“The Inventory wasn’t initially on my list of things to check when looking for a replacement, and wasn’t even something I thought I needed, but it became quickly apparent that I did need it!”

“I think it’s just something you take for granted. For example, if you have a phone number and you need to change it across the whole site, the easiest way to find it is using a tool.”

“When we joined I don’t think it was part of Silktide, but I fed it back to you and then a few weeks later you’d actually built and implemented it! So that level of customer service is amazing from our point of view, because it proves that you’re actually listening to our problems, issues, and needs and then coming up with a solution to that.”

“So the Inventory is something I rely on if a link changes, or if I need to update when someone leaves. Links change quite regularly so it’s really important for us to find them.”

“The other thing we use are Policies. I’ve set some up to search for things like ‘Click here’ or ‘Read more’ links, which are not generally accessible.”

The level of customer service is amazing from our point of view. Silktide is actually listening to our problems, issues, and needs, and then coming up with a solution

Matt Pearce | Website Services Manager | Warwick District Council

How does Warwick District Council manage the challenge of EU web accessibility legislation compliance?

“Accessibility has been a pretty big part of our work in 2020 because of the EU Web Accessibility Directive coming into force in September. Silktide has been our main tool to solve that issue.”

“It’s difficult to pin down what WCAG is trying to get across. It’s very long winded. The regulations don’t exactly spell it out for you sometimes. They tell you what you have to do, but they don’t explain how to fix the issues.”

“The in-platform training content definitely helps explain accessibility to our team and the reasons why things are done the way they are. So I’ve used this information a lot.”

“For example, when you click on the issue you can find the explanation in the side panel, and then click to find out more information about it. That’s really useful. And the videos are also really helpful.”

“I can tell that the extra effort has been put in at Silktide’s side in explaining accessibility issues and their impact on the end-user, to help people who may not even know what accessibility is understand it. And yes, I think it’s those explanations that put WCAG in a much more user-friendly way.”

Can you expand on how you use Silktide in terms of accessibility compliance?

“Our IT team uses it as a tool to fix accessibility on their home-built apps. We test each of the five or six apps on their respective sites with Silktide. They picked it up within half an hour, it’s easy to use.”

Silktide’s been our main tool for accessibility. It’s been difficult, especially with COVID in the middle of our project, to become compliant before the EU deadline. We started looking at accessibility way back, and we spoke to our website supplier and also some manual testing companies.”

“We use manual audits but Silktide is the more day-to-day platform. It’s a case of looking at the issues raised and working through them.”

“Some of them are a lot easier to fix than others, and some require a lot of legwork. But if we didn’t have a tool like Silktide, we wouldn’t even know those issues existed.”

“A lot of the issues that came up in manual testing were also highlighted in Silktide. So there’s a lot of crossover there. We plan to do one-off manual reviews every 2 years or so.”

“We also gave a list of accessibility issues that Silktide had found on our site to our website supplier, so they can make improvements to things like form labels and buttons.”

If we didn’t have a tool like Silktide, we wouldn’t even know our web accessibility issues existed.

Matt Pearce | Website Services Manager | Warwick District Council

How would your day look if you didn’t have access to Silktide?

I’ve noticed that even if I fix a list of issues, I may find new content that needs fixing, so Silktide is great for the ongoing monitoring, checking, testing, and fixing. We’ve built Silktide into our processes and make it a regular thing. I’m using the platform pretty much every day.”

“Without Silktide, I’d be relying on our end users to provide me information about broken links and spelling mistakes, which would of course not be ideal for any organization.”

“It would be more firefighting and reacting to issues, rather than proactively fixing them before they become an issue for our users.”

Why do you work with Silktide?

“It became clear very early on that Silktide is incredibly customer-focused. I gave some feedback on the platform with feature requests and some issues, and very very quickly those features were implemented and issues resolved.”

There are certain tools out there that just don’t do that. It was really refreshing.”

“In terms of the platform itself, we love the quality of the reports and the ease of use in finding them. It just shows you everything. It sounds like it could be overwhelming, but you can break everything down into smaller chunks and work through the most important issues first.”

You can see how Warwick District Council ranks in the Silktide Index by visiting this link.