About Maidstone Borough Council

The team is led by Gary Hunter, Transformation and Digital Service Manager. Their main responsibility is maintaining the Maidstone Borough Council website, alongside a number of ancillary council websites.

Their focus has been on making the main council website as accessible as possible in advance of the September 2020 EU Web Accessibility Directive deadline.

By meeting as many of the WCAG 2.1 success criteria as possible, Maidstone Borough Council creates an inclusive online experience for its citizens.

Gary’s whole team has access to Silktide’s platform, and there is a core group of three who use it regularly to assess the website’s content and accessibility.

The website is built on the Squiz Matrix CMS, and all development work is undertaken in-house.

“We had demos from a number of companies who offered automated testing and almost instantly knew that Silktide would be our preferred system.”

Gary Hunter

Transformation and Digital Service Manager, Maidstone Borough Council

The challenge (and objectives)

Gary’s team had three key accessibility challenges, and one goal – to achieve a perfect accessibility score and become number 1 in the Silktide Index.

Understanding the requirements of WCAG 2.1 was a key challenge. The official documentation is technical and not particularly user-friendly for the lay-person.

Identifying accessibility issues on the MBC website and understanding the full scope of the task at hand presented another challenge. With over a thousand web pages just on the main site, finding the issues was simply impossible without help.

“We didn’t have the time or resources to tackle the problem”, said Gary. “We needed to approach our website accessibility as a project, but didn’t feel we had the tools or in-depth knowledge required to handle the task”.

How Silktide helped Maidstone Borough Council

We asked Gary how it came about that he needed a platform like Silktide.

“We spoke to a lot of companies who offered accessibility audits but quickly realized that the budget we had set aside to cover the costs was nowhere near what we would need to properly test our main site, let alone the multiple micro-sites and externally managed websites across the organization. So we started to explore alternative options.”

“We had demos from a number of companies who offered automated testing and almost instantly knew that Silktide would be our preferred system.”

“Being able to have almost real-time accessibility ratings for all of our sites for less than a single static audit made it the obvious choice.”, said Gary.

We also asked how Gary had integrated Silktide into the team’s daily workflow.

“Silktide were great. We were set up, trained, and live within a week of signing the contract, despite the Coronavirus pandemic.”

“After getting the team onboard with Silktide, we approached accessibility compliance as a project. My aim was always to achieve 100 and 1st place in the league table.”

“We had a team of three people including myself and had weekly planning meetings to discuss, prioritize, and allocate tasks.”

“We prioritized using Silktide’s recommendations of importance, but also considered how much each issue impacted our score, and allocated tasks to the team based on complexity and people’s skill levels.”

Gary noted that the in-depth educational material in the Silktide platform helped the team to achieve their goal in far less time than otherwise would have been possible.

“Everyone in the team found the tool pretty easy to use. We’ve even added some less technical people to start working on content enhancements and they have picked it up well too”.

“The in-platform guidance and explanations have been invaluable. Without them, it would have been much more difficult and time-consuming to achieve the score we did”, said Gary.

“I particularly liked the visual impairment simulator which we thought would be useful in demonstrating to others why certain changes needed to be made.”

The results

Maidstone Borough Council became not just the top-scoring UK council in the Silktide Index, but also gained a perfect score for AA criteria.

“When we started in April 2020, our overall accessibility score was 62. In July, we achieved a score of 100 for AA and 99.8 for AAA.”, said Gary.

“Although we have achieved a score of 100 for our main site, there is still work to do to make it more user-friendly, and there are a number of other council websites that need to meet the standards before September. We’ll work through them one by one.”

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