About Grand Valley State University

GVSU’s core web team comprises 9 full-time staff members, headed up by the Associate Director of Web Application Development. There is one web designer and five web developers.

GVSU uses a custom CMS for their website, which contains over 70,000 pages. Around 150-200 contributors across the university create content for the site, so a challenge has always been to educate people who may not have a background in development or a great understanding of web accessibility challenges.

For 7-8 years, GVSU were using an alternative solution for testing their site.

We sat down with Joseph Vugteveen, Web Project Coordinator, and Zach McCurdy, Web Trainer & Content Specialist, to talk about the reasons behind moving to Silktide’s platform from their previous testing tool of 8 years.

We covered how they managed to get started quickly and how the Silktide platform uncovered more issues and contained more educational information than the tool they were previously using.

How were you handling web accessibility and content consistency before choosing Silktide?

Joe: “Before Silktide, and for around 7-8 years, GVSU had been using SITEIMPROVE® for checking broken links, spelling errors, and accessibility. A big challenge for the team was keeping our users engaged.”

“When we started everything was great, it was a fun little toy to play with. But we just got to a point where people got burnt out on it.”

“After a while, there was just too much technical information being thrown at the team. New users starting using it, but didn’t know where to go or what to do, as the platform had changed so much.”

“We really weren’t getting what we wanted out of the tool, especially for the price point we were at. We looked at 5 different scanning tools before deciding to go with Silktide.”

Zach: “The big thing for me was, ‘How can we make sure the users can understand what they’re doing’, because the majority of people, when they hear ‘accessibility for a website’, don’t know what that means.”

“A lot of the other products we saw used too much jargon.”

What were the biggest drivers for choosing Silktide?

Joe: “For me, it was just the usability. Silktide is easy to understand, the flow just made more sense than any other platform.”

“We came to it from the approach that Zach and I are not content editors for the majority of our sites, so the approach was that this needs to be simple enough in layman’s terms that your general user can understand the product.”

“We really just wanted to put up some tutorial documents and say ‘Here you go, it’s pretty easy to use’”.

Zach: “When we were looking at Silktide that was definitely the one where we were like ‘Ok, the common person who may or may not know the most about editing web pages is going to understand this’”.

“For me, that was huge, the number one most important thing.”

“And going beyond that, some of the things I enjoyed were the thumbnails and the visual aspect of the platform. It’s not just a screen of words, there are pictures and diagrams explaining what to do. You have videos explaining what the issue might be.”

“You also go up to WCAG 2.1 to include more focus on mobile, which is great.”

“These are just not things we were finding in any other platform we looked at. A lot of them were kind of the same, just a bunch of text telling you what to do but not engaging the user in any way.”

“It’s a cleaner experience for users who aren’t as tech-savvy. You’re not overwhelmed with the amount of information. And all the help text and help videos and everything else that’s provided through the platform have been extremely helpful in terms of helping people understand what the issues are, especially with regard to accessibility.”

“Silktide is just so much easier to use and understand than anyone else’s platform. For me, that was a big driver in switching. It was just so easy.”

Joseph Vugteveen

Web Project Coordinator, Grand Valley State University

Have any of your users told you that the platform has helped them to understand their challenges?

Zach: “I’ve had a number of emails, especially when first rolling Silktide out, as well as general buzz and interest. The consensus from the users has been great, we really really enjoy it.”

“A while back I was asked to do a demo of Silktide in front of the University’s Disability Support Resource  Team. Everybody in the room seemed to be very impressed with it, and left the room saying “‘Hey this looks great, we’ll have to go back and give it a whirl and try it for ourselves’”.

Has productivity improved since using Silktide?

Joe: “I get fewer support emails about it! A lot less. It just makes sense to people. People don’t need to ask ‘What does this do, I don’t understand’. The information is just there.”

How would you describe Silktide’s buying and onboarding process?

Joe: “It was very quick and easy to get on board. Lee and Chris were very open to any conversation we wanted to have and very flexible. You gave us a good interaction with the platform and gave people the chance to get in and play around with it, without any pushback which we’d received from other companies.”

“We really had the opportunity to engage with the platform and say, ‘Yes, this is a good fit for us, this is what we like’. It was super easy, probably only a couple of days to get everything set up. The actual process from when we chose it, to fully onboarded and payment, was all under 10 days.”

“You guys were just flexible with everything and you’re still very generous of your time, helping us to make the best use of it.”

“Being unable to catch and identify issues was one of our main issues with SITEIMPROVE®. It wasn’t until we started using Silktide we realized how much was missing.”

Zach McCurdy

Web Trainer & Content Manager, Grand Valley State University

Did you have any concerns about rolling out Silktide?

Joe: “One of our main questions was ‘Could any other tool handle the capacity?’ We had upwards of 70,000 pages to be scanned and around 200 users. Not knowing whether Silktide could handle that was a big question.”

“When we came back from Silktide with a package that actually includes more stuff that we had with the other platform, for less cost, that was really great.”

Have you had any regrets in moving to Silktide?

Joe: “In terms of moving from our previous platform (and I was a power user) I don’t regret it, at all. It’s been hugely beneficial and easier.”

Zach: “To be completely honest, one of the awesome things we have with Silktide is that a lot of the training that needs to be done, you have already done.”

“And you’ve already created videos and the instructional stuff, so from my end it couldn’t have been simpler. If someone doesn’t know how to use the product, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel and make a video that you’re already done.”

“So from the training part of it, I haven’t had to do a whole heck of a lot because all the work has been done on your side.”

Would you say that Silktide is allowing you to find more issues than previous software?

Zach: “Absolutely. There are so many more issues identified and we can easily deal with them.”

Joe: “Yes, being unable to catch and identify issues was one of our main issues with the other platform. It wasn’t until we started using Silktide we realized how much was missing.”

What were the most obvious advantages that Silktide has offered you?

Joe: “The ease of understanding, without a doubt. The ease of transitioning someone who does not have a technical understanding into someone who understands what the issues are.”

“With accessibility, which deals with alt tags and duplicate links and such, it does get slightly more technical. But Silktide explains it in a way that is so easy to understand.”

“WCAG is really confusing. Our previous platform was supposed to educate people on how to do it correctly, but it fell short on content. So on moving to Silktide we thought, ‘Oh, that’s really easy to use’. It’s really easy to understand what you’re trying to accomplish.”


GVSU monitors over 70,000 web pages with Silktide, and around 150-200 users contribute to their websites. They were using a testing tool, but their users found it difficult to use and understand due to the overly technical developer-focused information in the tool.

With Silktide, Joe and Zach discovered a wealth of educational information in the platform that meant their users could learn and understand web accessibility and content quality issues. They received fewer support emails, and more emails complimenting how easy Silktide is to use. They also said that Silktide identified more website issues.

The process of transitioning to Silktide only took around 10 days. Zach did not need to create any education or training content on using Silktide, because the platform contained so much existing content created by the Silktide team that their users understood it straight away.

“I’ve had no second thoughts about using the platform or making the switch.”, said Joe.

(SITEIMPROVE® is a registered trademark of Siteimprove A/S)

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