Though an undoubtedly dubious honour to receive, to the winner of this year’s ‘Canada’s Worst Charity Website’ went an invaluable prize: a full website makeover courtesy of the competition’s organisers, Rtraction. And a fierce competition this most certainly was as the charity sector is home to some of the clunkiest, most unsightly and out-dated websites in existence, something that urgently needs to change.
Of course, for smaller, local charities, this problem is understandable; with much of the incredible work going on and the strain on time and resources that this can result in, website accessibility can be easily overlooked. However, not only does a sloppy website not do justice to the quality of an organisation’s work, it can create barriers between a charity and those who might wish to engage with it.
No matter what high standards of quality your services or web content might set, if the people you are trying to support are unable to make use of them due to inaccessibility they are ultimately rendered useless. Perhaps the most pressing question you should be asking yourself when considering your design is: ‘Who is likely to be visiting my website?’ Always consider the fact that many users could have impaired vision, learning difficulties or mental health issues, and a poorly constructed site could potentially be denying them access to important information and support. Definitely do not assume that they are sat behind a desk scrolling their mouse across the screen of a desktop PC because the means by which people view your website are likely to change frequently and radically, and you must be ready to adapt accordingly.
The advent of mobile computing and ubiquitous internet means that even the most lovingly and painstakingly composed websites are being stretched and squeezed into unsightly shapes and sizes as, in all likelihood, they will be viewed through a tablet device or Smartphone. Displayed through a large monitor your site might look great, but much of its impact can get lost when shrunk down to the size of a credit card on someone’s mobile phone. Navigation, visibility and responsiveness can all heavily suffer if you don’t look ahead to anticipate the new and constantly changing ways that people are going to engage with you. Google’s hyper-futuristic, hands free, head mounted Google Glass monitor is now in development and, while it might seem like elite technology now, in the future it, or something like it, could be commonplace. Websites will need to be as pliable as putty to keep up.