Hisoftware makes the web better

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2007 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

A web site is now often the only contact a prospect or client has with a company; the user experience has to be pleasant or they may never come back. A web site that is pleasant to use will:

  • Be visually attractive.
  • Be organised in a logical and intuitive manner so that the user can find what they need quickly and simply.
  • Have relevant content for the intended audience.
  • Have a consistent look, feel and branding.
  • Adhere to regulations relating to security, privacy and consumer protection.
  • Be accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Not have technical errors: missing links, missing images, browser specific code etc; any of which may mean that the site does not display, or function, correctly.

All of this needs human input and validation; but automated tools can play an important role by helping to pinpoint errors and highlight areas of concern.

HiSoftware provides a set of automated content compliance solutions; starting with the well-known free tool “Cynthia Says”, which will check a single page against WCAG and Section 508 accessibility standards. It is a very useful tool for small sites or ad-hoc testing of pages (I use it regularly in the course of my research on accessibility). However, it is not suitable for larger sites and particularly not for ongoing monitoring of large sites. For these production environments HiSoftware sold AccMonitor, which can scan complete web sites and report any pages with errors. The errors can be passed through a collaborative workflow to AccRepair that can automate the correction of some errors and assist the manual correction of the remaining errors.

HiSoftware’s latest product, Compliance Sheriff, builds on the concepts of AccMonitor and AccVerify.

The reporting has been greatly improved by the creation of a dashboard. This provides an instant management overview highlighting areas of concern and showing trends. Very few, if any, web sites are perfect so it is important that management can see that the trends are in the right direction and can act quickly if there is a noticeable degradation. The dashboard provides easy drill-down so that specific issues can be analysed in more detail, or praise and encouragement given for a marked improvement. The drill down can go right down to highlight the specific HTML in error.

Errors occur in static text but can also occur in input transactions; to be able to pick up transaction errors Sheriff can record transaction scripts and replay them as part of the site scan and pick up any dynamic errors related to privacy, accessibility or security.

In addition to Enterprise module licensing as a hosted or perpetual license, the other major improvement is an optional tiered pricing structure. This will be of particular interest to smaller sites, or to sites that are just starting regular monitoring. It is provided as a service by HiSoftware and does not require the installation of any software or hardware in the site. The pricing is based on planned use and takes into account the number of pages scanned, the frequency of scans and the types of checks made. Any of the parameters can be changed from the user interface: for example an immediate scan could be requested after a major update of the site. This is a very easy and economic way to start, but as it uses exactly the same technology as the on-site version the service can be brought in-house at any time, if that is a better solution financially or practically.

In an effort to provide an entry point and migration path to some of their 4,000+ customers, HiSoftware is also releasing Compliance Sheriff Viewer as a new module offering to their legacy users from AccMonitor and AccVerfiy.

I believe that the ease of installation, the tiered payment and the easy to use dashboard means that any owner of a commercial web site should now consider HiSoftware Compliance Sheriff. It also means that web development agencies should recommend it as part of the ongoing maintenance and development process.

HiSoftware should be seen as an essential aid to the process of web site design, test and monitoring. The outcome will be a better user experience and ultimately an increase in the bottom line.