Wimbledon web site accessibility

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2007 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: Accessibility

I recently wrote a blog about the Olympic Web site with some major concerns about the quality of the site and its accessibility. I have had another look this week and the site is in the middle of being rebuilt so I will wait awhile before commenting again.

However as we are in the middle of Wimbledon I thought it would be interesting to look at its Web site to see how good it is and if there are ideas that the Olympic site should pick up.

The Wimbledon web site has been improved and extended since it was first developed. Looking at it as an able-bodied user it packs a lot on to the front page in a coherent and easily understandable way. The general format is consistent across the whole of the site making it easy to navigate and use.

When I am looking at the accessibility of a web site I do the following:

  • Look for accessibility and help information for the site.
  • Try and navigate/use the site without using the mouse.
  • Try sizing the text.
  • Check for alternative text on images.
  • Run automated test tools.
  • Turn off CSS to see what the pages look like.
  • Think about the four principles of WCAG 2—perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.

I have not had the opportunity to get the views of people with disabilities so I would be interested in getting feedback on the good and bad features that I have missed, and comments on my views.

Here are my views in the order I came to them rather than any level of importance. An overall assessment is included at the end.

Accessibility and help links
This was a disappointment. There is no link from the home page to a page about accessibility (like the privacy link). Worse, searching on accessibility did not produce any information about the website, except for a passing reference to text sizing on a page about access to the courts for people with vision impairments.

Text sizing
Most of the text sizes well. There is a problem with the search box, which does not size; this means that if you increase the text size you cannot properly see what you type into the search.

Good skip links, but…
Tabbing around the home page (or even more easily, viewing the page with no style) shows a series of skip-links. These enable a user with a screen reader to quickly skip to the part of the page they are interested in. This is also a good indication that accessibility has been thought about at some point in the design process.

This is excellent news for screen reader users but what web designers fail to realise is that they could be really useful for other users as well. The skip-links enable a screen magnifier user to position to the right part of the page quickly. Also users who cannot, or prefer not, to use a mouse can benefit because they do not have to tab through a whole lot of unnecessary links. On the home page today there are 78 links and, slightly more worryingly, you need 66 tabs to reach the search box.

These skip-links are helpful but are not consistently used across the site. The shop section could benefit greatly from some skip-links.

Good h2 tags but no h1
Header tags are another way that screen reader users can navigate quickly to the relevant section of a page; the user can ask for a list of headers. The main areas of the home page are defined by h2 (header 2) tags, which is good. However, the guidelines suggest that there should be h1 tags as well.

HTML transitional and XHTML coding
The web site is showing some signs of its evolution and the changing standards over its history. The site includes deprecated tags and attributes (such as ‘spacer’), which might have been necessary in the past but should now be removed. Some of the coding uses the new XHTML standards although the DOCTYPE specifies HTML 4.0 transitional.

A problem with this is that pages may not render quite as expected. But more importantly it makes it much more difficult to use the output of automated testing tools because there is a lot of chaff around and with bad coding it is more difficult to test for the accessibility issues.

Missing alt attributes
The automated testing tools picked up some missing, or badly formed, alt attributes. I think these are on eye-candy images and should really be blank. The problem is they should not exist because there is a possibility that one of them is important and should have a proper description.

Players, ladies and gentleman in two columns
On the players page there is a two-column format with gentleman on the left and ladies on the right. If you tab through this you will get the gentleman with surnames beginning with ‘A’ followed by the ‘A” ladies followed by the ‘B’ gents etc. Not the most obvious order for a screen reader. I really think separate pages for the sexes would work better. There is a search box so maybe I am overreacting on this one.

Text Size
In general the normal size text is fine but there is one oddity. Go to the virtual tour page and type into the search box, the text is tiny—really too small for anyone to read comfortably.

Highlighting on maps
Go to the virtual tour and try tabbing around. You will come to a section where the information bar at the bottom of the browser will say …shop.html, …museum_entrance.html, …water.html. etc. This is not the order of the list to the right and totally confused me for a while. I eventually noticed that these were hotspots on the map. The problem is that the way Firefox shows the focus (by little black dots) does not show up well on a map. I think there is a need to better highlight these hotspots, for example by displaying the name on the map when you tab or cursor over them.

Help for controls of virtual tours
If you go to the virtual tour of Court 1 you will see a moving 360 image of the court. What is not clear is that you can control the movement of this image. You can do this by mouse clicks and by clicking on the + and – buttons on the image. What is even less clear is that you can do most of this by keyboard short cuts as well (I have discovered some of them by trial and error). What would be really useful for all users would be some help; just one page would be really useful.

Text sizing buried
Tab 29 times on the home page and you will come to a font-sizing button. I have two questions about this. Is this a useful function any more, as all modern browsers provide this function? If it is considered useful should it not be much nearer the beginning?

The shopping sections raised a few more issues.

When filling in the form at the checkout you are asked for your ‘nickname’ and it is a required field. I do not have a nickname, or at least not one I make public. What I think they want is a userid.

The form also insists on a ‘county’, I live in London and I do not have a county (some sites suggest Greater London but that is a fudge). County should not be a required field.

The shopping site has no link back to the main site, which is just a pain.

As mentioned above the shop site has no skip-links. This is really annoying, as you have to tab through a lot of navigation before getting to the content of the page, which is where you nearly always want to be when shopping. One skip-link to content would greatly improve the experience.

Links with arrows
Look on the home page and on the left it says ‘Weather and Time’ with an arrow image in front of it. You can click on the arrow or the words to go to the page. Look further down and it says ‘Junior’ however in this case clicking on the arrow does nothing, you have to click the word.

Firstly, consistency is important for all users. Secondly for tabbers and screen-reader users having to tab twice for the same thing is a nuisance. My recommendation is do not activate the arrow, or remove it altogether.

More, More, More links
The text on all links should be unique and in particular should not just say ‘more’. See bottom of home page.

Table sizing
Go to the match statistics (say for the Federer-Safin match) and increase the text size. The top table becomes a mess whereas the bottom table behaves well. There is no reason why it could not all work properly.

Apple Mac not supported for Wimbledon Live
This is a different kind of accessibility problem where a function, Wimbledon Live, is only available on certain platforms. I hope this is just a matter of time until the software required is available on the Mac rather than an intentional lock out.

My Wimbledon inaccessible
On the right hand side of the home page is ‘My Wimbledon’ but not if you are a tabber or I suspect a screen-reader user. If you tab around the home page you never get to this section. It is in Adobe Flash and that has to be part of the problem but my understanding is Flash can be made accessible.

On demand scoreboard not accessible
Tabbing around the home page you will get to the ‘on demand scoreboard’ and you will get the pop-up window for it. Unfortunately once there none of the controls appear to be accessible.

The impression I get is that thought has been put into usability and accessibility on this site. Unfortunately usability and accessibility require continuous thought and vigilance and the developer’s eye has been taken off the ball (unfortunate for Wimbledon!).

The site gives an indication of what can be done. I hope that my views and thoughts will be seen in a positive light and will be taken into account when planning for 2008. It also suggests how carefully these issues will need to be considered by the Olympics, especially as the site also covers the Paralympics.