Siteimprove Software Reveals Path to Equal Access

Campus-wide website accessibility made a priority

Sep 30, 2022 

Visitors to Iowa State websites may have noticed an improvement in the last year – a 17.6% improvement to be exact, thanks to the Siteimprove software tool designed for improving web accessibility.

In May 2021, Information Technology Services launched the Siteimprove software for use across the university. The software allows web managers and editors to analyze their websites for accessibility issues such as lack of alternative text, navigation issues, broken links and more.

What is digital accessibility?

Digital accessibility is the practice of ensuring equal access to, and interaction with, online tools and information. Digital accessibility removes barriers that would prevent people, including people with disabilities, from having an equitable user experience.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 million adults in the U.S. live with a disability1, yet 70% of U.S. internet sites all have critical accessibility blockers that make those sites inaccessible2

“ISU content editors and developers have made great progress toward more accessibility over the past year!” said ITS Digital Accessibility Lead Cyndi Wiley. “To keep moving towards greater accessibility, we also offer ‘Tiny Tips’ sessions to improve website accessibility each month.”

Practicing digital accessibility means:

  • Choosing colors with an accepted contrast ratio so people with low vision can easily read a PowerPoint presentation.
  • Adding alternative text to images so people relying on screen readers can have a digital image described to them.
  • Designing a web page with keyboard navigation in mind, for people using tools other than a mouse or track pad.
  • And much more.   

How does Siteimprove help?

Siteimprove helps web managers practice digital accessibility by crawling a website and finding elements that aren’t digitally accessible, like images without alt text. Based on the number and type of these errors, Siteimprove scores the site on a scale of 0 to 100. A dashboard is also provided for visualizing the data and pinpointing the pages that contain errors.

Nearly 600 university sites have benefitted from Siteimprove so far, with a collective accessibility score of 87.3% – and the work isn’t done.

Public-facing web content should achieve a 90% or higher score through Siteimprove by January 2024, in compliance with the Iowa State Digital Accessibility Policy. That number jumps to 95% by August 2025.

Accessibility is for everyone

Siteimprove increases digital access for users with disabilities – but practicing digital accessibility benefits everyone. When Siteimprove scores a website, it tests performance across three major categories: accessibility as well as also search engine optimization and quality assurance.

As of summer 2022, Siteimprove revealed more than 10,000 broken links across Iowa State sites. The software flagged other issues such as misspellings, hard-to-read sentences and mobile responsiveness. Correcting these issues makes for a better, more accessible web experience for all site visitors.

Plus, Siteimprove offers a behavior map. Like a heat map, the behavior map tracks where users are clicking and is a great tool when redesigning pages and sites.

And Siteimprove is for you

Right now, several hundred ISU sites are leveraging the power of Siteimprove, and the ITS Digital Accessibility team is eager to add more. All sites used to conduct the business of the university should be using the tool, including sites that require a login like the WorkCyte website.

To use the Siteimprove tool for your website, submit the Request Access to Siteimprove form found in the ISU Service Portal. Sites are typically added within 48 business hours. The crawler then takes a few days to finish its initial analysis.

To learn more about using Siteimprove, training resources are available on the university’s digital access website. The Siteimprove tool is funded by the Committee on the Advancement of Student Technology for Learning Enhancement.