I recently took advantage of the free web site testing service offered by Independent Testers. I have to admit that I was skeptical at first but was quite impressed with their report.
To get your site tested you fill out a short form on the Independent Testers site. The next day they sent me an e-mail in which I was to detail my test requirements. Testing can cover any of the following areas:
To be honest, I'm not sure why some of those are listed. I mean, come on, you should be able to check how your own site looks in different screen resolutions, whether it validates and whether your links work. Not doing these things yourself is just lazy.
However, some of the other testing services, particularly accessibility and usability, could be very useful to someone who is less familiar with these areas. Indeed, to my mind it would actually be better for Independent Testers to focus their (presumably limited) resources on areas where they can provide the most usefulness, but I digress.
I was interested in having our site tested for accessibility, largely because I hoped I might have a real physically or visually-impaired person test it rather than rely on the various services and tools that are available.
So, I filled out my form and about two weeks later my test results came back. Firstly, I should say that I was impressed with the turnaround time. Given that this is a free service, I expected the backlog of requests to be huge and to not get a response for several weeks. I was wrong.
So, speedy response. Good report? Well, yes. Our site was tested by four people, although only one of them was actually visually impaired. This was a little disappointing, but to be expected. In the main the results were in line with what I was anticipating - we are aware that we have some (though thankfully not too many) accessibility issues.
The report was provided in the form of an email, broken into four sections - one for each tester. Overall, the quality of the feedback was good, with comments and suggestions being backed up by references and sources.
One of the testers included some screenshots, which was helpful and most of them included links to pages they were referencing and/or tools and resources that could be useful. The quality of the writing (and thus the usefulness of the feedback) varied somewhat from person to person.
There were a couple of nuggets in the report that caught my eye. One was a comment from the visually impaired tester to include the "title" attribute in images used to display text (e.g. navigation). This is so that a partially sighted user who is browsing with Firefox with images turned on can still read them. Good point.
Another useful comment was a reference to a Color Contrast Analyser. This free software compares the contrast between a foreground and background color and using a W3C suggested algorithm tells you if there is sufficient contrast between them. Very useful for making sure that your text stands out sufficiently from colored backgrounds, for instance.
Overall, I was impressed with the service provided by Independent Testers and by knowledge of the volunteers who provided their feedback.
I just hope that as they increase in popularity they can cope with the volume of requests. If so, as this service matures it could become a very useful resource for webmasters and designers.
Posted on: August 2, 2005 | 2 Comments