Chapman University Website Creation and Quality Assurance Process
Outlining current actions for ensuring accessibility on www.chapman.edu
The central web team trains authors from Chapman’s schools and departments to use in-house developed templates within the University’s primary Content Management System (CMS), Cascade, to update their section of the www.chapman.edu website. These authors then submit the pages to Strategic Marketing and Communications (SMC) for review and approval. Upon approval, the page is pushed live. Continued support on the system and web best practices is provided through online resources, in-person trainings and proactive educating.
Chapman University strives for WCAG 2.0: Level AA Compliance to accommodate users covered under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Accessibility Technology Analyst
There is one position in the Information Systems & Technology (IS&T) department with the role of implementing and supporting the University’s Accessibility Policy. They work with Web Content Authors, Web Coordinators, the Webmaster, Faculty, Administration, and third parties to verify that electronic media meet accessibility standards. The role will also interface with external vendors to ensure that online software tools meet accessibility standards. They also contribute to the knowledge base articles and may participate in the drop-in sessions and workshops to assist users.
Web Content Authors
There are web content authors trained in the use of the Cascade CMS. These individuals are designated by a school or department head. This group consists of communication and administrative support individuals responsible for the creation of the content that goes into the pre-built templates. This role does not require a deep technical understanding of the web. Faculty profiles are maintained by the staff mentioned above, not the faculty themselves.
There are three positions in SMC with the role of reviewing pages submitted from the Web Content Authors and approving for publishing live. The Web Coordinator also manually reviews a selection of pages each week to ensure compliance. They are also responsible for supporting and educating the campus on web best practices in addition to creating an online knowledge base of information. They also offer one-on-one support to campus partners through email, phone, occasionally in-person meetings and twice monthly drop-in sessions on campus. They have working knowledge of web best practices and base level knowledge of accessibility.
There is one position in the IS&T department with the role of leading the initial and mandatory Cascade CMS training and granting access. They also support the Cascade CMS software as well as the SiteImprove software for auditing the site content. This role provides advice as well as programming support in the accessibility of the templates and widgets available to the users. They also contribute to the knowledge base articles and participate in the drop-in sessions to assist users.
Web Development Team
There is a team of three programmers and 1 UI/UX designer in the SMC department that provides design and programming support for the templates and widgets available to users in Cascade.
A variety of options for Web Authors to be educated and educate themselves are offered. The various trainings detailed below cover guidelines and best practices, including accessibility.
Cascade CMS Training
Prior to gaining access to edit pages in the Cascade CMS, web authors are required to attend a 3-hour classroom training and pass a final hands-on test. Best practices are reviewed related to web accessibility including alternate text for images, proper use of nested headings, choosing meaningful text for hyperlinks and text on images rules. The trainees are required to reproduce a standard sample page to be granted full access to their department section. If they don’t get all the elements right, we work with them by phone, email or drop-in sessions to discuss the areas of concern until we feel they are proficient and comfortable with the process. Training has been required for all users since the new site launched in 2012, and the final exam process was added in the beginning of 2016.
In 2017 a 1-hour Accessibility training was developed. The training is intended for Web Content Authors, and all current Cascade CMS users will be required to attend it in 2018, as well as all new users going forward. It is partly awareness and education of what digital accessibility means and why we should all care, and partly technical instructions on how to create accessible content within the web pages generated in the Cascade CMS. It also includes external resources to instructions on creating and checking other digital media for accessibility (such as videos and PDF documents) as these are often linked from web pages.
After Web Authors are officially trained in the Cascade CMS, continued support is offered through a drop-in session on campus on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of each month. In these sessions web experts are available to assist users as they build out pages and answer questions about Cascade CMS usage and web best practices (which includes accessibility concerns).
Developed by the web team consisting of SMC and IS&T representatives, the public online knowledge base (branding-toolkit) provides users additional written resources including a refresher on concepts related to accessibility as well as other web best practices. Users are made aware of this resources through the training sessions, the SMC website and by being referred to the materials when questions arise.
IS&T department pays for an annual subscription to SiteImprove. This is a service that scans the public pages included in our contract (only www.chapman.edu and this year’s posts on blogs.chapman.edu) looking for quality and accessibility issues. This contract does not include any other Chapman sites. Their software includes but is not limited to finding misspellings, broken links and accessibility issues.
Key users (identified by the web team) in each department are given access to SiteImprove and receive emails every five days alerting them to issues that need to be addressed. They need to log in to SiteImprove to review the errors and then correct the mistakes in the Cascade CMS manually. This program has a fairly robust reporting system of issues with suggested solutions.
WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS
Led by the UI/UX Designer, Chapman’s website updates, including newer developed features, are reviewed and designed with accessibility concerns in mind. This includes checking for color contrast issues, button sizes and responsiveness, and general user experience.
Chapman’s Web Developers have accessibility best practices in mind when programming and developing the Chapman website framework. They also complete jobs identified by Project Managers that have an accessibility focus to fix issues retroactively.
PAGE CREATION PROCESS
Within the Cascade CMS, Web Authors choose from a variety of page templates. These templates have various widgets that affect the style, layout and functionality of the content presentation. The templates and widgets are developed and supported in-house and make every effort to generate html markup that is accessible. Templates, for example, require alternate text be provided for all images, with the exception of images that are optional within a widget. Widgets with headings and subheadings generate appropriate nested heading levels in the html markup, and adjust those levels for optional headers left blank. Within many of the widgets, there is rich-text editor available for the user to enter their own content and html markup.
When Web Content Authors are done with their edits, the pages are submitted through a workflow process within Cascade. One of the options the user has when submitting is to go through a “Check Content” process. It is currently optional but encouraged. The checker will stop at several screens alerting them to issues with 1) misspellings, 2) broken links, and 3) some accessibility issues. In some cases, the Web Content Authors are able to fix them within that screen. In other cases, they must go BACK to the full edit mode to fix the issue, or leave the issue and proceed with the submission. In a newer version of Cascade, there is the option to force users to step through the checker.
Approval and Publishing Process
Upon submission by the Web Content Authors, the edited pages appear in a publish queue that the Web Coordinators in the SMC department monitor. The Web Coordinators manually review the pages using a comprehensive checklist that includes accessibility issues like alternative text usage, text on images and header usage. When issues are identified they may be returned to the Web Content Author for fixing, or fixed on their behalf by the Web Coordinator.
POST-PUBLISHING QUALITY ASSURANCE PROCESS
Key users in each department (identified by the web team) as well as the Accessibility Technology Analyst, Web Coordinators and Webmaster are alerted to issues in two ways. One is an email sent every 5 days after each site-wide scan alerting them to issues within the specific pages for which that user is responsible. The core web team receives information regarding the entire site and not just a specific section. The other involves a user logging into the SiteImprove website on demand to get high level reports or very specific drill-down reports. From those, they can go to in-page identification of issues with suggested solutions. Many, but not all, of the users have gone through a 1-hour training, provided by the SiteImprove support team.
For individuals that visit the Chapman homepage, a note appears above the footer that identifies the contact and feedback process if they are having specific issues with accessibility. These reported issues are addressed by the Human Resources and IS&T staff.
As a resource for users that have concerns about accessibility, a link labeled “Report an Accessibility Concern” is included in the footer of each page of the www.chapman.edu website. This link leads to an form in which they can submit their questions or issues. Members of the web team receive the resultant emails.
Routine User Communication
As part of the ongoing maintenance of the website and education of the Cascade CMS users, the web team sends emails about issues of proper alternative text usage, file clean-up and other web best practices. These emails are sent by necessity or at random times for education.