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Posts Tagged ‘Development Departments’

Making Websites Audible

As economic developers begin to plan to make their websites compatible with accessibility laws, one of the first options they should consider is to make their websites audible. What this means is that a website visitor clicks on a button and the written text of the page is delivered in audio format. Essentially, it is read out loud to the website visitor using the computer’s speakers.

There are good reasons for making the website audible.  Two major types of disabilities that must be addressed by accessible websites are poor vision and an inability to manipulate a mouse effectively.  Both of these can be alleviated or minimized by a speech enabling solution, giving EDOs an opportunity for quick wins and noticeable ways to gain the approval of both regulators and investment audiences.

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Tools and Tips for Accessible Websites

Economic Development departments should regard as inevitable the need to make their websites compliant with accessibility legislation.  Sooner or later such legislation will arrive at their doorsteps, whether in the form of municipal laws or those of federal or state/provincial jurisdictions.  The federal laws are already in place in the United States and Canada.

But what makes a website accessible?  Economic Development departments will need to know so they can plan their compliance initiatives effectively.

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Website Accessibility Legislation and Standards

In the world of economic development it’s always better to take initiative by bringing an issue to the attention of senior officials, with attendant recommendations, rather than be caught unprepared having to answer questions when the issue catches up with you.

That is the case with web accessibility. Though most economic development departments in North America don’t seem to perceive an urgent need to make their websites fully accessible to people with disabilities or risk having the law wash over them, they should all be aware that the tide will come in. And sooner than they might expect.

US Legal Requirements

In the United States, municipalities and their economic development departments have generally done very little about web accessibility. The reasons are not clear, since federal laws have existed for several years with the intent of making municipal websites as accessible to disabled people as to anyone else. (more…)

What is an Accessible Website?

The City of Oshawa, Ontario, is ahead of the curve. Its website reveals how it is dealing handily with an emerging, complex issue that will affect municipalities, including economic development departments, all over North America in years to come. Oshawa is already on top of it.

The issue is accessibility. Governments everywhere are implementing accessibility standards for people with disabilities. Accessible design means your product, service or facility can be used by everyone, regardless of ability.

The requirement to be universally accessible will increasingly apply to websites, especially those of governments. Just as buildings will need to accommodate wheelchair access, websites will have to enable people with physical or visual disabilities to view and interact with them. This is a challenge that few municipalities, and fewer economic development departments, have yet addressed.

Oshawa, a town of 153,000 just east of Toronto on the north shore of Lake Ontario, is an example of a municipality that knows (more…)

Best Practice #7: Measuring Results for Economic Development Web Strategies

Many economic development departments throughout North America have become as adept as private-sector companies in adopting the variety of marketing tools and technologies available on the web. There’s one area in which the ED sector lags, however — measuring results.

Whereas a company selling products from its website will instinctively install tools for reporting conversion rates or sales by region, many ED organizations do not regularly measure or analyze their web statistics. Lack of time is a frequently cited reason. Also, managers may be reluctant to see their programs evaluated primarily according to numerical scores, since the process of investment or tourism attraction takes a long time and often produces results indirectly.

The EDO’s Purpose of Tracking Data

But the purpose of gathering website data for an ED organization is more subtle. It’s not the same as in the private sector; you aren’t trying to report how many shirts you sold this month. What you are trying to accomplish is continuous improvement in your marketing methods, and a continuously rising return on your investment of resources.

As we have discussed, the Number 1 best practice for economic development online is to develop and maintain a cohesive, focused, goal-oriented and measurable web strategy (see “Best Practice #1: The Economic Development Web Strategy”, published (more…)