a web design agency that creates accessible websites for corporate and government clients
As Managing Director of web design agency Ecru Matt Williams works with major corporate and government clients developing unique structures to resolve gaps between strategy and performance, achieving organisational and personal change.
Ecru websites are big on web accessibility and content management and our special idea is that clever technology can be easy to use. Really easy. Technology that is so easy to use that it empowers you and your colleagues.
Ecru understand and help build effective strategies. We work with you to implement innovative and practical communication solutions. We set targets and measure results, and we deliver the best website design, technology and content authoring skills within our projects. Our expertise includes creative brand development and a fundamental understanding of business processes. We have a reputation for delivery.
Epic development by Ecru : more than two million accessible words
Ecru's work for the Crown Prosecution Service is my proudest personal achievement. In 2012 we continue to deliver great work for this important client. After our accessibility review project in 2003 web design agency Ecru built the original accessible CPS website in 2004, and in December 2006 we completed a full redesign and restructure. In 2007 we rolled out the Welsh language CPS website which was another epic project, involving the synchronised translation of a huge amount of information that is aimed at the public in Wales. In 2008 we had more great achievements, rebuilding the Careers presence on the CPS website, and republishing the huge Legal Guidance section. In 2009 we redesigned and republished the entire website with additional information for the victims and witnesses of crimes. We built an Education section in 2010.
Through our work we are helping the CPS to fulfil its obligations under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOI), the Welsh Language Act, and the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
The CPS website gets well over 2 million visitors a year. Every year since we became involved in 2003 has seen a consistent growth in visitor traffic. There are many reasons for this, but we are convinced that having XHTML code that is so clean you could eat your dinner off it is crucial.
In our original 2004 project we estimated the word count for the project at over a million words, but since running our Welsh translation project where a far more accurate word count was necessary, we found the number of words on the website to be over 2.5 million.
The original site was independently audited by AbilityNet to achieve better than W3C Priority AA accessibility standards. The restructured website now channels visitors based on their profile, so legal professionals and members of the public (such as those researching the Freedom Of Information Act) can more easily locate the information they require. The website redesign allows the CPS to run campaigns about particular legal issues and promote their achievements.
When the original website was rolled out to the public, Matt Williams, Managing Director of Ecru, said:
"The content of the CPS website sits at the very heart of the English Justice system, and the webmasters at the CPS needed to demonstrably acknowledge the implications of the Freedom Of Information Act and the Disability Discrimination Act. There are over a million words on the website and by complying with strict web standards we have now made the content measurably accessible."
The Surrey and Sussex Probation Trust website
I am hugely proud of Ecru's work for Surrey and Sussex Probation Trust:
- The website uses a responsive design that allows visitors with iPhones and Android smartphones to make best use of their screen space
- Social media integration
- A cookie consent system that allows visitors to opt out of having third-party cookies like Google Analytics placed on their PCs
- A great depth of information about the work done by the trust protecting the public in Surrey and Sussex
Talk to Ecru about your probation website.
The Parole Board for England and Wales
Ecru's Parole Board website was an exceptional project for a number of reasons:
- End user testing and consultancy at key stages in the project means that members and staff of the Parole Board were engaged, along with members of the public
- The Right Honourable Jack Straw MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice said in his speech to The Parole Board at the Gladstone Library, Whitehall "On my way in tonight I was shown your new Parole Board website. It looks to be a terrific site, very accessible. So accessible in fact that even I can use it. It is striking that on the site home page the very first thing that you come to is a section giving advice to victims and their families, followed by a section with advice for prisoners and their families. That must be right."
- The wealth of freely available information now available to all of the audiences of Parole Board in a way that is demonstrably accessible, means that the website has the potential to change the criminal justice system for the better.
- In September 2009 the Parole Board website won the Website of the Year award from CIPR - the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, and here was my quote: "I am thrilled that the achievements of the new Parole Board website have been recognised with this important award from CIPR. The judging panel were comparing the best of the best in the Excellence Awards 2008 website or microsite category, and for us to come out on top is extremely rewarding. The secret of our success is simple though - we share the Parole Board's conviction that the criminal justice system can be improved through clear, accessible and usable communication, that the victims of crime can better achieve justice, and through these steps we can improve the society in which we live."
As part of the planned move to justice.gov.uk and directgov the public-facing part of the Parole Board website has now been transferred.
Talk to Ecru about your accessible government web project now!
Matt Williams is a member of the Guild of Accessible Web Designers
As a member of GAWDS (the Guild of Accessible Web Designers) I have committed to upholding these principles:
- I have a commitment to the principles and practice of accessible web design.
- I agree that accessible web design is relevant, obtainable, and not at odds with successful business practice or good visual and usable design.
- I have a commitment to learning, sharing, and assisting fellow members put accessible web design techniques into practice.
- I agree that accessible web design is both accessibility to machines (made possible by using standards) and accessibility to people (made possible by adopting flexible design principles).
- I am prepared to promote the use of web standards, and commit to using them yourself.
- I agree to follow WAI recommendations where appropriate.
PAS 78 - commissioning accessible websites
Ecru has practical experience working to the standards for PAS 78 projects. The new PAS 78 Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites was developed by the British Standards Institute and a range of advocacy organisations to ensure that adequate account is taken of accessibility issues in web design and development projects.
Crucially if you adhere to the advice provided in PAS 78 then this should demonstrate compliance by the website owner with the UK Disability Discrimination Act which requires corporate and government websites to be accessible to disabled people.
Talk to Ecru about PAS 78 and your project now!
Bespoke Content Management for ASSI
Air Safety Support International (ASSI) is a part of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (the CAA) and helps to provide a more cohesive system of civil aviation safety regulation in the UK Overseas Territories. Ecru have developed an innovative, accessible content managed website for ASSI tailored to meet their exacting needs. Ecru's easy to use content management system includes an Extranet, email alerts, a smart search system using keyword tagging and an RSS feed. Find out more about the Ecru CMS
Disability Action In Islington website
The Disability Action in Islington (DAII) website was Ecru's first experience of designing to W3C Priority AAA. We worked with AbilityNet to set the accessibility targets for the project and they independently audited and approved the website when it was complete.
The DAII web site has been designed to be accessible to disabled people from a wide range of impairment groups. Ecru's accessible content managed website incorporates user selectable visual styles to maximise the number of people who can access the website content, and incorporates a new .NET forum system that has been developed by Ecru to maximise accessibility.
Taking an inclusive approach to website development by thinking about web accessibility
Website design and implementation for corporate and government clients can empower disabled people by taking an inclusive approach, all the more so since the introduction of PAS 78 British Standards guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites.
It is important to make websites accessible so they don't hide information or services from people just because they arrived in a way that the web designer hadn't thought about. For example, if someone can't use a mouse to navigate your website, can they still use it? Can your website communicate with a visitor if they have poor eyesight?
We believe that the changes made to UK law in the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (the DDA) that came into full force in 1994 causes a major change to the way that businesses and organisations understand their interaction with their audience, promoting an inclusive approach, and in our work we are committed to bringing this awareness to the attention of our clients in the most positive way possible.
At web design agency Ecru Matt Williams has been directly involved in the consultancy, design, specification and implementation of the following websites.
- The Crown Prosecution Service works functions nationally, and their website has several major areas of content:
- The CPS also functions locally, structured in the same ways as the police and other parts of the criminal justice system. The local areas have specific websites that communicate with their own audiences:
- Surrey and Sussex Probation Trust
- Probation Association
- Global Prosecutors e-Crime Network - this is an International Association of Prosecutors website sponsored by the Crown Prosecution Service that aims to help prosecutors around the world work together to fight e-crime.
- The Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner - is responsible for regulating immigration advisers by ensuring they are fit and competent and act in the best interest of their clients.
- Ricability - an independent consumer research charity providing free, practical and unbiased reports for older and disabled people.
- Leigh Road Baptist Church - the LRBC website is a key part of this thriving church.
- Glastonbury Tor - information about this mystical and ancient National Trust property in Somerset
- Richard Baxter - this website promotes the work of a prolific potter and ceramicist who lives and works in Leigh on Sea
- Graham Potter is a constructivist artist who creates awesome works of art. We are lucky enough to own two of his works, and they create a unique calm and considered atmosphere
- Pilbeam - consultancy that helps managers in growing companies
- The van't Hof physiotherapy clinic take a holistic approach to treatment, are NHS approved, and they keep our shoulders from seizing up!
- Inspirational speech, drama and voice training - learning through drama and voice training is a great way for adults and children to achieve their full potential.
- Holiday cottages in Scotland vital information about Scottish cottage holidays
- Anti Procratination is the place I record the strategies and idea that I develop in the lifelong war against procrastinating
We specialise in the development of W3C accessible websites that incorporate cutting edge design with robust custom application development. Recent developments incorporate full w3c accessibility compliant standards and include Flash, e-commerce, business to business, database backends in SQL Server and Oracle, application processing, XML, content management and we've also built a clever bidding system that is incredibly secure. We code in ASP, PHP, ColdFusion MX and .NET. We love to undertake creative branding projects, employing a carefully conceived iterative design process so that our web site design projects are executed over carefully controlled project managed timescales, on time and on budget.
Revs Domain Name Collection
The Revs domain name collection is an act of folly. Nobody needs 1200 .com .net .org .info and .co.uk web addresses, unless they have a plan to take over the world. Here's a selection:
- A domain: Milking
- Another domain: Quality Standards
- Another different domain: Content Management Systems
- Another further different domain: Thirst For Knowledge
- Yet another further different domain: Content Managed
The principles of accessible website design
Matt Williams was invited to write an article for professional people whose business lives are now affected by the implications of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act because they need to think about web accessibility.
Web accessibility is about designing sites for everyone, independent of who they are or how they access the Internet. It specifically addresses the needs of disabled people, giving them the opportunity to use your website. Aside from legal reasons there are moral and business reasons why an accessible website is a fundamentally good idea for your organisation. An accessible website enhances your reputation, differentiating you positively from your competitors.
This is one of a series of web accessibility articles written by Matt: Read Matt's web accessibility article here
Matt's moment of clarity
There is a fundamental dichotomy; you need to diversify your activities in order to risk manage your business position, but you also need to focus in order to be successful in any particular area. For inspiration I think of a dialectic developmental spiral, an idea founded on Piaget's theory of cognitive development. For example, our understanding of the way the Internet works now is fundamentally different to last year or the year before. Some of this is your own thinking; some of it is the general zeitgeist. Understanding the context in which you operate is helpful, but it's more fulfilling when you use your knowledge to some advantage. My belief is that as you build your understanding, on your own dialectic spiral, every now and then you need to stick a stake in the ground and establish a standalone business. This needs to be formed and run on a model that interrelates tactically with your portfolio.