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Keeping accessibility at the heart of our developer hub

Matthew Firth, Business Analyst in our API Management team, explains how we’ve worked with users to ensure our resources for developers don’t exclude people with accessibility needs.

We have made a lot of changes to the developer hub in the last year. While accessibility is always at the forefront of our minds, we wanted to ensure that our improvements didn't accidentally make navigation more difficult for users with accessibility needs. More detail about the accessibility of our website is in the NHS Digital accessibility statement

The author Matthew Firth

What have we been doing?

You told us that you want APIs that are modern, easy to access and easy to use. You also want clear documentation, accessible test environments, a simple onboarding process and good quality help and support. We have taken this feedback on board and have been striving to make integration easier for everyone who wants to connect with our platforms and services.

We have improved the styling of the developer hub, making it more consistent with the wider NHS Digital website. We’ve made the API Catalogue easier to navigate by improving the tags and filters and adding statuses where the API has been or is scheduled to be retired in the future. 

We’ve improved the layout of many of our specifications, moving from a very basic standard to a bronze standard and we have some specifications which meet silver and platinum standards. We’ve also improved our step-by-step introduction to APIs, explaining what they can do and how you can connect to them. More recently, we have focused on improving our developer resources. This is all about achieving our mission of making integration easier.

Engaging with our users

In making so many changes to the developer hub over a relatively short period of time, we were conscious that some aspects of what we had changed may have made the experience more difficult for users with accessibility needs. We contacted everyone who is registered on the developer hub and asked for help in validating our changes. 

The email was sent to a broad range of users (developers, product managers, testers, analysts) and invited anyone with accessibility needs to get in touch, including individuals with visual, hearing, motor or cognitive disabilities. We were particularly interested in hearing from people with a cognitive need. We are aware that the documentation on our developer hub can be complex and hard to understand, especially for people who think differently.

We interviewed users with dyslexia and some with varying levels of colour blindness.

The feedback we received was largely positive. The way in which the documentation was presented was highlighted as a plus point by the users with dyslexia who we interviewed. Comments included: “[the getting] is better than most massive walls of text like I see elsewhere", “the clearly numbered steps with links are good” and “the information is nicely broken up with spacing, bullets etc”.

Users with colour blindness accessibility needs also gave positive feedback. For example: “the colour contrast between the greyed-out letters and the others is fine [when looking at the API Catalogue]” and "black text on faded red worked well for me” for one of our status labels.

There are, of course, many opportunities for us to improve the way we present information within the developer hub and, more specifically, the API Catalogue. All feedback was captured and will be assessed and prioritised for implementation.

Using reporting to improve our rating

As well as using the valuable feedback provided in the user testing sessions, we also use a specialist reporting tool called Sitemorse to detect any issues with the code base. Sitemorse checks and monitors a particular website, and ensures things remain accessible, don’t break and remain on brand. 

We first ran the Sitemorse report against the developer hub content in early January 2022 and the results showed us that there were three areas which required attention – broken links, low code quality and accessibility. We identified and implemented a number of quick wins and strategic fixes, which has resulted in a sharp increase in the reporting scores.

There's still work to do, and we have a big list of improvements we wish to make. However, we are really encouraged by the fact we are already reporting a score of 8 out of 10 for accessibility against the W3C and WCAG 2.1 checkpoints.

Get involved

We cannot lose focus on the importance of accessibility and how it is essential to make integration easier for our users.  You can keep up to date with our plans for improvement by visiting our interactive product backlog.  You can also suggest, comment or vote on APIs and platform features using the backlog.

If you have any feedback, please contact us.

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Last edited: 19 August 2022 12:24 pm