The literature review provided insight into existing research and identified areas which have not yet been explored. The methodology provided a means to bridge this knowledge gap.
3.2 Selection Approach
There were two significant groups identified in the literature review; the SMEs and the designers who work with SMEs. Each has separate interests and information to contribute to the investigation of the problems, and data was drawn from both parties to provide a balanced assessment. The data gathered was an amalgam of qualitative and quantitative information. For the SMEs it was decided a short guided online questionnaire was appropriate. For the designers, four open-ended research questions were emailed directly to a number of high profile figures in the UK web design industry (Appendix II).
The aim of a guided questionnaire was to keep the respondents informed while testing their knowledge and ensuring they understood what was being asked of them as it was quite possible they might not be familiar with the technical terminology. It also was to test their awareness of the subject. Conversely, the open ended questions to the designers were set to gather the broadest range of views and ideas on the subject without constraining the responses and without making omissions in fundamental arguments.
3.3 Data Collection
3.3.1 Classification and Administrative Data
The questionnaire was collected in the name of the organisation rather than individuals as the questions could yield answers with very low knowledge levels and might either lead or embarrass the respondents. The name of the respondent was also not necessary for the study.
The name of the country was requested to plot the demographic, and also the number of employees, to ascertain if the body was legally a SME‡. The age of the company was also requested as a quality control to ensure that a wide range of organisations had been sampled, ranging from ‘start-ups’ to mature businesses.
Finally, a range of information about the organisations’ websites was collected to provide information about trends in use of technologies in relation to the views and data supplied.
No extra administrative data was collected as it was not necessary in the context of this study.
3.3.2 Quantitative Data
The questionnaire to the SMEs aimed to establish attitudes to a range of issues, namely whether the businesses:
- were aware of the term ‘Website Accessibility’ and understood if it was legal a requirement or not.
- were aware of various accessibility initiatives and organisations.
- were aware of the DDA, and furthermore, if they realised it has implications for their websites.
- are concerned that they might be targeted by legal actions in the future if their sites are not accessible.
- are prepared to make changes to comply with accessibility initiatives and laws.
- have an opinion on the worthiness of investment in website accessibility.
3.3.3 Qualitative Data
The questions fielded to the designers were aimed to gather opinions on whether:
- there is a need for the use of web design standards by small UK businesses when their audience is limited.
- web designers/developers for small businesses should be directly and legally be held responsible for substandard sites.
- web design standards be legally enforced on new websites in the UK .
- UK SMEs are willing to accept the cost of accessibility (without knowing the survey results).
3.4 SME Questionnaire Pilot Study
The prototype SME questionnaire was tested for compatibility on twenty of the most common browsers/platforms using BrowserCam software (see Figure 3.1) The link was sent to four small businesses known to be suitable candidates. The initial response was very favourable and the data gathered found to be more than suitable to work with. It was therefore decided to ‘go live’ and post the full questionnaire at www.andyhiggs.co.uk/dissertation/. Screen shots of the questionnaire can be found in Appendix IV.
Figure 3.1, BrowserCam Screenshots of the prototype
3.5 The Sample
The sample for the questionnaire ideally needed to be constructed from a wide variety of SMEs. The method of acquiring a wide demographic was to initially promote the survey through an email to small businesses and also via online UK design forums (http://designateonline.com, http://forum.multipack.co.uk).
The expert survey was emailed to a number of UK designers who are published in the web design field and/or are members of accessibility organisations, and/or whose client-lists include SMEs.
As a result, one of these web designers (John Oxton) posted a link to the SME survey on his personal weblog (see Fig 3.2) which has a wide and interested UK web designer audience. The post asked readers to persuade their clients and associates to complete the forms. This endorsement lead to several more business replies.
Figure 3.2, The link to the questionnaire on Joshuaink.com,
In order to draw worthwhile statistics, it was decided that a minimum of twenty replies were needed to make the SME survey reliable, and three replies for the designer survey.
‡ Defined as under 250 staff and with a turnover of less that €50 million by the EU (2003).