Sport England: Delivering user-friendly, fully accessible and inclusive websites

A little background

Sport England is the government body focused on helping people and communities across the country create sporting habits for life. It is a not-for-profit organisation that works closely with sporting partners and National Governing Bodies (NGBs) throughout England to support them through National Lottery funding.

Sigma was appointed as the digital partner to Sport England in early 2014. Since then we’ve worked on a wide range of projects to enhance the organisation’s digital presence, design and develop their sector-leading website www.sportengland.org, and deliver new digital channels to support initiatives like Be Inspired www.beinspireduk.org

An important segment of Sport England’s audience is the 11 million people in the UK who are currently living with an impairment or disability – whether it is cognitive (learning), physical (motor), visual or auditory. Due to the breadth of their user base and their varying requirements, conveying their core messages and providing effective digital engagement for all of their users can be a real challenge. Central to Sport England’s digital strategy is the recognition that they need to deliver accessible and inclusive sites that enable the organisation to interact effectively with users who have disabilities or assistive technology needs. 

“Equal access to sport is a fundamental pillar of our brand – so we have to be top-notch when it comes to web accessibility for all users. Sigma carried out a trenchant review of our website, came up with clear and detailed recommendations, and actioned these improvements quickly.”

Paul Cottam, Head of Editorial

The project

Sport England decided that they needed to meet the AA standard for accessibility, as defined in the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This provides an extremely robust framework for developing inclusive and accessible websites, but also gave us the freedom we need from a creative perspective to produce an aesthetically pleasing site with engaging content.

Sigma conducted a comprehensive review of www.sportengland.org and www.beinspireduk.org from an accessibility viewpoint, using both automated processes (to check colour contrast and alt text on images, for example) and manual auditing to pick up more subtle accessibility issues and improvements. Together, we also worked closely with users who had a range of physical, cognitive and visual impairments to conduct task-based user testing of the sites. This unearthed a wealth of insights including subjective opinions on how the sites could be improved from both an accessibility and usability perspective. We identified, prioritised and then implemented fixes and improvements on both sites which have greatly enhanced Sport England’s ability to engage effectively with all of their users, not just those with accessibility requirements.

The bottom line

Now that they’re compliant with internationally recognised accessibility standards, Sport England can be confident that the many thousands of people who use their websites who have some form of disability or impairment can access the information they need and interact with them successfully. In addition, the site now scores highly on the System Usability Scale (SUS) as independently verified, and due to the improvements we made to the responsiveness of the sites they work well for users across a wide range of mobile devices and tablets. Sport England’s click-through rates and newsletter sign-ups have improved noticeably, and the drop-off rate in the online funding process has also reduced, meaning more sporting clubs and initiatives are able to successfully access the funds and support they need. 

Related Work

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