Alexa 100 Accessibility Updates

In December 2011, I conducted a quick analysis of the Alexa Top 100 web site home pages. The results showed notable issues across these sites. Now, over 5 years later, I thought I’d re-evaluate those same sites to see if and how things have changed.

As in 2011, the WAVE browser extension was used to conduct the evaluation. While the extension has changed a bit, the results give an indication of change over the last 5 years.

The following table shows WAVE errors from 2017 compared to those identified in 2011 (both values exclude contrast errors).

Site Data

Skip the lengthy table

Site Name # of Errors in 2017 # of Errors in 2011
ehow.com 334 1
espn.com 238 18
usatoday.com 208 105
aol.com 177 15
myspace.com 158 10
huffingtonpost.com 123 9
allrecipes.com 119 15
kohls.com 117 51
hulu.com 115 50
washingtonpost.com 111 43
nytimes.com 96 58
tmz.com 88 30
macys.com 88 2
slickdeals.net 77 306
amazon.com 76 6
nfl.com 73 107
about.com 71 26
twitter.com 71 5
reddit.com 61 24
msn.com 60 5
dailymail.co.uk 59 22
pch.com 57 0
ups.com 55 24
yelp.com 54 3
cnet.com 53 20
foxnews.com 49 220
youtube.com 48 8
go.com 47 44
toysrus.com 47 30
bing.com 47 0
match.com 43 26
imdb.com 42 20
vimeo.com 42 3
salesforce.com 37 22
pof.com 36 17
sears.com 36 15
latimes.com 34 67
godaddy.com 33 16
wsj.com 33 16
foxsports.com 32 19
jcpenney.com 30 1
pandora.com 28 44
cnn.com 27 89
imgur.com 25 19
fedex.com 24 23
gap.com 23 22
photobucket.com 23 18
newegg.com 23 6
shopathome.com 22 8
answers.com 21 61
barnesandnoble.com 21 29
warriorforum.com 21 16
verizonwireless.com 21 2
homedepot.com 17 90
capitalone.com 16 55
coupons.com 16 35
att.com 16 30
mywebsearch.com 16 1
adobe.com 15 2
target.com 14 12
facebook.com 14 8
wordpress.com 14 8
yahoo.com 13 9
americanexpress.com 13 4
rr.com 12 39
swagbucks.com 12 33
constantcontact.com 12 28
bestbuy.com 11 6
comcast.net 11 2
reference.com 10 9
netflix.com 10 1
cbssports.com 9 17
tumblr.com 9 10
drudgereport.com 8 21
wellsfargo.com 7 2
etsy.com 7 1
craigslist.org 6 2
weather.com 5 28
linkedin.com 5 18
ebay.com 5 12
google.com 5 6
stumbleupon.com 5 6
paypal.com 5 3
wordpress.org 5 1
blogspot.com 5 0
chase.com 4 51
pinterest.com 4 2
bankofamerica.com 4 1
ask.com 3 11
groupon.com 3 11
usps.com 3 5
indeed.com 3 2
wikipedia.org 3 1
bbc.co.uk 2 21
microsoft.com 2 11
live.com 2 5
flickr.com 1 25
apple.com 1 0
walmart.com 0 29
thepiratebay.org 0 2

Analysis

The number of errors found has increased 60% over the last 5 years – from an average of 25 errors in 2011 to 40 errors in 2017. The median number of errors increased from 15 to 21. 67 of the 100 pages have more errors now than in 2011.

A similar analysis of these pages from only one year ago showed the average errors to be 35.5 (compared to 40 today). This would suggest that the pace of accessibility errors is steadily increasing over time.

Because home pages are often dissimilar to content pages, these data should not be used to cast a sweeping judgement on a site. However, home pages are also typically the entry point for users to a site and often the most utilized page of a site.

Contrast Errors

The average number of WCAG 2.0 AA contrast failures detected for home pages of these popular web sites is 70! 91 of the sites had WCAG contrast failures. Contrast data was not collected in 2011, so comparison data is not available. I believe this represents a significant barrier for users with low vision (though perhaps it also makes one wonder about the relevance of the WCAG 2.0 contrast thresholds for modern design).

Conclusion

Users with disabilities face notable difficulties if home pages for the most popular sites on the web average 40 obvious accessibility errors and 70 contrast issues! These are only the errors detectable through automated analysis – the non-detectable errors have, presumably and based on our experience, increased at a similar pace.

At WebAIM, we try to keep an optimistic view of web accessibility. But these data paint a rather dismal picture. It’s difficult to define why sites seem to have gotten so much worse in just 5 years. Web sites (particularly home pages) have generally become more complex and heavier in recent years. At the same time, I believe that awareness of web accessibility has also notably increased. I think much of the decline in accessibility is due to the increased usage of frameworks and libraries that do not fully support accessibility. Regardless of the causes, it’s clear that much still needs to be done to promote web accessibility.

I’ll be sharing additional data about the types of errors that are most prevalent on the web in future blog posts.

Comments

  1. Holly J Doggett

    I’m curious how you got the number of errors you got. For example:

    1. ehow.com = 146 errors and 150 alerts, but you say 334
    2. espn.com = 307 errors and 51 alerts, but you say 238

    I haven’t checked any more by entering the email address in the WAVE tool, but would you share how you came to those numbers? I was looking as I wanted to know what kind of errors the tool was finding.

    I know the number of errors can vary because of the day the test is run (these seem to be sites that update often), but can you give a little more insight into how you came to your numbers?

    Thanks and this is a really fascinating test you’ve done!

  2. Jared Smith

    Holly –

    These were evaluated on my computer using the Chrome toolbar. As you note, these types of pages can change significantly in short order. It’s possible that some aspects of my system would cause differing content to be presented, such as additional Facebook widgets based on my Facebook log in status, etc.

  3. Jim Matheson

    Interesting numbers Jared. I’m curious, since 2011 analysis did not include contrast errors, were the 2017 contrast errors removed from the data set prior to determining the 40 error average/60% increase?

  4. Jared Smith

    Jim –

    The contrast errors are not included in the table or values to measure the increase.