Eight months ago, WebAIM announced the first general release of the new WAVE Web Accessibility Tool version 4. Since that time, the WAVE team has been hard at work fixing bugs, improving efficiency, enhancing the test rules, and preparing for new WAVE features and projects. We therefore thought this would be a good time to give an update on what we’ve been doing, where we are now, and what we’re working on for the future. More detailed updates are always available on the WAVE blog. And if you’ve never used WAVE, you can learn more about how to use it in WebAIM’s WAVE article.
Since our initial launch in January, WAVE has been used by 60,000 unique users from all over the world to create over 500,000 reports for 163,000 distinct URLS. WAVE reports zero errors on almost half of the pages evaluated (the most errors on a single page is 1120!). Several thousand pages were remediated using WAVE – meaning they started with accessibility errors, but those errors were all later fixed.
In addition, the WAVE 4 toolbar for Mozilla Firefox has been downloaded many thousands of times and is being used to evaluate and the improve the accessibility of countless pages.
Since our launch in January, hundreds of people have sent us feedback. While some just to tell us how awesome we all are (or at least how awesome WAVE is), many are reports of bugs, problems, or issues with the WAVE tool or website functionality. Each issue raised is carefully logged, investigated, and when possible, quickly fixed by a member of the WAVE development team. Through this process, many small (and sometimes not so small) bugs have been fixed, along with many others found as a result of our own internal testing and continual monitoring of the entire WAVE system. As a result, WAVE is significantly more stable and error-free than today than ever before. Still, we know there are yet bugs to be found, so if you notice any, please let us know.
If there was one aspect of WAVE 4 that we weren’t very proud of on launch day, it was speed. Previous versions of WAVE were written on a very simply platform, and did a good job of evaluating very simple web content, which is really all there was at the time WAVE was first written. WAVE 4 was designed to perform the much more complicated tests required to evaluate modern advanced web sites and applications. As a result, evaluations in WAVE 4 were somewhat slower than in previous WAVE releases. The good news is that the WAVE development team has been hard at work on speed and efficiency issues since launch, and as a result of these improvements a typical WAVE report is over twice as fast (i.e., takes less than half the time) today compared to six months ago. And we’re not finished yet, so expect to see even more improvements in this area in the near future.
Enhancing Test Rules
In addition to bug reports, many of the emails we get about WAVE are from people who have suggestions (or complaints) regarding the test rules – the specific things and patterns that WAVE looks for in a page, and what it says when those things are found or not found. Several users found bugs in the things we’re looking for or in the resulting reports, while many others had suggestions for modifications or new rules. Based on these suggestions, along with our own continued experience, we have made numerous additions, modifications, and clarifications to the WAVE test suites, resulting in better, more accurate, and more complete reporting for all WAVE users.
We have also been hard at work on the WAVE 4 Toolbar, a free extension for the Mozilla Firefox web browser. This tool runs complete WAVE reports entirely on the local machine (without sending any data to the WAVE server), making it ideal for testing extremely large, password protected, confidential, or private documents. Because it uses the exact same tests and processor platform as the WAVE website application, the toolbar benefits from the majority of the WAVE improvements discussed above.
Coming Soon (we hope)
Although we cannot yet say for certain exactly how or when any of these features might be finished, here are a few of the things we’re planning on implementing with WAVE in the near future.
One of the largest current limitations of WAVE is that it is, for the most part, an English-only tool, whereas the internet as a whole is steadily moving in the opposite direction. With this in mind, we are currently preparing work on a localizable version of WAVE and the WAVE toolbar. We hope to have the ability to serve not only the WAVE website interface in multiple languages, but also have the WAVE tests themselves (those that depend on the language of the source document) run in the native language of the website being processed. If you are interested in translation or internationalization of WAVE, please contact us.
WebAIM has also received funding to expand WAVE functionality to address several aspects of web content that affect cognitive accessibility. We will be adding these features to WAVE in the coming months.
Improved Testing and Reporting
We’re also actively and continually working on improving our evaluation rules and report views. While we don’t know the specifics yet, look for many small incremental improvements in this area in the future. As always, we welcome feedback on any part of the WAVE system, so if you have any suggestions, ideas, or bug reports, please let us know.