Unfortunately, in many organizations, a case must be made for adhering to web accessibility best practices, even though it is the right thing to do and is often legally mandated. If you’re in the situation where you have to ask for accessibility to be considered, you might think that Google Analytics will help you make your case. Perhaps there’s reporting that captures screen readers, for instance. However, there’s no screen reader report, and determining what users have disabilities is not clear cut (for good reason - think of privacy implications).
The best way I’ve come up with to identify the potential for increased occurrence of disability among users is to focus on the Age demographic information in Google Analytics. Why age? Inelegantly put, the older one gets, the more likely one will experience vision, hearing, and mobility issues - in other words, reading glasses, hearing aids, and arthritis. All of this affects the user experience, and typically older users are a large and valuable website audience.
Demographics > Age
The first step is to identify the size of your older population. This is as easy as going to the Audience section in Google Analytics and clicking on the Demographics tab. From here, you can access the built-in report for Age, and then view columns for percent of sessions, bounce rate, and session duration. You’ll be able to see how large your older audience is, and get an initial feel for whether they are spending more or less time with your website than the younger audience. If it is not similar to the experience of the younger age segments, this could be your first clue that there is a bad user experience for older populations.
Using Age as a Secondary Dimension
Next, you’ll want to view a few key content reports with Age selected as the secondary dimension.
Exit Pages: Are there any abnormalities to the exits? Are older users behaving differently from other audiences?
Landing Pages: Check out the bounce rate and the average session duration.
- Do your older age segments have a higher bounce rate than your younger segments?
- Is your average session duration different for older age segments?
- Are older users taking longer on the page (struggling?) or are they abandoning the page faster than everyone else?
All Pages/Content Drilldown: If you have pages with video, and they don't have accessible alternatives, sample a few of the pages against the Age dimension. Are older users leaving these pages or not spending enough time to watch the video? (If you have video plays tagged as Events in Google Analytics, you can apply the Age dimension to that for more accurate insights.)
Investigate and Fix the Issues
If you found that older users are behaving differently from the younger users, it’s time to investigate by analyzing pages on your website. Check that images and videos have appropriate accessible alternatives, and evaluate the page for colors and font sizes that don’t meet WCAG standards. Check the code. If you find WCAG violations, it might be causing older populations to experience trouble with your website. A great tool for quick accessibility checks is WebAIM’s WAVE Chrome extension.
Though none of the information you’ll glean is definitive, the knowledge will help you better serve people with disabilities, or make a case within your organization for the importance of web accessibility.