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By Debra Donston  |  Posted 2003-05-19 Print this article Print

eWEEK Labs evaluated the hosted version of AccessibilityXM. Like the other WebXM modules, AccessibilityXM works by sending content agents through a site to collect data. Interaction agents test specific content and site functionality (such as log-in forms and checkouts) by running prerecorded scripts.

The results are passed to a database (either Microsofts SQL Server or Oracle Corp.s Oracle) and analyzed by the applications reporting engine. Reports can be accessed via a Web browser. (Report consumers can use Internet Explorer 5.5 Service Pack 2 or IE 6.0 SP1 or Netscape 6.2.3 or 7.0; administrators must use the aforementioned versions of IE.)

We used AccessibilityXM to test eWEEKs Web site, For comparison purposes, Watchfire officials worked with us to conduct scans of a range of different sites with a variety of mandates and audiences, including,, and an additional scan of the eWEEK site. (None of the sites met all accessibility guidelines, by the way.)

During tests, we found the documentation to be good, making it easy to get through the many steps required to set up a job.

After creating a job name and description, we had to define what to scan. In the "Starting URL" field, we could enter internal sites, external domains, multiple sites or the same domain with multiple URLs. AccessibilityXM automatically checks for URL syntax and network validity.

From there, we could limit the number of directories, links and pages that would be scanned. Site licensing will also affect the number of pages that can be scanned. Administrators have the ability to determine a number of scanning properties, including how AccessibilityXM scans the site, how data will be gathered and what data will be included in reports.

It took about 2 hours and 20 minutes to scan beginning at about 10:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. The eWEEK site comprises about 13,000 pages. According to Watchfires Grant, the load on a site being scanned is about the equivalent of four unique site visitors. Grant added that Watchfire abides by all Robots.txt "rules of engagement."

AccessibilityXM provides extensive reporting capabilities with varying levels of granularity and detail for different audiences. The dashboard overview, for example, can show senior management a graphical, high-level representation of a sites accessibility performance (see screen).

The dashboard overview provides letter-grade scores based on a sites performance in a scan and especially in multiple scans over time. Administrators can set thresholds for specific issues so that scores will depend on the organizations level of tolerance for particular issues. Performance can also be trended and charted over time, and reports can be segmented in a variety of ways, including by issue or business unit.

AccessibilityXM also reports information in a manner that will make it easier for Web administrators to fix the problems the application has found.

One view, for example, showed all the pages that did not meet W3C guidelines in our tests. Clicking on the guideline brought up a help dialog that explained why the guideline was in place and how site content should be coded to meet it. Clicking on any one of the URLs displayed not only the specific guidelines that were not met but also the exact location of code that needed to be amended (see screen).

Accessibility can be set up to run jobs on a schedule or on demand.

Executive Editor Debra Donston can be reached at

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