Watchfire Corp.s AccessibilityXM helps to ensure that Web sites can be easily accessed and used by people with physical challenges. Whether organizations use the product to be good corporate citizens, to adhere to government mandates, or to increase affinity and sales (or all of the above), AccessibilityXM provides a relatively easy way for Web administrators of large sites to gauge accessibility and maintain accessibility standards over time.
Watchfires updated AccessibilityXM provides a robust method of gauging Web sites accessibility to physically challenged users. The applications comprehensive reports provide a multilevel view into Web sites performance at the moment and over time. AccessibilityXM will be most valuable to organizations with large Web sites that change often. eWEEK Labs tested the hosted version of the application, which is priced starting at $2,000 per month.
PRO: Highly customizable; easy to use; comprehensive reporting capabilities; integrates with privacy- and quality-auditing packages for bigger-picture view of site performance.
CON: Limited browser support.
EVALUATION SHORT LIST
AccessibilityXM 2.1, released last month and available as a hosted or server-based application, scans Web sites to test for compliance with government and World Wide Web Consortium accessibility guidelines. Organizations can also use the product to scan against custom guidelines.
AccessibilityXM is one of three modules available in Watchfires WebXM platform. The others are PrivacyXM, which scans Web sites to identify privacy risks, and QualityXM, which checks for content quality and interaction problems. The modules are available separately or as a suite.
The price of the AccessibilityXM service starts at $2,000 per month, depending on the size of the Web site being scanned. The server-based version, which runs only on Windows-based servers, costs $12,500 and up, again depending on the size of the site being scanned.
The AccessibilityXM service can also be used for a one-time assessment, which will be useful for companies that want to gauge their current accessibility performance and figure out the scope of accessibility remediation needed. The price of a one-time assessment starts at $10,000.
AccessibilityXM has a Web services interface that allows it to integrate with most content workflow systems, whether home-grown or packaged applications, including Interwoven Inc.s TeamSite, Documentum Inc.s Documentum, Microsoft Corp.s Site Server, Vignette Corp.s Vignette platform, Percussion Software Inc.s Rhythmyx and Stellent Inc.s Content Management System. This allows organizations to build accessibility assessment into the content publishing and production workflow.
AccessibilityXM evolved from the Bobby application, which Watchfire acquired last year. The goal, said David Grant, Watchfires director of accessibility solutions, in Waltham, Mass., was to beef up Bobby with enterprise-scope bulk. The Bobby service is still available for testing of single Web pages, and Watchfire recently released Version 5.0 of the Bobby site testing tool.
AccessibilityXM checks for the issues that would give site users assistive devices (and many PDAs, for that matter) trouble. These include the absence of alternative text for images, lack of text transcripts for audio files and sole reliance on color to convey meaning (see related story, Web Access for All).