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Explore conformance testing

There are two types of conformance testing:

  • one is automatic testing, using automatic tools to check for accessibility

  • the other is manual testing where a human tests the pages against the criteria in the guidelines or standards.

Automatic testing

There are many automatic tools for web accessibility. Here are two that are relatively easy to use and can both check conformance online. By typing in the web page address, the tools will output a set of errors and warnings:

  • WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool). Currently WAVE covers WCAG 2.0 (level A and AA) and US standard Section 508.

  • AChecker. AChecker covers WCAG 1.0 and 2.0 (level A, AA, and AAA), Section 508, German standard BITV level 2.0, and Italian accessibility law Stanca Act.


Exercise: try out an automatic conformance testing tool

Start by using either one or both of these tools to test our MOOCAP Project website.

Type in the web page address http://gpii.eu/moocap/

Do try out other websites as well.

How did you get on? what did you find? how do the tools compare?


Links to more specific tools e.g. tools to test colour contrast and readability of web content are available from the bottom of this page.


Manual testing

One of the most commonly used manual testing methods is expert inspection. Expert inspection is conducted by accessibility experts, preferably with multiple experts as evaluators.

Heuristic evaluation of web content is a type of expert inspection, which involves multiple evaluators examining and judging the compliance of web content to the criteria in standards or guidelines (‘heuristics’). The process of a heuristic evaluation for web content consists of the following steps:

  1. Recruit evaluators (3-5 is recommended)

  2. Decide which standard or guideline to use, design an evaluation form including the criteria to be evaluated.

  3. Each evaluator evaluates the web site individually and fills in the evaluation form. Assistive technologies such as screen readers, magnifiers, high-contrast mode, should be used. In addition, different browsers and versions should be covered.

  4. All evaluators gather to discuss their individual evaluations and compile a meta-level evaluation result, to show the most common violations, Table 1 shows an example of the most common violations found, namely criteria 1, 4, and 5. The Evaluators have been numbered e1, e2, e3, e4, e5. An X in the table cell signifies whether a violation has been found by an evaluator.

Criteria 1 2 3 4 5
e1 X X     X
e2 X   X X X
e3 X   X X  
e4 X     X X
e5 X     X X

The Nielsen Norman Group provide further information about how to conduct a heuristic evaluation

What do you think might be the strengths and weaknesses of conformance testing?


© This work is a derivative of a work created by Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus, and licensed under CC-BY BY 4.0 International Licence adapted and used by the University of Southampton. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.

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This article is from the free online course:

Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society

University of Southampton