Accessible Arabia Part 2 – Putting accessibility on the agenda

The following is a contributor post from Chris Rourke, MD of User Vision.

Accessible Arabia Part 2  – Putting accessibility on the agenda

Accessibility Enter IconIn Part 1 of this article we pointed out that whilst accessibility is important, it is often not part of the conversation between agencies and clients, and as a result it is often not built in to the resulting website.

In this concluding part we will briefly cover

  • Ways to get accessibility on the agenda for your organisation and in the Arab region
  • Some good examples of accessibility being implemented and
  • The best resources to learn more about web accessibility

Getting the accessibility ball rolling

The best way to start a programme to improve your site accessibility is to have a close look at the current state of your site’s accessibility.  Although web accessibility is closely tied in with the coding of your site, you do not need to be a coder or developer to start to detect some of the accessibility problems.

As demonstrated in the Part 1 article, there are some simple and useful tools that can help you assess your site’s accessibility.  My personal favourite is the WAVE tool from WEBAIM but other good ones are the Web accessibility Toolbar from Vision Australia, and there are others.

These can be used to find some of the “low hanging fruit” issues – the accessibility risks that can be picked up by an automatic programme or spider.  This will not find a full and complete set of issues but it will be a good start for finding things such as missing alt text, problems in forms, or poor colour contrast.  These can be presented in a easy, visual style and allow you to drill down to learn more about the nature of each problem and more importantly the steps needed to solve it.

Another good way to find accessibility problems is to test the site with people that have disabilities.  For instance this could include those with visual impairments or alternatively this could be physical or cognitive disabilities.  Although there will be some extra effort to arrange a short usability test with this audience, the benefit will be strong empirical evidence which really makes it clear where the main barriers lie.

Getting accessibility built into sites in the region

A few years ago we conducted a project for the government of Abu Dhabi that gave us a good insight into the state of web accessibility in the UAE and the region as a whole.  It showed that the standard of web accessibility in the Middle East is generally lower than in most other parts of the world, especially when comparing high profile sites such as government departments or large banks.

Why are these otherwise professional and high profile sites so inaccessible?

Are there users with disabilities that want to book their own flight, access eGovernment information or access information online?   Absolutely.

Is there a strong motivation for these organisations to improve the accessibility provisions on their sites?  Not really.

The situation can improve, but it needs more than guidelines in web accessibility which I will outline later.

The underlying problem is that there is no web accessibility “market” in the Middle East.  Areas where web accessibility has made better progress, such as in the UK, have largely benefitted from the push and pull forces of a market.

The web Accessibility “Market forces”

Web accessibility market image showing how people with disabilities can influence companies who then influence supplier agenciesThe market is quite simple and the critical elements of this are listed below, starting with the most important stakeholder – the users.

  • Disabled users need to be aware of their right to e-accessibility and demand it.  The need for digital accessibility and the benefits it brings should be raised by individuals and through disability-related organisations. Government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can support this effort.
  • Companies and organisations with websites need to hear of this demand and at the same time be made aware of the benefit of improving accessibility.  They then need to demand that it is built into the design and maintenance of their sites, whether that happens in-house or through external agencies.   Stipulating compliance with WCAG 2.0 or national guidelines will not solve the problem overnight, but it will focus the minds of supplier agencies.
  • Digital agencies need to see this as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage.  They can shout about how they can create accessible sites, but must be sure they can walk the walk as well as talk the talk.  They can build an accessibility competence in house or with specialist partners and raise the accessibility issue to their clients and keep it in the site development and maintenance plan.

These actions by these three key stakeholders will start the ball rolling and ideally create a “virtuous circle” of ever increasing accessibility online.

To a large degree this combination of increased awareness and pressure on other stakeholders in the market has driven the improvements in accessibility within the UK, and there is no reason why it could not occur in the Middle East.

Regional examples of web accessibility

Having pointed out some regional examples of poor accessibility it is only fair to give credit where things are being done right.  Perhaps the highest profile examples are those from the government of Qatar.  Qatar has set up a centre of excellence in web accessibility called MADA that has set itself the goal of making all the eGovernment channels in Qatar as accessible as possible.  As a result there is a high level of accessibility in the Qatar government websites.

For example on the Qatar government eServices Portal Hukoomi it is clear that accessibility has been addressed.  The image below shows the content area of the page assessed through the WAVE tool and there is good structural markup (Headings H1, H2, H3) and accurate alternative test on the images.

 Accessibility of Hukoomi demonstrated through good markup and use of alternative text

The same level of accessibility continues throughout the site, including the transactional areas with forms, a typical trouble spot for web accessibility.

Resources: Learning about web accessibility

One thing that is definitely NOT a reason for overlooking accessibility is a lack of guidance about how to create an accessible site.  There is plenty of great guidance out there, ranging from the official WCAG 2.0 guidelines  to slightly less formal from organisations such as the RNIB in the UK or WEBAIM in the US.

A final thought on web accessibility.  Its helps people use the web as it was intended, regardless of their disabilities.  In the long run, as we age and collect various impairments, every one of us could benefit from this.


About Chris Rourke

Chris Rourke  - CEO UservisionChris Rourke is the Managing Director of User Vision MENA, the Middle East’s leading user experience research and design agency.

With over 20 years’ experience in usability, accessibility and experience design, Chris has worked with leading brands in the region including Emirates Airline, Jumeirah Group, and the Government of Abu Dhabi, as well as many others in the UK and Europe.

He has led projects at all stages of the user-centred design life-cycle  from user needs research through to development of information architecture, usability testing and on-going user experience research.

Chris enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for user experience and provide training on user experience through Twofour54 and Econsultancy as well as in-house training courses.


Recruiting successfully in the digital era

This excellent insight by recruitment professional Ariana Shahbazi looks at the opportunities for finding the right candidates for roles online, the candidates expectations of your brand and online experience and ultimately how to pull it all together in some very simple steps. It takes onboard some key digital principles and strategies (applied to recruitment specifically) and leveraging data and analytics to show you the opportunities and the risks. The following content is unedited and published as received.

Maybe Ariana, the next post could be from a candidates perspective? What makes individuals stand out in a highly competitive and increasingly noisy online space? What part does good old, first hand relationships play? What should we expect online profiles to achieve?


Recruiting successfully in the digital era, by Ariana Shahbazi

I want you!Although we do see employers who still advertise jobs in regional newspapers, the majority realise that online is where the candidates are. After all, almost anyone under the age of 50 has at some point posted or applied to a job via a job board or LinkedIn.

Many companies we meet have tried to leverage the web for recruitment, but few succeed and finding quality employees remains one of the region’s biggest challenges. What are they doing wrong?

The recruitment mix

There is no silver bullet for finding and hiring the right people. Rather, it’s a mix of a few key elements: recruitment know-how, flexible technology and astute marketing.

Yes, marketing. It is actually one of the most overlooked aspects of recruitment.
You can have a great team of recruiters, powerful talent acquisition software and still get a lot of poor quality CVs. Maybe it’s because nobody knows you exist and even less people know you are hiring. Or maybe it’s because you are not sending out the right message to the individuals you are looking for. Either way, you need to examine this component of the mix more closely.

The online shopping analogy

In this digital age, it’s easy to reach a lot of different people in one go: marketing departments do it all the time. The key is to have a strategy and the tools to set it in motion. Think of recruitment as online shopping: you need to generate awareness of your product, engage potential customers on your website with compelling content, provide a good user experience and make sure they convert.

“Come out, wherever you are”

Look at all the places where potential applicants could be looking and advertise there. Get the attention of the right audience.

So if you are looking for an experienced individual who already has a job with the competitor, posting on a job board or participating in a career fair will probably not give you a very high return. However, targeted advertising on Linkedin and your own career site, posting on a professional forum where he/she might be looking or activating your employees’ networks will. Some employers do SEO and Adwords, others will use Facebook, it all depends on the target. Once you know who you are looking for and where to look for them, you roll out your candidate marketing plan and drive these people to your website.

Avoid the Bounce

What happens when candidates land on your website?

Simple, there are 4 things that a potential applicant can do:

  • Leave (the dreaded “Bounce”)
  • Apply (now or later)
  • Tell someone about a job
  • Subscribe to a job alert for future jobs

Here are some important tips to ensure the right people don’t bounce off your website:

Don’t send them to a website that says “send your CVs to”. That would be like doing an Adwords campaign and sending leads to a poorly designed website. Instead, put yourself in the shoes of the type of person you are looking for. Why would a top candidate send their valuable CV to a generic email address?

If you are thinking “We post vacancies on our website and have a little form with a CV-upload button, that should work,” think again. If Amazon had a list of books in alphabetical order and an “input your credit card number” form, what would happen? They would get a lot of “junk” transactions and discourage real buyers to complete their transaction. When applied to recruitment, this means you are making it far too easy for everyone to apply and you’re not making the process very relevant to the good candidates. And when you have too many applications, unless you have a sophisticated recruitment system, you will not be able to identify the good ones.

If you are serious about attracting top talent, show it. Get a proper career site where you actually promote what it’s like to be employed by your company. Use employee testimonials, talk about all the corporate events, show photos or a video of your company, talk about the benefits, show them what a great workplace your company is, and present a stream of job opportunities that are relevant to them. Remember, it’s like a shopping website: deliver compelling content. This is what ALL successful employers do.

Have a job alert functionality on your website. If you are an employed and experienced professional, you may go to the competitor’s career site once a year to check out opportunities. If you see no appropriate positions, you leave…unless you are encouraged to subscribe to a job alert. Ensure that all your vacancies pages are easy to share via email and social media.

Keep them engaged

Finally, when good individuals do apply, keep them engaged. Ask skill questions they can relate to, send an email when their application has been submitted, give them status updates, don’t make them feel like their CV has gone into an abyss. This and things like scheduling and conducting interviews are so easy to do online nowadays. There are so many good web-based solutions, employers really have no excuse. An organisation that masters all these digital tools will deliver a superior candidate experience and give top candidates a positive image of the company before they even walk through the door.

In a nutshell

The web is the best way to find candidates and build a talent database, regardless the geography and sector. However, it requires a very structured approach and the right tools, just like marketing and sales.

Unfortunately, most recruitment departments don’t have marketing expertise, nor do they have the time, because many still don’t have the proper tools to automatically screen and manage CVs – but that’s another problem. As for marketing departments, most don’t have recruitment on top of their priority list because they are too busy selling products and services. Add technology to the equation and you bring on further complexity because IT probably has a lot of other projects to handle.

Bringing these 3 functions together and making them work in tandem seems too challenging for the majority of organisations…yet digital recruitment cannot be successful without this. In the end, this is probably why so many companies still struggle to find the right people.

About the author:

ArianaAriana Shahbazi is the Marketing Communications Director at Cazar, the leading recruitment marketing and talent acquisition technology provider in the Middle East and Asia. She has 12 years of experience in the online space. At Cazar, she has the opportunity to see the impact digital marketing has on recruitment amongst top employers in the region. The company works with some of the biggest organisations in the Middle East, including Al Futtaim, Jumeirah Group, DP World and Alshaya. It helps organisations leverage technology and the web so they can autonomously recruit top talent when they need it. If you’d like to speak to her about how digital strategies and the right technology can help your recruitment function, email ( or connect  with her.

Editors Note: DigitalArabia provides the platform for any digital expert to have a go at creating original content, to share knowledge  and take part in the conversation. DigitalArabia (or associated parties) do not endorse any products or services supplied by the digital experts. If you would like to take part and share your expertise, please get in touch.

Sub-Saharan Africa – Are they leap-frogging PC?

The research that we conducted for the World Economic Forum earlier this year focussed in on BRIC countries, however this research from Google, suggests that economies at the  capital accumulation stages of development (Solow Growth Model) are NOT YET leap-frogging mobile on frequency of access, with 15% accessing daily via PC, to only 12% via mobile. Additionally, more internet access occurs via PC on a weekly basis.

It would be an interesting longitudinal study to see how this develops or how related to specific industries.

Frequency of internet access via PC:

Digital Arabia - subsahara africa frequency - computer

Digital Arabia – subsahara africa frequency – computer (click to open)

Frequency of internet access via mobile:

Digital Arabia - subsahara africa frequency - mobile

Digital Arabia – subsahara africa frequency – mobile (click to open)

Data via Google for period 2010/2011.

Researching & Buying online in the Middle East. Who are the adopters?

Between Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who are the most prolific researchers and buyers? What are the changes over the years? Google research tells all…

The country that utilises the web most for research is the UAE with 26% conducting research online in 2011:


Click to Expand! “Which of the following activities have you ever done on the internet? [Researched an item online]”

Who Purchases Online? 

Again, the UAE retain the largest share of online purchases between the same countries with 13% of respondents having purchased:


Which Gender Buys Online?

 UAE men are most confident buying online. UAE women are the second most confident with online purchasing versus all genders in other countries. Closely pursued by KSA male and femals:

CLICK TO EXPAND! “Which of the following activities have you ever done on the internet? [Purchase an item online]”

In the UAE, what age range and what gender are the most confident buying online?

Men between the age of 35-44 (21%) are the most prolific online buyers, followed by males in the increasing age ranges.

 Females 45-54 in the UAE are the most confident buying online in the female segment (15%).


CLICK TO EXPAND! “Which of the following activities have you ever done on the internet? [Purchase an item online]”

Mobile Banking in the Middle East. KSA, UAE and Egypt. Who is the most confident?

According to the Google, IPSOS, IAB and MMA data, the most confident mobile bankers are:

Middle East smartphone owners use financial services:

  • 43% of all KSA
  • 40% of all UAE
  • 38% of all Egypt
  • (Reference: 48% of all USA)

By age segment:

  •  51% of males the total KSA 34-49 age segment were the highest penetration.
  • In the 18-29 age range, UAE males are most confident and active users with 48% of the age bracket using financial services regularly.
  • No data exists for the over 50 range

By Gender:

  • Males are the most confident throughout all countries
  • Saudi women are the most confident of all markets
  • Females aged 18 – 29 in KSA are the most confident by age range


Digital Arabia - Middle East Mobile Banking

Digital Arabia – Middle East Mobile Banking

Digital Arabia - Middle East Mobile Banking

Digital Arabia – Middle East Mobile Banking

Digital Arabia - Middle East Mobile Banking

Digital Arabia – Middle East Mobile Banking

Digital Arabia - Middle East Mobile Banking

Digital Arabia – Middle East Mobile Banking

Apps. What countries use them? Do they Pay?

An interesting find on Google, That of all Smartphone owners globally, the highest average penetration of apps per mobile device are: 

  • Japan with 41 Apps
  • Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with 36 Apps
  • Switzerland with 35 App

But who uses apps regularly?

  • Denmark & Switzerland use an average of 13 apps a month
  • France & the USA use 12
  • Most other use 8-10
  • Finland & Brasil use the least… 6 Apps

Who pays for them?

  • Austria, Germany & Switzerland pay more than any other countries
  • Brazil & Egypt pay for the least number of Apps.
Digital Arabia - Apps Data

Digital Arabia – Apps Data – Google 2012

Yahoo – Appoints Marissa Mayer… New Direction for Yahoo Maktoob?


It came as a considerable surprise that Marissa Mayer left a 13 year career at Google to join Yahoo as the 3rd CEO in 12 months and the 5th in 5 years.

Mayers potential with Yahoo is huge, with a degree in artificial intelligence and being the 20th “googler” (now “Xoogler“) she has driven the “Googliath” forward over the past 13 years and by the age of 37 has become one of the most important people in technology and arguably the most influential woman.

However there is no scepticism regarding the task that lays ahead of Mayer, further enforced given the news that Yahoo’s Dreary Second Quarter earnings have again tanked.

For Yahoo Maktoob, one of the last strongholds of the Yahoo empire (now valued at half what was originally offered by Microsoft), Mayer must be a shining light and opportunity to further establish Yahoo Maktoob as a publisher.

No one doubts that Yahoo as a player in search advertising have an almost impossible task of gaining back some of the lost Google and Facebook advertising globally. Most believe that it is impossible. In the Middle East however, it is a different story. Yes, Google are still the largest search players (and advertising overall), but the differentiator for Yahoo Maktoob is Arabic content and circa 50 million subscribers to their services a much more robust Arabic content service and arguably a greater ability to target Arabic language users than most other advertising distribution networks.

It will be interesting to see how Mayer defines the Middle East and the importance of growing Arabic language online, we know that her predecessor Carol Bartz publicly defined it as one of the top priorities of the company. Yahoo Maktoob are quintessentially the leaders in the market to make this happen and here’s hoping that the importance of the  language is maintained in Mayers turnaround strategy.

For businesses in the region and those targeting Arabic markets, we need to have more than one player in the search market, so from a personal perspective, here is also hoping that Mayer brings a lot of innovation that makes her new company much easier to work with.

Further, Mayer is a shining example of what big business’ in the region need. As a female leader of a global player, Mayer will be an inspiration to women in the male dominated region to not only get into the workforce, but to get into technology as a career.