The internet exists to function for all people regardless of physical or cognitive abilities, quality of technology, or environment. When this is true for an online platform, tool, or application it means it is accessible. Web accessibility allows for communication, interaction, research, entertainment, and more online opportunities — many of which can be excluding in the physical world. This creates a need for developers and organizations to create inclusive designs to make their content accessible to all.
Everyone should be able to easily navigate the web or contribute to it if they wish. This is what makes this virtual space so special. Easy navigation can mean that information is presented clearly or through various alternate sensory channels.
Who Accessibility Effects
Simply put, web accessibility affects everyone, even people without disabilities. Some instances of this include small device users (phone, smartwatches, tablets), people experiencing the common effects of aging, slow internet connection or limited bandwidth, or temporary injuries.
Accessible design enhances the user experience for everyone, even if there are no restricting factors. However, intentionally designing an accessible web platform makes for an inclusive online experience for people with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual disabilities.
Why Businesses Should Care About Web Accessibility
It’s important to remember that virtual markets are public spaces. Web Accessibility improves the user experience on the internet for everyone. This experience contributes to customer satisfaction, enhances your brand, drives innovation, and extends your market reach. Accessible websites open your business to new demographics with massive buying power. Eventually, these improvements achieve brand loyalty.
Businesses with inaccessible websites make it harder for people with disabilities to buy their products, use their services, engage with their brands, and interact with their content. Business owners who understand the importance of serving all customers equally treat web accessibility as a necessity, not a feature.
Additionally, enhancing the functionality and usability of your site helps Google crawl your site better, typically resulting in higher organic search rankings.
Most importantly, maintaining an accessible website is the right thing to do. It creates an online space that is inclusive and diverse and allows an even playing field for users and consumers.
How to Make Your Own Platforms Accessible
If you already have a website up and running, your first step in the process should be addressing whether or not your site is accessible. There are different tools to test this online by simply entering your site’s URL. However, these tools aren’t 100% percent accurate and should be seen as more of a guide.
When considering accessibility components of your site, remember to also consider them when designing and developing for smaller, mobile devices, and multimodal functionalities. Just because your website can display on a mobile device doesn’t mean that your users are having an ideal experience. It goes beyond having responsive content.
Design Components to Consider
There are various content management systems available to help you build your accessible website. The most commonly used is WordPress. Regardless of your choice in CMS, if you’ve hired an external agency for a web redesign, make sure your agency partner follows best practices for accessibility as it designs and develops a custom theme. Be sure to follow the same guidelines when selecting modules, plugins, or widgets.
By using headings correctly, your content will be easily interpreted and navigated by screen readers. Although it’s easier to pick a header solely based on aesthetics, you shouldn’t do it. Doing this can lead to reader confusion. Make sure to adhere to the correct order of headings and utilize CSS to separate presentation from structure and add style to your text.
- Start with <h1> for text that is most important
- Follow up with <h2> for sub-sections
- Do not skip heading levels
- Do not use bold instead of a heading
Colors distinguish different components of your site. However, you should stay away from a red and green combination. A percentage of users face a common red-green deficiency. To clarify, it is equally important to create a contrast between color choices. Contrast is a difference in perceived brightness between two colors. You can test your color contrast on Colorable. Color components should have a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 at a minimum. Here are some examples of a minimal 4.5:1 contrast:
By using unique descriptive text to describe where a link leads to rather than just “click here,” the context of your links are easily conveyed to a reader.
Alt-text describes the message you want to convey to users who are unable to see or load an image. This rule doesn’t apply to images that are used solely for decorative purposes. For example, if you are displaying a picture of an elephant, you want your HTML to view as <img src=”elephant.png” alt=”a large grey elephant at Austin Zoo”>. You shouldn’t leave an image without alt-text. However, you also shouldn’t keyword stuff in your alt-text. Find a healthy balance under 125 characters.
One Last Thing
Designing an accessible website isn’t an extra step in the process; it improves the user experience for everyone on your site. To evaluate your site’s accessibility, keep these questions in mind:
Can the content on my platform be consumed in different ways?
Can a user navigate the interface of my site functions?
Is my site confusing for certain people or device users?
At HMG Creative, we build with best practices for accessibility according to WCAG 2.0, Level AA guidelines to ensure you provide a barrier-free experience for those with disabilities. If you need help with accessible web design, fill out our project request form and we can help you out! Let’s chat!