If you’ve been focusing some attention on your SEO you may have heard the term accessible, or accessibility, thrown around, it’s a bit of a buzz word these days – and rightly so. So, what is it and why should you as a business owner or content creator (and especially a web developer or designer) care about it?
The definition of web accessibility from the W3C (the main organization that sets international standards for the World Wide Web) is as follows:
Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web.
Summed up, that essentially means designing, developing and creating content for a website that doesn’t hinder any person from using it. For example, my brother is color blind – I see a red balloon and he sees a muddy green one – so when there isn’t enough contrast between colors, he will only see one solid color rather than two.
A beautiful light grey box with an aqua green font on top may be a lovely design, but with numbers like 1 in 12 men having some form of color blindness, you risk a large chunk of the population not being able to read the copy on your website. What good is a pretty design when it lacks its true function? You can go Here to test how the colors on your website stack up to current accessibility standards.
Color contrast is just one example of the twenty basic standard elements to make the web more accessible to all, and while a lot of those elements have to do with the actual code on your website or initial design, there are a few things you can do to increase how accessible your site is (and increase your SEO rankings in the process!).
- Make sure to fill in that ‘Alternative Text’ section or ‘Alt Text’ for all of your images. When a visually impaired person uses your website, their screen reader will read to them this text, so try to be as descriptive as possible but avoid using “Image of” or “Picture of” as the screen reader will notify the user that it’s an image.
- Take a look at your page titles. Most users have multiple tabs open, so check that the title shown in the tab for the page is unique and describes what it is accurately. The title should describe the website, as well as the specific page being displayed by the site. ex: ‘Samantha Lauren – Home’
- Think about your links. Sometimes links such as ‘Click Here’ or ‘Read More’ don’t make sense without visual context and aren’t too useful for someone using a screen reader. Take a look at the links on your site, is there a way you can make the wording more specific so it still makes sense without visuals? ex: ‘Click Here to Get In Touch’
- Reconsider that link-heavy dropdown menu. For a screen reader this is difficult to navigate, but for someone who is unable to use a mouse these are nearly impossible to use. If you can, try to skip the dropdown and instead think of an intuitive way to link to those sub-pages on your website. If you’re set on using a dropdown, add a plugin to help make is accessible like this one.
The number one thing you can do to help make sure your website is accessible is to ask both your web-developer and designer what they do to prioritize web accessibility. Keep an ear open for these terms: form labels, keyboard access, semantic markup, and dependency-free code.
We spend so much time making sure websites are mobile friendly, optimized to load quickly, making sure the layout is intuitive and that the content is interesting, but not enough time making sure it’s available to everyone – and that was the whole point of the internet, right?
Hopefully this has opened up the conversation a bit for you surrounding what exactly web accessibility is, and how you can help make sure everyone has equal access to your website. If you have any questions or want to learn about making your website accessible, please reach out, I love to chat about this!