The aim of a website is to convey a message to as many people as possible. If you want to reach as many people as you can, it’s important to remember that not everyone is able to access the information on a web page in the same way.
For example, people who are blind or partially sighted might struggle with text, and people who are deaf or hard of hearing might find it difficult if a website has a lot of audio description or video with audio and no subtitles.
Why is accessibility so important?
According to the CDC, 25% of people are living with a disability. That’s millions of people who could potentially be finding it difficult to access information on the internet.
It makes sense to ensure that your site is accessible to as many people as possible from an equality standpoint and also from a purely profit-driven one. After all, the more people who can access the information on your site, the more chances you get at a sale!
Accessibility is also a factor in the algorithms used by search engines such as Google, which means that improving the accessibility of your site could actually help you to rank more highly. This is always great news, as it means you are likely to get more visitors to your page.
It’s also important to make your website as accessible as possible to ensure that you are in compliance with the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act).
If you want to make your website more accessible, there are a few things that you should bear in mind.
Use alt text for images
If your website has images on it, these are part of the way that you are communicating your message. If someone is partially sighted, then it’s important that they are able to get the meaning of an image, even if they can’t see it.
One way that you can help with this is through the use of alt text descriptions for images.
An alt text is a brief text that describes an image, and it’s principally used for accessibility. Many people with a visual impairment will use a screen reader to help them online, and if you’ve used an alt text, the screen reader can read out that description to the user.
Alt texts are also useful if there are problems loading your webpage. Images are quite often large files, and so if there is a connectivity issue, they won’t load, but the alt text will load in its place.
Finally, alt texts are read by search engine crawlers which helps them to properly index images and improve your SEO ranking.
When adding alt texts, focus on making them as descriptive as possible so that people using screen readers can get the same information as though they were seeing the image.
Color palette and font style
Your choice of color palette and the font style you use are important when considering people with visual impairments and can also be helpful for people with dyslexia.
There are some visual impairments, such as cataracts, which don’t mean that the person affected can see, but they may struggle to differentiate between colors that are too similar. For those people, having text in a color that contrasts with the background are essential to allow them to read it. Color contrast also affects readability for people with dyslexia.
Font style is also an important factor. For example, a very thin font might be more difficult for someone with a visual impairment to read.
A great way to check your color palette is to use an ADA contrast checker, which will help you to choose color combinations that are the most helpful for people with visual impairments.
A simple way to ensure that your site is accessible is to create a large text version that is easily accessible to people with visual impairments.
You should test large font versions of your website both on computer screens and on phones, if possible, to ensure that the information is clear on all platforms.
It’s also a good idea to ensure that your call to actions are large and easy to see so that people with visual impairments can use your site.
Make your site keyboard accessible
Making your site keyboard accessible means that people can use their keyboards to navigate rather than a mouse, which is beneficial in particular to people using braille keyboards to surf the web.
The key things you need to do to make your site keyboard accessible are:
- Ensure that your keyboard focus is following the text on your site so that all of the text is visible as the user scrolls through.
- Make sure that your keyboard can access all of the links and doesn’t bypass any.
Videos are becoming more commonly used on websites as a great way to quickly communicate a message.
If you are using video, then it’s important to bear in mind the needs of people with visual or auditory impairments. It’s a good idea to add subtitles if you can for people who are hard of hearing and to add an audio description for people who are visually impaired.
Video can be a great tool for making your site more accessible. For people with ADHD or cognitive impairments, it can be difficult to navigate a text-based website. Having a video that plays automatically can be really helpful in communicating your message for them.
One of the easiest ways to make your website accessible is to use a simple layout. Be sure to use lots of white space, that is, space that doesn’t have any text, images, or multimedia in it. Make your focus around navigation; make it as easy as possible for users to find what they are looking for.
This is helpful as an accessibility tool for people with ADHD and cognitive impairments, but it’s also a good rule to follow for user experience.
People, in general, have a low attention span and they dislike having to hunt for the information that they need. Keeping your website design clear and simple is helpful for making it as easy to use as possible.