Having a website that is accessible to all people is a critical aspect of website design and development. Unfortunately, many websites still fail to comply with basic accessibility standards. This can create significant barriers for people with disabilities to access online content. It is essential to understand what web accessibility is and how to improve your site to make it more compliant. I want to briefly look at the importance of website accessibility and 5 ways to make your site more user-friendly for people with disabilities. This ensures that every visitor can access your website, regardless of their ability.
I want to make note that is by no means a comprehensive deep dive, but rather what I have learned and attempt to implement in the websites I create. If you are looking for some great resources, I recommend checking this out.
Why is web accessibility important?
So, the first thing we have to do is understand WHAT and WHY Web Accessibility is important. Check out this quick video about web accessibility from Google:
So in a nutshell, accessibility is not just about those who are visually impaired, but also those who may have visual impairments, mobility impairments, cognitive disabilities, and hearing disabilities. So, why worry about website accessibility? It is important to ensure that all of our website visitors, regardless of ability, can access our content and perform necessary tasks. This can also translate into better engagement and conversion rates. Moreover, from an SEO perspective, offering an accessible website can improve your site’s visibility in search engines. Search engine crawlers look for accessibility elements when indexing pages.
So now that we have a broad understanding of what website accessibility is, let’s look at some ways we can improve and think through making sure our website is accessible.
Website Accessibility Tip 1: Alt Text for Images
Probably, the main way that people think of website accessibility is images and adding Alt text. Alt text is a description of the image that is read aloud by screen readers. This way those that are not able to clearly see the image can still enjoy and understand the content that is on the screen. Wherever an image is located on your website you want to include alt text. This includes all photos, illustrations, and icons that convey information on your website. Alt text should describe the image’s content, not just its appearance. It should be quick and concise, but descriptive. Background images, on the other hand, do not need or should have empty alt text. This tells assistive technology that the background image is not important content and therefore it can be ignored for the content that is important.
Website Accessibility Tip 2: Colors
Another important aspect of web accessibility is color contrast. The colors used on your website should have sufficient contrast to be easily distinguishable by all users. This is especially important for users with color vision deficiencies. There are several tools available to help check color contrast, such as Deque University’s Color Contrast Checker. According to the guidelines as stated by Deque it is important to “ensure color contrast of at least 4.5:1 for small text or 3:1 for large text, even if text is part of an image”.
This can also help when deciding on a logo and branding for your business. There are many tools online you can use to make sure your colors and text will work well together in an accessible manner.
Website Accessibility Tip 3: Text
Choosing the right font and font size is also important for web accessibility. Fonts should be easy to read and not too fancy or stylized. Additionally, font size should be large enough to be easily readable. And the user should be able to adjust the text size by zooming. A font size of at least 16px is recommended for body text.
Website Accessibility Tip 4: Navigation
Navigation is also an important component of web accessibility. Your website should be easy to navigate and user-friendly and have an interface that is easy to use and understandable. This means having clear and concise menus and ensuring that links and buttons are easily identifiable. Headings should have hierarchy (Larger to smaller), with subheadings providing more detail. Another way to make your site more easily accessible with regards to navigation is to make sure that all links and buttons have clear labels that describe their function.
Website Accessibility Tip 5: Descriptive URLs
Lastly, it is important to have descriptive URLs for your site. This also helps with SEO. By having a descriptive website URL this helps those with a screen reader know what the page is about and the content that should be on the page. So, for example, if you have a blog post on how to make WordPress more accessible, a good URL is www.mysite.com/make-wordpress-accessible, for example.
What you can do about making your website accessible
So as you can see making your website accessible is good and important (and soon to be required) for your business and your visitors. It is of utmost importance because it helps those who are unable to access the internet through traditional means, enjoy your site through the tools they rely on. If your site is not accessible then they could be missing some important content. In addition to that, most of these tips also help with SEO. By having a better site structure and clear navigation, as well as making sure your URLs are descriptive this helps people stay on your site longer and bumps up your SEO score. But it is also makes for a good User Experience. By making a good User Experience more people will visit your site and STAY on your site. Therefore, your ranking and authority will improve.
Now, we don’t want to make our sites accessible JUST to have better ranking without really caring about those with certain disabilities. We want to make sure our sites are accessible so that no matter who visits our site (yes, including Google’s crawlers) has an enjoyable experience. By implementing these 5 tips into your site you can make your site more inclusive for everyone. Remember, accessibility is not a set it and forget it type thing but rather an ongoing process that you must revisit to make sure your site is up to date and accessible to all.