In a perfect world, no one would ever have trouble loading a website in their browser and interacting with its content. But as I’m sure you know, the world is far from perfect. Just because a user visits your site does mean they were able to engage with your business or digest your content. For some people, there are a lot of frustrating roadblocks that stem from a lack of consideration.
People with special needs and disabilities often have increased difficulties browsing websites that weren’t intentionally designed it to be highly accessible. Conditions like loss of hearing, impaired vision, motor skills conditions, and other similar types of disabilities can make browsing the web a challenge.
There are two main beneficial reasons to make your website more accessible. First and foremost, it’s a practical design choice because it makes your audience larger. Secondly, it shows that you are mindful and care about people with special challenges. Today we’re going to take a look at some of the top ways to make your website more accessible. Let’s start by considering your website’s color scheme.
1. Use a High Contrast Color Scheme
First off, consider that a high contrast color scheme is easier on everyone’s eyes, and helps them read your content faster. However, note that some colors schemes can make it darn near impossible for people with color blindness to read.
Note that the following are the main types of color blindness:
- Red and green blindness
- Blue and yellow blindness
- Monochromacy (complete color blindness)
2. Keyboard Navigation
Your website also needs to be highly keyboard-friendly to be accessible for several reason. Firstly, some people who struggle with motor skills have a diminished ability to use a computer mouse. Additionally, many accessibility aids and technologies rely solely on the use of a keyboard. As such, you need to make sure that you can navigate through all the menus of your website easily with a keyboard.
With exception of mobile devices, I bet most people don’t realize how frustrating it can being trying to navigate a website from a desktop or laptop computer without a mouse. Try navigating your website without the use of a mouse, instead using the Tab key to browse through content and your website’s main features. If you found it overwhelmingly frustrating, difficult, or contrived, you may want to consider using an accessibility plugin like Accessibility to make your content more keyboard friendly.
3. Add Appropriate Alt-Text to Your Images
First off, you should already be adding alt-text (alternative text) to your images. Believe it or not, it is still a ranking factor that affects your SEO score. Failing to add alt-text is a missed SEO opportunity that could otherwise help improve organic rankings. However, most people aren’t aware that alt-text is also important for accessibility, especially for those who are vision impaired.
People with vision impairments use programs called screen readers. Screen readers, aptly named, read text aloud to people who would otherwise not be able see it. And screen readers communicate the contents of photos and images by grabbing the alt-text. From an SEO perspective, it’s best to try to incorporate keywords into the alt-text – just make sure you are being adequately descriptive for vision impaired visitors!
4. Divide Large Content with Headers and Anchor Links
Yet again, you should already be using headers because header markup is a ranking factor for your SEO score by the Google algorithm. Though we don’t know the algorithm’s inner workings, most people agree incorporating keywords into headers is still a viable practice. However, be aware that headers make your content more accessible by breaking up large walls of text and making it easier to scan.
Furthermore, you should be using anchor links in especially long pieces of content. An anchor link uses the following format:
- <a href=“#ID”>Link-Text</a>
It can be used to link to any on-page element that has an ID, which helps the visitor by saving them the hassle of combing through your content and endlessly scrolling until they find the information they wanted. Anchor links are notably useful in long guides by creating a table of contents near the top of the content.
WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications) landmarks should also be employed to make your website more accessible. Most people don’t realize that dynamically generated content can cause issues for screen readers if not dealt with appropriately.
Without appropriate use of landmarks, screen readers will often fail to identify fresh dynamically generated content, which leaves the disabled visitor completely in the dark. Landmarks, on the other hand, help by tagging and identifying dynamic content to better communicate with screen readers.
So far, we have only looked at ways to make textual and navigation elements more accessible, but so many businesses create video content these days, it’s undoubtedly an advantage to make videos more accessible with subtitles. While it is true that many hearing impaired individuals can read lips, be aware that a host or presenters mouth may not always be visible in the video.
Furthermore, consider that a lot of videos don’t necessarily depict a human being. For instance, a how-to guide detailing the steps to replace a hard drive in a computer may only show a pair of hands and a laptop on a work bench. Subtitles, however, will remedy this problem for hearing impaired visitors.
Accessibility typically isn’t the first thing on peoples minds when designing a website, but it is a crucial element that must be addressed. Without consideration of accessibility elements, you are alienating a portion of your audience, which equates to a missed opportunity.
If you don’t know how to incorporate accessibility elements into your website or simply don’t have the time, it’s time to reach out to an experienced web design and SEO professional to help you more effectively reach your audience to increase your bottom line.