As the owner of a website, you will have spent time and money ensuring that the site has the right design and is as visible as possible in the search engine results. You want to attract high volumes of targeted traffic, so SEO is an important factor to consider when you’re updating your site.
But have you ever stopped to consider whether all of those web visitors are truly being catered for? Is your website really as accessible as you think it is?
In considering issues surrounding accessibility, the chances are that you confine your efforts to accommodating web visitors with visual impairments. But accessibility actually applies to far greater numbers of web visitors than you might imagine, such as those living with cognitive impairment dyslexia and temporary medical conditions that make using the internet more difficult.
If this isn’t something that you’ve previously considered, there’s no need to panic! We’ll show you how to make a website that offers genuine value to all of your visitors, whether or not they have any form of physical or cognitive impairment. Your web visitors will thank you, but that’s not the only reward on offer, as the search engines may also improve your rankings when you adopt a more inclusive approach.
Choose colours with care
Approximately 8 per cent of the population suffers from colour-blindness, which makes it impossible to differentiate between red and green. But other web users can also experience difficulties with some colour combinations too, with visual impairment making it difficult to pick out text against certain coloured backgrounds, for example. So make sure that you use contrasting colour combinations that allow the text to stand out, and use one of the many online tools that will help you to select the best colour options to make your site accessible to the majority of your site visitors.
Always include alt text where images are used
Remember that some of your site visitors will be using screen readers to access the information within your website. And since screen readers can’t provide visual descriptions, it’s absolutely crucial to make sure that you include relevant alt text whenever an image appears. Don’t forget to include this information on infographics too, since these images deliver up valuable text that can easily be lost to the visually impaired web visitor. And if your image is a clickable link, make doubly sure that your alt text provides all the information that your site visitor needs, so that they can make an informed decision as to whether to click on the link.
Include keyboard-only interactions
The majority of web visitors with accessibility issues will most probably use a keyboard-driven interface, without the use of a mouse. This means that every page across your website needs to respond to keystrokes. Check through every page of the site, ensuring that the ‘Tab’ button moves the cursor onto the next clickable field, and if it doesn’t, take steps to rectify the situation as a matter of urgency.
Avoid cluttered web pages
You may have a wealth of useful information to impart to your web visitors, but trying to cram too much into one page quickly causes confusion. Bear in mind that some visitors will be viewing your site on a large screen, whilst others will be using much smaller devices, so keep your pages uncluttered and streamlined. Areas of white space around blocks of text allow your message to really stand out, whereas blocks of text jumbled together quickly become confusing and unpleasant to read.
Use headers appropriately
The variety of heading types are designed to follow a natural structure as the owner of a website, you’re bound to spend time and money ensuring that your site is as visible as possible in the search engine results, with just one H1 title per page, followed by H2 headings, which are followed by H3 headings and so on. Never interfere with this natural progression, as the system is designed to work with screen readers to allow a natural flow of information.
Allow text to be resized
Visually impaired website users prefer to have the option of resizing text to suit their needs. For this to work effectively, the ability to resize text needs to be included at an early stage, so when discussing with your web design team as to how to make a website from the ground up, you should stress that font sizes must be relative, rather than absolute. So don’t allow your designers to define text by pixel size, which could rapidly disrupt the flow of your pages when scaled up, but insist on user scalability instead.
Enhance your video and audio content
Videos are a hot trend in modern web design, with increasing numbers of website owners opting to include podcasts and audio clips within their web pages. But this can cause extra problems for web visitors with auditory or visual impairment, so it’s important to consider ways in which they can also access the information. Make sure that you provide written transcripts, which can be accessed by screen readers, and include subtitles as a matter of course for any video content.