As the world becomes increasingly digitized, it's important that everyone has equal access to information and resources online. This is where web accessibility best practices come in.
Web accessibility means that websites, tools and technologies are designed and developed in a way that allows people with disabilities to use them. This includes people who have visual, hearing, motor or cognitive impairments.
Making your website accessible can not only help your business reach a larger audience, but it can also improve your SEO ranking and boost conversion rates. Actually, case studies have shown that accessible websites tend to perform better overall than those that are not accessible.
To really break this all down, I’ll start by sharing the benefits of building an accessible website, then delve into some key guidelines and best practices to help you do it!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 7 Benefits of Digital Accessibility
- Reduce legal risk
- Expand your reach
- Enhance your brand image and credibility
- Improve SEO
- Increase conversion rates
- Improve user experience
- Write cleaner code
- 7 Web Accessibility Best Practices
- Make text readable and understandable
- Organize content in a logical way
- Provide alternative text for images
- Create videos with captioning and transcripts
- Design forms that are easy to use
- Use jump links
- Test your website regularly for accessibility issues
7 Benefits of Digital Accessibility
1. Reduce legal risk
The first reason why web accessibility is important has to do with reducing your legal risk.
If your website is not accessible, you could be opening yourself up to lawsuits. In fact, there have already been a number of high-profile cases where companies have been sued for inaccessible websites.
Making your website accessible isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s necessary from a legal standpoint.
2. Expand your reach
By making your website accessible, you’re essentially opening up your business to a whole new audience.
According to a report from the W3 Web Accessibility Initiative, “the global market of people with disabilities is over 1 billion people with a spending power of more than $6 trillion.”
Additionally, 82% of shoppers with disabilities will choose to shop at websites they know to be accessible, even if they are more expensive or offer an inferior product.
If your website is not accessible, you’re automatically excluding a large portion of the population and leaving money on the table.
3. Enhance your brand image and credibility
In today’s day and age, consumers are interested in doing business with companies that share their values.
Making your website accessible sends a strong message that you care about inclusion and diversity. This can help improve your brand image and make your business more credible in the eyes of potential customers.
4. Improve SEO
One of the lesser known benefits of web accessibility is that it can actually help with search engine optimization (SEO). The two have some shared endeavors, so when you work on one you also improve the other.
For example, both SEO and web accessibility strategies include utilizing metadata (like meta titles, meta descriptions and alt tags), implementing structured data, and adding closed captions and video transcripts.
If your website is not accessible, you are likely also hurting your SEO and making it harder for people to find your business online.
5. Increase conversion rates
Making your website accessible can also have a direct impact on your conversion rates.
Every customer will benefit from an easier-to-use, more efficient, and easier-to-find website if it complies with accessibility rules. All of this significantly raises conversion rates.
“When users with visual impairments are faced with accessibility blocks, two-thirds abandon their transactions” - Contentsquare Foundation Director, Marion Ranvier
6. Improve user experience (UX)
Directly related to conversion is the overall customer experience on our website.
Take a look at the following list. These are a few things customers with disabilities wish online retailers knew about how to create a better user experience.
- Users are more likely to abandon your website than ask for help
- Everything on the screen needs to be accessible by keyboard
- Images need descriptions and alt text to help assistive technologies like screen-readers
- Your color scheme or contrast ratio can make it difficult for users to read your content
- Sites that are too crowded with information are tough to navigate
- Animations on your site can literally make people feel sick or cause seizures
- Videos are great but often need better captions
- A difficult or confusing checkout process can cause users to leave
7. Write cleaner code
Last but not least, making your website accessible can actually lead to cleaner and more well-organized code.
When you’re building an accessible website, you have to pay attention to things like proper nesting of elements, use of semantic markup, and ensuring that all content is available in HTML (rather than relying on images or other non-text content).
This can lead to cleaner and more well-organized code, which can make your website faster and easier to maintain.
7 Web Accessibility Best Practices
We’ve covered why web accessibility is important and some of the benefits of making your website accessible. But what does that actually mean in terms of practical steps you can take to make your site more accessible?
Here are seven guidelines for accessible and usable web sites:
1. Make text readable and understandable
The first step in making your website accessible is to ensure that all the text on your website is easy to read and understand.
This means using simple language, avoiding jargon, choosing a readable font and font size and breaking up large blocks of text into smaller chunks. You should also make sure that text can be resized without losing functionality.
2. Organize content in a logical way
All too often, websites are a jumble of information with no clear structure.
To make your website more accessible, you should use proper headings and structure to organize your content.
This makes it easier for people to find information, navigate and interact with your site.
3. Provide alternative text for images and buttons
Another important accessibility best practice is to provide alternative text (alt text) for all the images on your website. This is important to add to buttons as well — to make sure there’s some amount of text describing the function of the button.
When writing alt text, be sure to describe what’s happening in the image and why it’s important. For example, “A picture of a dog sitting in front of a computer” is not as helpful as “A service dog watching its owner work from home.”
4. Create videos with captioning and transcripts
Videos are a great way to engage your audience and share information. But if you want to make them accessible, you need to include captioning and transcripts.
This is important because people who are deaf or hard of hearing may not be able to hear the audio in your videos.
5. Design forms that are easy to use
Forms can be nearly impossible to use if they're not well-designed and properly labeled.
When designing these, be sure to label each form field clearly. This includes using the proper input type (e.g., text, radio button, checkbox, etc.) and providing clear instructions on how to fill out the form.
And don’t forget about error messages! Make sure they’re clear and helpful so that users can easily fix any problems.
6. Use jump links
You should also incorporate jump links (skip links) whenever possible. This allows users to quickly navigate to the section they’re interested in without having to scroll through all of the content on your page.
This is especially helpful for people who use screen readers, as it saves them from having to listen to the entire page before they can get to the content they’re interested in.
7. Test your website regularly for accessibility issues
To ensure that your website is accessible and compliant with the latest accessibility standards, you need to test it regularly.
This includes using various tools to check for common accessibility issues, such as missing alt text, low color contrast and empty buttons.
You should also test your website using different browsers and devices. This helps you catch any accessibility issues that may only be apparent in certain browsers or devices. Some of the most popular accessibility testing tools include WAVE, axe, and Accessibility Insights.
Make sure your website is accessible to everyone, regardless of ability, and you’ll reap the benefits of a wider audience and improved user experience.
We’re eager to help you make your website a more inclusive experience for users. If you’d like some help building or designing an accessible website, connect with one of our design and developer experts!