1 in 6 Australians have a disability – that’s over 4.4 million people. We use the internet every day, but not every website has been made accessible to everyone. It can be easy to set aside accessibility changes in favour of improving the development and design of a website or optimising the site for SEO but ensuring that everyone can view and interact with your website is extremely important. Not only is it increasing awareness for web accessibility, but you’re also helping your customers!
People who have impaired vision, colour-blindness, motor controls, learning disabilities, or are deaf or hard of hearing need to be able to access your website, and making your website accessible for them is incredibly easy – there are even plugins and programs that do it all for you.
Here are some of the ways you can make your website more accessible.
Part One: Text Changes
Text makes up a significant portion of a website. Without it, information would be difficult to convey. Users without disabilities may not notice when website text isn’t accessible, but small changes can actually make reading and interacting with text more manageable for people with disabilities and the elderly.
Alt text (or alternative text) is the written description of an image. Alt text has several different uses. If an image fails to load, the alt text can appear in its place in the Inspect window. Alt-text is excellent for SEO, as it helps search engine crawlers know what is appearing in the image. Most importantly, alt text helps those who have a visual impairment. Screen reading tools, which assist those with impaired vision navigate web pages, cannot translate images into text, so the alt text provides a description that can be relayed to the user.
Adding alt text to your images is simple and goes a long way. When adding alt text, be as specific as possible, and include the context of the image. Instead of “Woman points at the computer screen”, maybe include more details about the picture, and instead, write “Business manager pointing to a graphic designer’s computer screen”.
Increasing the size of the font on a website can make all the difference to users with a visual disability. The ability to increase or decrease the font size to their liking allows users to find a font size that works for their vision, instead of relying only on the browser’s zoom feature, which can make scrolling tedious and conflict with the format of the web page.
Links within a webpage are incredibly important, and not just from an SEO standpoint. They help users navigate your website, and if some of your visitors can’t access those links, then they (and your business) are missing out on the opportunity to purchase your products or services. While coloured hover text can alert the user to a link, it isn’t enough. Links need to be clearly outlined and visually accessible, either by underlining the link, highlighting it, or outlining the text.
Users with motor impairment may use keyboard navigation to access your site, and links need to be visible and accessible via keyboard for them to click on them.
Making your links more accessible and visible also draws attention to them – so if you want to drive users to your product page, make it loud! You’ll be helping your customers and directing them to where they can buy your products.
Along with accessing links, your anchor text also needs to be descriptive and understandable. Anchor text is the text where the link is located; many websites will use phrases such as “click here” or “read more”. For those users with learning or cognitive disabilities, these phrases don’t give enough information. Longer and more descriptive sentences, such as, “Click here to visit our blog” or “Read more about this particular product”, help navigate and direct users to where you want them to go and tell them exactly what to expect when they click on the link.
Page Titles and Headings
As well as altering your anchor text to be more accessible, it’s also worth looking at your page titles and headings. Page titles are the sentences and descriptions, often short, that appear in Google when users first see your website; they also appear in the tab description when opened. Headings exist within the webpage itself, breaking down the text into smaller sections.
Both these items of text need to be understandable and informative for search engine optimisation and those with learning or cognitive disabilities. Placing the headings in the correct order is also important. Usually, in HTML coding, headings are numbered from one to six, with H1 being the main heading for the page and the other numbers following; H2 for subheadings, H3 for headings with H2, etc. Placing bigger headings under smaller headings can confuse and alter the way the text and the web page are perceived.
Understandable and readable content
When you look at your website, the first thing you notice is the text. If your text isn’t readable or understandable, users will not want to visit your website.
Colourful backgrounds might fit your business’ style but opting for a more neutral background may improve your users’ experiences if they are unable to read the text.
Your website may be aimed at specialist clients, for example, if your business caters to other companies or is more industrial in nature but ensuring that users can understand the content on your website is key to their continued business with you. Overcomplicated language can confuse your audience and alienate those who don’t understand. No matter your industry, straightforward language and clear instructions and directions can go a long way in ensuring that everyone who visits your website can understand your content.
If you have questions about how you can make your website more accessible, why not talk to a member of our team? You can visit our contact page to have a chat or make an appointment.