Building an accessible website allows people to navigate through your site’s content with ease. People relying on accessibility tools can experience blindness, color blindness, low vision, be hard of hearing or deaf, or are away from a strong internet connection. Taking their experiences into consideration when designing your website will improve the user experience and help your website rank higher on search engines.
While there are external accessibility tools that people use to navigate the internet, there are settings you can add to the backend of your website that will make your site more user-friendly for both users and assistive technologies. Accessibility settings on the backend of a website are not extra spaces in your website to fill with keywords for your SEO (search engine optimization). These settings should be a tool that provides additional help for your users who are navigating your website with their accessibility tools.
What are Accessibility Tools?
Accessibility tools are external applications and devices that allow people with a disability to navigate information and websites on the internet.
- Screen Readers (Audio output)
- Tactile Output Machines (Refreshing Braille device)
- Screen Magnifiers
- Assistive Technologies (Speech recognition, head pointers, mouth sticks, or eye-gaze tracking systems)
Additionally, your website builder provides accessibility settings that make your content inherently more user-friendly. If you want your site to be accessibility-friendly, you should ensure each of these items are complete.
- Alternative Text (Description of an image that conveys the same information when the user view the image)
- Media Captions (Descriptions to make sure everyone understands the message and intention behind your media usage)
- Transcripts (Allows users to read content when they cannot listen to audio or watch a video)
- Compressed Images (Better loading capabilities when people are on low bandwidth)
- Heading Structure (Provides a clear outline of your website and content)
How does accessibility impact SEO?
It takes much more than having a mobile-friendly website to rank high on Google and other search engines today. The transition from desktop computers to mobile devices is a recent and tangible example of how search engines reward accessibility.
Years ago, search engines like Google noticed the shift to mobile devices, so they started rewarding websites with a responsive design that could shift to fit any screen (from desktops to smartphones to tablets and beyond) by showing their information higher in search results.
Today, maintaining an accessible website means more than designing for mobile devices; it means designing your website for all users all the time. An accessible website is more straightforward for search engines to crawl and index, for people with disabilities to interact with your content, people in areas with poor internet connectivity to access your content, and more. By taking a few extra steps in the designing process, you will ensure that any potential visitor to your website will be able to navigate your website and learn more about your business.
What does it look like to have an accessible website?
When adding images to your website, whether for a web page or a blog entry, you may notice a field called “alt text” or “alternative text.” This space adds descriptive text to display when an image will not load (such as when a user is experiencing poor internet connection) or using a screen reader to interact with your content. Think beyond your keywords when creating the alt text for your images and focus on writing a quality description for your picture.
When designing your website, you should follow a clear and consistent structure for your navigation and page content. Create page titles that are descriptive yet succinct with readable URLs and follow a logical, easy-to-understand format.
Make use of the different heading tags in the correct order (Heading 1 for a section title, Heading 2 for the main points within that section, and so on) so people using screen readers can tab between your headings and easily find the information they need from your website. Avoid “empty headings” or headings that are not relevant to the information they precede to convey a clear website structure for anyone accessing your website.
When a link is unlabeled, the purpose of your link can be unclear to people navigating your website. By nesting a link within a sentence or providing more content to the link, you can help every person on your website access your content easily.
Creating transcripts, captions, and descriptions for your audio-visual content will improve the accessibility of your website for people using different tools to access your information. Including this alternative content will also help people accessing your website in loud areas or areas with poor internet connectivity.
You can add the caption for an image or graphic directly under the image on your website. For audio or video transcripts, you can add those at the bottom of the webpage. When writing your transcript, consider any information or meaning someone could miss by not seeing or hearing the video on your website.
It is important to include explanations or definitions for jargon, abbreviations, and acronyms used on your website or in your blogs. Remember, not everyone accessing your website will have the same background that you may expect.
If you are unsure what terms you should define, ask a friend or family member who has no connection to your business or industry to read through the content and let you know if something doesn’t make sense.
Once you understand what terms may need further clarification, you can create a website glossary to go along with your Frequently Asked Questions page and add a link to the dictionary each time you use an unfamiliar term or phrase. Another option is to incorporate the definition into how you use those terms the first time on any new page.
Should I work with a design agency to build my accessible website?
When you are ready to build your website or refresh an existing site to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the Web Accessibility Initiative, you can choose to make the website yourself or hire an agency to handle the design and development for you.
If you choose to build the website yourself, you can turn to a platform like WordPress that provides plugin accessibility tools like Userway. Once your website is live, you can check its accessibility with Usability Geek. However, if your business requires you to be more engaged with the day-to-day operations, choosing a digital marketing agency can help you meet your goals quickly and efficiently.
Lazarus Design Team is here to help you design your accessible and user-friendly website to boost your online visibility and grow your business. Contact our team today, and let’s get started so you can connect with your clients, customers, and community no matter where they are or how they access your website.