There’s a lot to think about when building a website, here we explore the importance of creating a site that’s accessible to all.
No matter what type of website you run, whether it’s an e-commerce store or a one-page business showcase, you’re going to want to attract as many visitors as possible.
The way to do this is to ensure your website is accessible. An accessible web design enables everyone to access your website and content, taking into account the needs of those with a disability.
According to the World Health Organisation, there are over 1 billion people in the world living with some sort of disability. That’s a lot of people you’re excluding from your website if it isn’t accessible.
In this article, we’ll explore the importance of an accessible website, the design features that work together to ensure your website is accessible to all, and how you can test your website’s accessibility.
What is an Accessible Website?
An accessible website is one that can be accessed and viewed by everyone, regardless of how they are surfing the web.
Website accessibility refers to the need for websites to utilize various tools and technologies in order to ensure visiting, navigating, understanding, and contributing to content is the same experience for every user.
The user journey of your website should be of the same standard no matter how a user is accessing your content.
Accessibility is a crucial part of the user experience. Not only does it refer to ensuring your website is accessible for users with disabilities, but it also involves taking steps to make sure your website is compatible with different devices such as desktop computers, smartphones, and tablets.
Why Should Your Website Be Accessible?
When building your website, accessibility should be a key part of the process and not an afterthought.
Firstly, an accessible website ensures as many people as possible can visit and enjoy your website. The last thing you want after you’ve designed and built a great website is to discover you’re blocking potentially hundreds of visitors.
Plus, Search engines such as Google simply won’t rank a website that isn’t accessible and doesn’t offer a strong user experience. A great user experience and strong accessibility can both impact your search engine performance.
What Makes a Website Accessible?
Luckily for website owners, there are official guidelines that you can refer to in order to ensure your website is accessible.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were created to set a universal standard that all websites worldwide should aim to meet in order to make their web content accessible. These accessibility considerations can be applied, not only to website design but to wider digital content like email marketing or social media.
There are also four key principles of accessibility that form the foundations for any content created and published online. They are:
- Perceivable – this refers to all aspects of the website being perceived by the human senses so that no aspect is hidden or inaccessible. For most users, this will be through sight but for those with a visual impairment, it may be sound or touch.
- Operable – all interactive aspects of the website such as navigation and buttons should be able to be operated by all users.
- Understandable – every user should be able to understand the content and its purpose.
- Robust – web content should be able to function across a variety of technologies and devices.
So how can you ensure you’re building a website that’s accessible? We’ve listed some of the key design features and principles you should consider below.
Use High Contrast Colours
Some users may have difficulty viewing your content if you opt for low-contrast colors. Using high-contrast color combinations such as black and white or black and yellow ensures everyone can read your content.
Enable Keyboard Navigation
In order for a website to be considered accessible users should be able to navigate it without a mouse. Clicking on links and accessing new pages should all be able to be done via a keyboard if necessary.
Add Captions to Videos
If you feature any video content on your website, be sure to include captions or transcripts so that users who are hard of hearing or even those whose devices have no sound can enjoy your content.
Include Alt Text on Images
Alt text is text that you can add in your image settings to describe the image to users who cannot see it. This way, all users are able to enjoy your website content.
Breakup Your Content with Headings
Using headings helps to break up your content to make it easier to digest for users. Clear headings also help screen readers to navigate through your webpage and interpret your content.
Ensure Your Website is Mobile Friendly
There are an array of different devices that people can use to access your website. Ensuring your website is optimized for mobile makes sure that your website will adapt no matter what the screen size.
How to Check if Your Website is Accessible
It’s important to regularly check your website for various performance issues, including how accessible it is.
There are various ways you can monitor the accessibility of your website in order to ensure it’s offering the best user experience possible for all visitors.
Use an Online Accessibility Checker – online accessibility checkers such as WAVE are tools that can evaluate the accessibility of your web pages. To use accessibility software you simply enter the URL of the page you want to check and you’ll receive a report flagging any potential issues.
Manually Check Your Website – a manual accessibility check will be more time-consuming than other alternatives. Use a checklist to ensure you’re conducting a thorough assessment of your website and view every page with accessibility as the priority.
Hire an Accessibility Expert – if you’re dedicated to making accessibility a core principle of your online brand then hiring an accessibility expert is a good idea. An accessibility expert will audit your site and provide actionable feedback and recommendations.
Website Accessibility at Every Step
An accessible website isn’t just to meet the needs of your end user either. Everyone from business partners and stakeholders to web developers and external consultants needs to be able to access your content.
Accessibility should be the priority at every step of your website build. Whether your site is a simple landing page or a full software product, adhering to accessibility standards helps you ensure that all users can engage fully. So, if you’re working in-house or are outsourcing digital product development, providing clear guidelines to your developers and designers is essential.
The ease with which people can access your content will have a major impact on your brand positioning.
Think about it, if a user struggles to explore your website or engage with your content what does that say about your brand? You want to be positioned as a brand that cares, not as one that doesn’t think about others.
Similarly, site audits should analyze accessibility whilst keeping up to date with the latest technologies and tools will ensure your website is staying ahead of the competition.
Make Your Site Accessible To All
The fact is, you simply can’t afford to not prioritize building an accessible website.
The good news though is that making a site accessible has never been easier and you have the potential to reach as many people as possible, even those who may have struggled to access websites in the past.
In this article, we’ve explored everything you need to know about why an accessible website is so important and the steps you can implement to ensure your site is up to scratch.
Incorporate website accessibility into every aspect of your web design and maintenance and you should have no problem welcoming an array of visitors to your site.