Investing in the best web design, search engine optimization, and marketing won’t be worth much if people can’t actually use your website. This is why you need to think about web accessibility when building and maintaining your website. An accessible website will rank higher, attract more users, and overall improve user experience. Not to mention – a certain level of accessibility is mandated by law, so compliance with the regulations will keep you out of legal trouble. It’s essential that you gain a better understanding of what accessibility means and how you can achieve it.
What is web accessibility?
Web accessibility refers to the ease with which users can access, perceive, navigate, and understand your website regardless of their abilities. Typically, the term is used to stress the need for better accessibility for people with disabilities. For example, one might talk about adding captions to video so that viewers with hearing impairments can enjoy them or making pages easier to interpret for screen readers so that users with visual impairments can perceive and navigate them better. But accessibility may also refer to overcoming obstacles that make your website temporarily difficult to fully engage with, such as poor internet connection or a small screen.
Different types of web accessibility
Users will face different difficulties when accessing your page. When it comes to more or less permanent medical disabilities, your users may experience:
- visual impairment such as blindness, low vision, or color blindness, which makes it difficult or impossible for them to perceive your website
- hearing impairments such as deafness and auditory processing disorders, which make it difficult or impossible to consume audio content
- neurological conditions such as epilepsy, MS, migraines, and more which may cause issues with accessing or consuming certain types of content
- cognitive disabilities such as dyslexia, ADHD, and memory disorders which can make it difficult to comprehend some content fully
- motor disabilities such as muscle atrophy, limited fine motor control, or the inability to use fingers and hands, which can make it challenging to navigate a website
When it comes to situational obstacles, your users may face: poor internet connection, accessing a website while on the move, too much or too little light in the room, being in a situation where they cannot play sounds, not being able to fill in personal information due to security concerns, and more. All of these will affect how users engage with your website. You want everyone who visits your website to have the best possible experience because a good user experience is a sure path to increased conversion rates. So when you’re designing your website and creating content, take all of these potential issues into account. With a few tweaks, you can ensure that even people facing various disabilities get to enjoy your website.
Why is web accessibility important?
Making your website more accessible does require some additional effort. You need to take into consideration all the different types and levels of disability. Then, you need to design your website around them. But all this work pays off in the end for several reasons.
Accessibility is the legal standard
Most countries have regulations in place that require all websites to comply with a certain level of web accessibility. Both the US and the EU have laws regarding this. So look into your local accessibility laws. Then, make sure you’re following them and evaluate your website regularly to stay on the right path. Otherwise, you could get sued, and that can end up costing you quite a bit of money.
Accessible websites attract broader and more diverse audiences
Users with disabilities will always choose accessible websites over those that are difficult for them to take full advantage of. According to some estimates, around 15% of the world population lives with some form of disability. So you could be losing quite a few users if you’re not paying attention to this aspect of your site. A website that is easily accessible to a wider user base will also attract a wider user base – this is simple logic.
Overall user experience improves with accessibility
Thinking about accessibility only in terms of disability is a common mistake. But making your website accessible will benefit all your users without hurting anyone. Even users who face no difficulties with accessing your website will surely appreciate easier navigation, easily understandable content, and different options for consuming it.
Improved accessibility leads to better rankings
Improving the accessibility of your website will have a positive impact on your SEO efforts too. First of all, accessible websites attract more traffic. Secondly, the improved user experience keeps more people on the website for more extended periods of time. Finally, accessible websites aren’t just more accessible for people – they are also more accessible for search engine bots. All this will affect your rankings.
It is a moral and ethical imperative
When you invest in a new website, you usually do it because you get something out of it. Your website is a source of income for your business. But profits should never come at the expense of equal and equally kind treatment of others. As a business owner, you have a moral obligation to treat all your users well. This includes users with disabilities. Improving accessibility is just one easy way to make their lives better. So why wouldn’t you do it?
How can you improve web accessibility?
An accessible website is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. This means that everyone can access your content, complete all tasks, understand everything, and use your website on multiple platforms. To achieve this, you need to think about:
- accessible web design: using easy-to-read fonts, minimalistic themes, and images that aren’t affected by color blindness, avoiding flashing videos and optimizing for smaller screens of mobile devices
- accessibility in website structure: having a well organized and predictable website architecture, using static URLs, adding navigational tools like sidebars and crumbs, making every page accessible within three clicks
- accessible content: making your content easy to view, read, and understand in different formats by using simple language, adding alt tags to images, and captioning videos
Improving web accessibility is not very difficult. For the most part, it is a matter of minor adjustments, and yet, accessibility can make a massive difference for your users and for you. So there is really no excuse for not paying attention to it!