5 Ways To Improve Your Website's Accessibility
By Brittany LaPointe
In making your website accessible, you ensure that all potential users, including those living with disabilities, have a quality user experience (UX) and are able to access your information easily.
As an added benefit, by implementing accessibility best practices, you naturally improve the usability of your website for everyone and ensure your site meets a higher quality of online content. According to the World Wide Web Consortium, “Studies show that accessible websites have better search results, reduced maintenance costs, and increased audience reach, among other benefits.”
From a business standpoint, you want your product in front of as many people as possible and by approaching your site with an inclusive mindset, you have the chance to reach a much wider audience. What a huge opportunity.
Whether you are in the creation stage of building your website or are looking to make improvements to your existing site, these five tips will help you provide users and clients an accessible experience.
1. Consider all potential users
You want your website to be able to accommodate any and all visitors. To do this, you must take the time to think about the different users and their varying sets of needs.
It’s a good idea to keep this mixture of users in the back of your mind while constructing or editing your site because it will help mitigate issues along the way.
Examples of user types:
- Users suffering from hearing loss
- People with physical disabilities
- Visitors with impaired vision
- Alternative web client users
- Consider how most users will not be using the same web browsers and the majority of web browsers won’t accept mainstream front-end formatting. This means you’ll need to adjust the way your website is written to accommodate these types of users.
- People with a slow internet connection
- Think about the size of those image files uploading to your site. Larger image files and greater quantity of images can really take a toll on the loading speed of your pages.
- Technologically limited
- For instance, those who are only able to access on their mobile device, electronic reader, or gaming console.
- Those with situational limitations
- This can include a wide range of situations but consider like being in an environment with bright sunlight or somewhere they cannot listen to audio.
2. Establish a solid layout
Make your layout simple for the user to understand. You want to ensure your visitors can navigate through your content with ease. If a user pops onto your site and is unable to locate or understand where to find the information they’re searching for, it’s likely they’ll become frustrated. The consequence here is that the user will give up their search on your site and find the desired information elsewhere.
In today’s personalized, user-centric world, first impressions are crucial.
How do you keep your users engaged? By implementing the following elements consistently throughout your website.
- An easily accessible navigation bar
- Make sure this includes the highlights of your site and what you think will be the most helpful for the user to have immediate access to. Besides your homepage, the navigation bar also leaves a lasting first impression with the user.
- Clear headings
- Your headings should let the user know in an instant what the content associated with it is about. Keep it simple and make sure it grabs their attention. Make it worth their time so it’s easy for them to stay focused and pay attention.
- Consistent styling
- This includes font formatting, use of colors, spacing, etc.
- Reasonable button sizes
- This relates to consistency in styling and navigation. Buttons are a vital part of any site and interacting with them should not diminish the user’s experience. Having them at a reasonable size also aids with those with reduced dexterity.
- Easy to read notifications/error messages
- If you’re trying to pass on a message to the user, whether it be good or bad, you want to ensure they can identify and understand it. A user should never be left confused and wondering “what just happened?”
3. Ensure all content is legible
Legibility is key. Although a very simple concept, it can sometimes be overlooked. An easy way to ensure readability is to implement a high level of contrast on your site. By making sure your color selections enable the text to stand out from the background. This is a simple case of working smarter not harder.
4. Make your content adaptable
This tip is geared towards those with technology restrictions. Your content should have an easy transition from a desktop/laptop to mobile/other devices that can access your site. A common issue is trying to squeeze everything from your desktop site into your mobile version. You have much more space on a computer screen than you do on a cellphone, so you’ll want to reduce the amount of content in your mobile version.
For example, at the end of an article page, before your footer, there are typically panels located at the very bottom that prompt the user to either continue reading another article or to move to another location on the site.
On desktop, it’s easy and looks good when you include multiple panels because it’s giving the user several options to choose from. On mobile however, you’ll want to limit this to a single panel because it will be much more visually appealing. This solution doesn’t overwhelm the user, they won’t need to scroll through several panels or deal with incorrectly sized panels. On mobile devices, less is always more when it comes to creating a positive impact and user experience.
Think Test outside the box
Testing should be about more than just fine tuning the look of your site. If you want to take your testing to the next level, try putting yourself in your users’ shoes.
Refer back to Tip #1. During the creation process you should have been keeping the variation of user types in mind. This is the time to put that knowledge to the test. Here are some use case ideas that you can use when implementing your website test plan:
- Try navigating without a mouse
- Some users with a physical impairment may not be able to use one or both of their hands. A solution would be using the tab key to navigate.
- Download a new browser extension
- There are several amazing browser extensions available to help people with disabilities. An example of this is a text-to-speech extension. Try running one of these extensions on your site on (multiple web browsers) to see how it interacts with your content.
- Navigate your site as someone with impaired vision
- If you typically wear glasses/contacts or know someone who does, try navigating your site without them and see what issues you face. An alternative way you can try this is to put on a pair of sunglasses and see if the website is still inclusive.
There is plenty of room for creativity within each of these tips but the purpose is to get you thinking outside of the box. Thinking of others’ needs and how they may differ from your own will make a huge difference in helping you adapt/create your site.
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