In the early days of web design, accessibility was not an issue that may site owners considered. Those days are long gone. Today, accessibility is an increasingly important issue in web design, and designers and businesses alike recognize the benefits—and necessity—of sites being made with accessibility issues in mind. In the future, many experts in the field predict that accessibility will be a requirement for websites under ADA guidelines and for SEO success. Accessibility is already a requirement for government websites, and as search engines become more and more adept at delivering high-quality results for users, accessibility is likely to become one more factor on which sites are judged. If you’re not sure how to make your website accessible—or why you should—this information will help.
What makes a website accessible?
Accessible websites can be used by people who have disabilities or other conditions that impact the way that they use the web. This includes disabilities such as impaired vision, impaired hearing, cognitive disabilities, motor skill disabilities, and photosensitive seizure disorders. There are adaptive technologies that can help people with these issues use the web, but if your site isn’t designed to work with those technologies, your site will not be accessible. Some of the technologies that support website accessibility that you visitors may be using include speech recognition software, screen readers, and Braille keyboards.
What are some accessible design features?
There are many different was to keep accessibility in mind when you design a website. Some key design features include:
- Keyboard-friendly design. This refers to website design that can be navigated using only a keyboard instead of requiring a mouse. Many adaptive technologies can only be used via the keyboard, so if your site doesn’t allow navigation without a mouse, no one using adaptive technologies will be able to use it.
- Dynamic contact tagging. If your site has dynamic content that changes without the user refreshing the page, then it should be tagged so with ARIA landmarks or live region tagging, so that screen readers know that the page content has changed.
- Accessible form design. All users forms on your site should have clearly labeled fields and easy to understand instructions. On forms, and throughout your site, use text sizes that are appropriate for the content. H1 headline content should only appear on pages one time.
- No Automatic Features. Do not allow music or videos to start when someone comes to your website. Every web user dislikes this feature, and it will interfere with many kinds of adaptive technologies. Automatic navigation, such as slides that change automatically, should also be avoided. Allow each user to access content for the amount of time that they need, rather than prescribing a time limit through automation.
Ideally, every aspect of your design and every subsequent piece of content you put on your site should be created with accessibility in mind. Accessibility doesn’t require a significant amount of additional time or resources to incorporate into your site, and often, things you do for accessibility purposes make your site more user-friendly for everyone while enhancing your SEO results. For example, adding alt text to your images and making sure that links have descriptive anchor text will not only make your site more accessible but will also improve your search engine rankings.
What are the benefits of accessible website design?
There are several reasons that accessible web design matters. The most obvious benefit is that it allows everyone to have access to the same information and services online. In the real world, there is an expectation that everyone will be able to go to the same places and do the same things, regardless of disabilities, and accessible web design brings that principle to the web.
For businesses, there is a tangible reason to make websites accessible: to allow all customers access to goods and services. When your website isn’t accessible, you drive away customers, who will likely head to your competitors instead.
People who watch website trends believe that accessibility is likely to be a factor in SEO in the near future. Just as past changes to search engine algorithms have decimated the traffic of once popular websites that no longer meet modern design or content standards, a tweak that prioritizes accessible web design could drive the traffic of non-accessible sites down dramatically overnight. By embracing accessible design now, you’ll stay ahead of the curve.
Is your website holding back your content marketing success? At Pennington Creative, we can help you cut through the noise about content marketing and web design with industry-specific solutions that are customized for your specific needs, so your current—and future—customers can find you online. We help businesses of all sizes and budgets, and we can help your brand win in the competitive digital environment. Get started on your new digital strategy by scheduling a discovery call to learn more about how we can help your business grow its online presence and connect with more customers. Contact us online to set up a consultation with a digital marketing specialist in Tucson today.