In the early days of web design, accessibility was not an issue that many site owners considered. Today, however, accessibility is an increasingly important issue in web design—for designers and businesses alike. Many experts predict that accessibility will eventually be a requirement for websites under ADA guidelines and for SEO success. Accessibility is already a requirement for government websites. As search engines become more adept at delivering high-quality results for users, accessibility is likely to become ever more important. 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 how 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 website accessibility technologies that your visitors may use 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 type of website can be navigated using only a keyboard, instead of requiring a mouse. You need a mouse to use a lot of adaptive technologies, which excludes many people from using them.
- Dynamic contact tagging. Does your site has dynamic content that changes without the user refreshing the page? If so, it should be tagged 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. Avoid automatic navigation, such as slides that change automatically. Allow each user to access content for the amount of time that they need, rather than prescribing a time limit through automation.
Ideally, you should create every aspect of your site’s design and content with accessibility in mind. Accessibility doesn’t require a significant amount of additional time or resources to incorporate into your site. What’s more, things you do for accessibility purposes make your site 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, we expect that everyone can have access to the same places, regardless of disabilities. 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.
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