How to make websites accessible
If you have a website, or are looking to create a website that you hope people will engage with, you need to consider web accessibility. We understand that this may be new information for you, so with that being said, here is all you need to know about web accessibility, why you should factor it into your website, and how you can do that.
What is website accessibility?
Website accessibility is all about making the Web inclusive and usable for everyone. The Web is such a huge resource library of everything we could possibly think of. It’s universal. The beauty of the Web is that it’s available to everyone, yet it’s not accessible to everyone - though it should be. Web accessibility works towards helping those who have sight problems understand what is on a web page, those who have hearing issues understand multimedia content, and those who have reading disabilities have the best chance of being able to see and read text online.
When Web accessibility isn’t factored into content that is posted online, it can mean that people with impairments of varying forms come up against barriers that result in them not being able to access or engage with content. With 1 in 5 people in the UK having a disability of some sort, that would mean that around 14 million people in the UK may be reliant on organisations considering web accessibility on their websites. In other words, that’s potentially up to 14 million prospective customers who can’t engage with your website if it’s not accessible…
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is in charge of developing international web standards. W3C introduced an initiative called Web Accessibility Initiative which is made up of various guidelines that sets out everything we should be considering when creating new online content.
It is the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) that sets out the standard for web content accessibility (as you can likely deduce 😅). Following these guidelines, web content should be: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.
Whilst a lot of the responsibility for accommodating these requirements lies in the hands of the self-build platform you are using to build your own website or with the web agency who is building the site, there is a great deal that you can put in place to add to your site’s accessibility.
What you can do …
Choose a content management system (CMS) that supports accessibility
There are many CMSs out there to choose from, but not all of them have the capabilities of creating accessible websites. We recommend you do your research before moving forward with a CMS in case it doesn’t offer the flexibility of making your website more accessible.
This is a huge consideration for agencies like us, since accessibility is so important, we need to be sure that the websites we build are accessible.
Using Alternative Text
Where non-text content is being used, such as images, icons or other graphics, alternative text should be in place. This text lies in the background of a website and should be used to explain what the image, icon or graphic is. This helps Google understand what the visual is and it’s also the only way for those who rely on screen readers to understand web content and process visual information on web pages.
Using closed captions for multimedia content
Multimedia content can include people speaking and also noises that help give context to a piece of media. If viewers are deaf, hard of hearing or they simply process the written word better than the spoken word, they will rely heavily on closed captions to understand the information. This is a great simple addition to your multimedia content that will mean those who require this alternative viewing experience to comprehend the content, can.
Using headings properly to structure your content
You may be familiar with heading hierarchies, referred to as H1, H2, H3 and so on. Headings give an overall summing up of the content that follows them and by following the hierarchy, this creates a page of content that has a logical structure. Properly defined headings are of benefit to those using screen readers, those with cognitive disabilities and also search engine crawlers.
How to use heading hierarchies properly
There is a method in using headings, which we will explain, so that implementing this into your content is as simple as possible.
A page of content should always only have one H1 heading, this is the title of the page and forms an umbrella of context around the information on the page.
A page can then have as many H2, 3, 4s etc. as it needs. H2s are next in the hierarchy. A good use of H2s is when the content is jumping to another branch of the overall topic. They help to break up the information and make content easier to digest.
Then we have H3s which may not even come into play with your content, but if they do this is where they sit within the hierarchy. Use a H3 heading if the content under a H2 heading requires a subheading. The logic is the same for H4s and so on, they are used beneath their superior heading when necessary. This paragraph is currently sat under a H4 heading.
Optimise your site’s URLs
We’ll start by saying that it’s always good to keep your URLs as short as they can be. Firstly, choose a domain that is either your business name or has a very close relevance to what you do. Once visitors move away from the homepage, to inner pages of the site, the URL will alter. When using a DIY website building platform, in a lot of cases, the platform will generate the URL path (text which follows on from the domain) which may result in a peculiar URL for that page. URLs can be changed within the settings, meaning they can become concise, relevant and ultimately more accessible. People, screen readers and search engine crawlers use URLs to understand what they will find on a web page. A complicated and illogical URL can deter users from heading to your website.
Whilst there are lots of things you can do yourself to help your site’s accessibility, there are other aspects involved in accessibility that may require a deeper dive behind the scenes of your website. This could include: how responsive (mobile friendly) your website is, altering the colour scheme to make sure the colour contrast is sufficient or assisted navigation.
P.s. all of the above will naturally contribute to your serch engine optimisation (SEO), so whilst more people will be able to understand and use your website, these accessibility best practices will also contribute to you being displayed higher in search engines - Win win!!
If you would like to join us in making the Web more accessible and would like to have an accessible website for your business, we would love to chat with you.