It is a truth universally acknowledged that having an online presence in the form of a blog or web page is paramount to running a business. But when it comes to amplifying one’s message, very few have thought about how to expand their readership beyond the traditional routes of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and social media marketing. Business owner, say hi to the internet’s long ignored friend: Web Accessibility.
What is Web Accessibility?
Simply put, web accessibility means making the content on your site as readable, understandable, and easy to navigate as possible. Now one might counter: But if I can read and understand my site then everyone should be able to right? The spoiler here is that no, web accessibility affects anyone who uses the web, regardless of age or physical capability.
Should my business bother with web accessibility: A self-evaluation
A common misconception is that web accessibility applies only to people with disabilities, so most companies don’t put too much thought into it. The truth is most of us at one point or another has required some form of accessibility. Take this quick self-evaluation test to see whether it matters to your business. Make a mental check-off for every point you can relate to:
- The text on a website is really small, especially on mobile.
- The colours on the site makes it hard to read.
- I keep clicking on the wrong link because the links were too close together.
- The page is not in the language I am familiar with.
- I can’t figure out how get to the next step on the page. Guess I’ll just use the “Help” button.
- There’s text everywhere, I can’t find the information I came here for.
“A common misconception is that web accessibility applies only to people with disabilities.”
Chances are you could identify with at least 2 of the items on the list. An especially important point to note: many of the above scenarios are amplified if you are middle-aged, above middle-aged, or have some form of physical disability, whether permanent or temporary (e.g. recovering from corrective eye surgery, a sprained ankle, etc.).
A Beginner’s Guide to Web Accessibility
The bad news is true accessibility requires a lot effort, planning, and time—not to mention quite a bit of manpower. The good news is it can be done in phases, and you can start with the elements already present on your site/blog.
Note: True accessibility involves much more than the superficial elements outlined below. Even if you followed all the points in this article you would only have managed to just scratch the surface. But don’t let that stop you! Here goes:
Choose the right template
If your blog or site is created through a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, make sure you choose a template that is accessible. This means the creator of the template has taken the trouble to design the colours, fonts, and other elements readable and easy to navigate.
WordPress has a directory of accessible themes
When writing articles, make sure to order your ideas with headings. Headings help readers scan through an article for main ideas and allows those with visual impairments to navigate the article easily. Heading 1 (H1) is usually used for the title of the article, and that setting comes with most blog themes.
For subheadings, use Heading 2 (H2). Do not skip heading levels, use headings in sequential order (e.g. H2 followed by H3). Skipping heading levels will affect the hierarchy of the content on your article, and may confuse readers.
Links should be at least 3 words long. This provides a little more surface area for people who have difficulty using a mouse/trackpad with precision (e.g. someone with a sprained wrist).When writing links, use descriptive text as opposed to a generic “CLICK HERE” or “read more”. Also, avoid using the entire link itself as link text.
Alternative text gives visually impaired users a textual description of your image, making it easier for them to understand your article. In the event that an image doesn’t load, the alternative text will appear in its place, which will give sighted users an idea of what was meant to be there in the first place.
Choose the right fonts
Choose a font that’s designed for screen readability. Verdana and Tahoma are popular san serif fonts for online reading. For more classic-looking fonts, Georgia and Merriweather are quite easy on the eyes. Besides picking the right font, it’s also important to make sure there is sufficient contrast between the font colour and the background colour.
Short, concise sentences make it easy for anyone to get your message. It also helps those reading your page with a language translator get better quality translations. If your article is particularly long, use headings, bullet points, and images to break up large bodies of text and give your reader a bit of a breather.
No time or money to get your site translated? Google provides a free website translator plugin that embeds Google Translator directly into your website. This is particularly useful for companies with overseas markets.
Ready to take your accessibility even deeper? Check out these resources to learn how to make your site FULLY accessible.