In the past, we’ve covered an array of topics on website optimization and visitor acquisition. From responsive web design and SEO to CRM solutions, a plethora of choices can influence how well a website performs. However, a crucial aspect of content optimization that many may overlook is how accessible a website is. Indeed, poor accessibility can hamper the experience of many visitors, negatively affecting your endeavors. This is what this post intends to address.
Fortunately, there are many easy ways to make your website more accessible. Between a better customer experience and a marketing scope expansion, it’s in your best interest to do so. What’s more, its humanistic core aside, laws in some areas also mandate accessibility to some degree. Thus, identifying the underlying issues that might make your site inaccessible by some people should be the first step. Then, you can rectify such issues to guarantee your site welcomes all visitors. Read on to find out how to do so, quickly and easily.
Why accessibility is important
As outlined above, accessibility is vital. Making your website more accessible is not only noble but also beneficial to all parties involved. To you, it provides an opportunity to expand your potential audience. To your audience, it provides easier navigation and more pleasant experience. It future-proofs your site, boosts your SEO, and, depending on your local laws, lets you stay legally clear.
It is by no means a niche endeavor either; the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) project has been working towards it for over two decades. Community-driven projects of this nature have also existed for years, and continue to thrive. Notably, WordPress itself has its own accessibility team that specifically focuses on this aspect of website functionality. As a tremendously famous content management system (CMS), WordPress is used by 33,5% of all websites and has an approximate CMS market share of 60%. It has thus incorporated it into its SEO development philosophy, and so could you.
Having noted that accessibility is a goal worth pursuing, then, let us define it. Many impairments and conditions can affect a user’s abilities and cognition, making website navigation challenging. The most common ones among them include;
- Visual impairment
- Hearing impairment
- Cognitive disabilities
- Motor skills
- Physical disabilities
Many such conditions require that users use specific software or hardware to overcome them. From screen readers and speech recognition software to alternative keyboards, technology has made tremendous strides over recent years. There are many ways to make your website more accessible, then, if you work towards facilitating such software and hardware.
#1 Choice of color
Starting with visual impairments, it is vital that your website content is easily readable. Notably, this does not exclusively apply to visitors with color blindness or other visual impairments either. On the contrary, content that is easy to read will be more accessible and user-friendly for all visitors to your site.
You will thus need to make sure that your choice of colors does not disadvantage your content’s readability. Visitors should easily distinguish different elements on each page, without colors bleeding into each other. Ideally, dark and light colors should be set in contrast, instead of using similar shades of any color. Reviewing a page in monochrome should be a good way to assess how readable it might be to visitors with color blindness.
#2 Alt text
On the subject of visual aid, it is equally important to add alt text to all images. This term has many variations; alt text, alt tag, alt description, alternative text, and so on. One can use any of those terms interchangeably since they all mean the same thing – alt text “describes” an image.
The alt-text is displayed if an image fails to load. However, it is also used by screen readers to read an image and relay the information to the user. Regardless of your industry, alt text is a vital optimization asset to use. From custom-made websites for movers to online retail stores, alt text is always beneficial to incorporate into your site. Thus, alt text is a great and easy way to make your website more accessible, while also boosting your SEO score. WordPress offers a dedicated field for image alt text, so implementing it to your content should be easy.
Similarly, a proper content structure can make your website more accessible to all visitors. Using headers correctly can make your content more engaging, digestible, and easier to navigate.
It is noteworthy that screen readers also use headers to interpret pages. It takes very little effort to facilitate such software, by simply using a correct header distribution. Namely, you should always use one H1 per page. Then, subheadings can begin with H2, followed by H3 and H4 to denote further subtopics. WordPress offers very clear header feedback in its SEO analysis as well, so it takes minimal effort on your end.
Likewise, keyboard-friendliness is a key factor when it comes to accessibility. Many assistive technologies rely on keyboard-only navigation, so your site’s major features shouldn’t require a mouse to use. What’s more, structuring your website in this way will also make it more concise and user-friendly overall.
Keyboard-only navigation often focuses on the Tab key. The Tab key will jump between areas of a page that can have “keyboard focus.” Thus, you should ensure that navigation to all web content should be possible through the Tab key alone. This is a very straightforward issue to identify too; you can simply try to navigate your site without a mouse. If you cannot, pinpoint the problems you encounter and rectify them.
Lastly, mobile-friendliness is a vital optimization aspect of any website. A clean, user-friendly design will not just increase user engagement, but also help meet accessibility goals.
One cannot overstate the significance of mobile-friendliness. More and more users, in any way, impaired or otherwise, access websites through their phones. It is thus a vital aspect of both accessibility and SEO, as Google has also confirmed it affects rankings. Fortunately, it is also easy to test; Google Analytics provides tools that can test your website for you.