At Getfused, we follow a human-centered design process that demands that we put the needs of the users first. As part of this philosophy, we always strive to build accessible sites.
Why should you care about Accessibility?
When people hear “accessibility,” they often fall into the trap of thinking we are compromising on design to accommodate visitors who have disabilities. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
- Accessible sites are easier for everyone to use
People on the web are very fickle because there’s always another option a few clicks away. A frustrating UX can drive your potential customers into your competitors’ arms. The rules of accessibility are good guidelines for designing a smooth and hassle-free experience, which will lead to happier users, more engagement, and a higher conversion rate.
Think of how wheelchair-friendly buildings become easier for everyone to use. Ramps and elevators that make buildings wheelchair-accessible also help parents with baby strollers and delivery men with dollies. Imagine if there were two similar stores next to each other, one accessible and one not – which one do you think would get more business?
- You can reach a wider audience with an inclusive design
People with disabilities, especially impaired vision, will have an easier time using your site when your design does not leave anyone out. If your site is hard to read because of color contrast, or because an important picture doesn’t load and there’s no alt text to explain the missing information, or users are viewing their screens in bright light or darkness, then you’re not reaching as much of your audience as you could.
- Accessible sites are SEO-friendly.
Search engine spiders are not much different from the screen reader software that vision-impaired people use. By making your site accessible to screen readers, search engines will also be able to scrape more content.
- You could be at legal risk
Suits have been filed against major brands who don’t meet criteria specified by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA defines federal standards of accessibility in the physical and virtual world to ensure people with disabilities access all the same amenities and opportunities as able-bodied people.
To help with this, the World Wide Web Consortium created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines served as a stopgap while the Department of Justice updated the ADA to include regulations specifically addressing the accessibility of goods and services offered via the web by entities covered by the ADA.
What needs to be done?
Building an accessible design involves everyone from designers, to developers, to content managers. We plan for accessibility from the start to make sure the code is written to the proper standards and the brand style guide meets our criteria. Once a site is launched, an ongoing effort from content managers is required to ensure the site continues to remain accessible. Keep the following in mind:
- Avoid low-contrast styles
Readability takes a huge hit when text color isn’t a high enough contrast with background color. Lower-contrast color schemes can look more minimalist and clean, but at a steep price: users can’t see your message! We are careful to create a color palette with acceptable contrast, but content managers must keep contrast in mind when selecting images or getting creative with design.
Low contrast is forbidden by accessibility guidelines because a large portion of the population suffers from some level of vision impairment. Even perfect-sighted users can have trouble with low contrast if they are using older devices or are outside on a sunny day with glare on their screens. High-contrast visual designs display well on older monitors and are still readable in bright sunshine.
- Make proper use of headings
Headings serve an important role in establishing the structure of a document. Every page should have exactly one <h1>, a top-level heading which clearly states the subject of the page. Lower-level headings (<h2> – <h6>) break the content into smaller, hierarchical chunks. Using font weight and size to create “pseudo-headings” gives the visual benefits of a heading, but does not give you the semantic, structural benefits of <h2> – <h6>. There is no limit to the number of headings you can use per page, so don’t hold back breaking things into bite-sized chunks. Your users will thank you. Read more tips for content writing on the web
- Provide meaningful alternative text for images
Alt text serves a few purposes. It is shown as a placeholder when an image doesn’t load. It is scraped by search engine spiders to get a better idea of the content and purpose of a page. Perhaps most importantly, it is read by screen readers used by blind and vision-impaired users. Without alt text, these folks miss out on any context the image provides.
Well-written alt text should concisely explain the content of the image, using strong SEO keywords. Every image should have alt text, except for purely decorative images that don’t contribute to the message. Examples include decorative textures and borders that exist purely to enhance the design without providing any information.