How to Improve Your Online Accessibility and Reach New Audiences
When was the last time you thought about whether your website content is accessible to everyone? 57 million Americans have some type of disability, but only about 2% of web pages are accessible to the disability community.
In today’s digital-first world, it’s more important than ever for businesses to think about how they’re addressing online accessibility. Web accessibility is vital towards contributing to an inclusive environment that is socially, ethically, and legally just.
From a marketing perspective, there are several benefits to improving your online accessibility. On the user end, consumers will see that you care about their experience and believe in your brand’s customer experience. When you improve your online accessibility, you also improve the user experience, navigation, and readability of your website, which results in improved SEO. This in turn leads to increased online visibility and ranking higher on platforms such as Google My Business, which favor businesses with a higher-quality user experience.
As a consequence, brands who choose to ignore online accessibility will miss out on reaching a larger audience. The disability community holds a spending power of nearly $500 billion – an impressive number in comparison to other markets. Businesses who successfully create an accessible online experience typically see increased sales by over 20%. By creating a seamless online customer experience that is disability-friendly and accessible, you can reach a much larger audience of consumers who may not be able to access your website currently.
Strategies for Online Web Accessibility
Use Alt Text
Also known as “alt tags”, alt text is written content used to describe an image on a webpage. Alt text helps visually impaired users that use screen-reading tools to understand an image. Adding alt tags or alt text to your images also helps search engine crawlers read your content better, further boosting your SEO presence.
Best practices for adding alt text into your website:
- Be specific and concise: This is the most important rule to keep in mind when adding alt text. You should describe your image with enough detail so your image has enough context and can be properly indexed.
- Use keywords: Don’t aim to stuff your alt text descriptions with keywords, but you should include your target keywords that help describe the image. This will provide accurate context to the image.
- Add an alt attribute: If you are using an image as a call to action, such as “read now” or “sign up”, make sure to add an alt attribute. An alt attribute helps describe the image buttons and will help users understand the functionality of the button.
Design with Assistive Technology Compatibility in Mind
Assistive technology refers to any tool or resource used by people with disabilities to access the web. One billion people need assistive products today and more than two billion people around the world are expected to need at least one assistive product by 2030.
Designing with assistive technology should remain top of mind for your business with any content you create, as well as your website experience. Here are some of the most common assistive technologies and how you can incorporate these tools to ensure web accessibility:
- Screen readers: Screen readers are used to help individuals who are visually impaired or blind to read any content online. Some of the most popular browser-screen reader combinations that you can use are JAWS with Internet Explorer, NVDA with Firefox, VoiceOver with Safari, and JAWs with Chrome. Implementing these technologies will help users easily navigate and access your website content.
- Screen magnification software: Many individuals with disabilities run into problems when it comes to reading text or seeing visuals easily on the screen. Screen magnification software provides a solution to this problem by allowing users to enlarge or magnify text over the screen. One method to create web accessibility with screen magnification software is to make all elements of your content clickable. Any website content you may have that is accessible by hovering over an element can be challenging for screen magnification, because the content may disappear or lose visibility when clicked on through the tool. By making all elements clickable, the content can be easily accessed. Another tip is to make sure your error messages are displayed close to where the action took place. For example, if a user is using a screen magnifier to fill out a form and didn’t fill out the name at the top of the form, the error message should be displayed next to the top of the form.
By ensuring your website and website content is user-friendly with assistive technologies, you can create a much more inclusive and welcoming experience.
Allow Manual Font Adjustment
Manual font adjustment is beneficial for web users of all ages with vision impairments. Over 7 million Americans are blind or have low vision. Allowing manual font adjustments will help users easily adjust text size to make it easier to read. 70% of user interface depends on typography – so you should also ensure that your website typography is clear, visible, and easy to read. At a minimum, your font size should be 16 pt. Your font choice should be a well-known source such as Sans-Serif or Serif, that can work well in multiple sizes.
Patch Mobile Apps for Accessibility
Is your mobile app accessible? Creating an accessible experience through your brand’s mobile app is an important, yet often overlooked task. If your brand has a mobile app, think about how you can implement accessibility features that mirror your website’s accessibility experience. Is your mobile app compatible with any screen reading or screen magnification softwares? Or does it have any accessible functionalities such as GPS and route finding, text-to-speech features, or object recognition? It’s important that your brand is accommodating users with disabilities on every device they use to view your content.
Be Mindful of Design Elements
If you’re involved in brand development, then you know how exciting and important it is to create a website that catches your audience’s eye. After all, website design plays a large role in how your brand conveys its personality. But when choosing your design elements, are you only taking into consideration what matches your branding or design? Design elements such as colors, themes, banners, and more can all impact a user’s experience negatively if they have a disability. For example, if there are parts of your website that use only color to communicate a call-to-action or information, you can run the risk of not communicating your intention correctly to a visitor who is visually impaired or has color blindness.
The Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) recommends website color contrasts to have a ratio of 4:5:1 for standard font-size text. This helps any users who have low vision or are impaired to distinguish between foreground text with background colors. Meeting these color standards with help ensure your website is ADA compliant.
If you have any interactive design elements such as banners, buttons, and links, make sure they are easy to identify. You can do so by changing the appearance of links on mouse hover, keyboard focus, and touch screen activation. Being mindful of the accessibility of your website’s design elements will create a healthy balance between a website that is both functional and aesthetic.
Keep Up with Web Accessibility Standards
Keeping up with web accessibility standards will ensure that your website content can continuously be accessible to all users, no matter what disability they have. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has developed Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which provide guidelines on how organizations can make their web content more accessible to individuals with disabilities.
The principles of WCAG are:
- Perceivable: A website being received as perceivable means that your website takes into account all of the senses individuals use when browsing the internet. Your brand needs to ensure that users with any disabilities can perceive all of the content available on your website, with any assistive technologies they choose to use.
- Operable: A website’s operability revolves around how your users are browsing the internet. Some users may have visual impairments, motor difficulties, or hearing impairments which all require them to access the web with different tools. By focusing on good website navigation, clear error trigger messages, and avoiding time limits for users, you can make your website more operable and up-to-standard.
- Understandable: Can all users easily understand the content on your website? Making your website understandable with clear communication and accessible website functionalities will help meet this principle.
- Robust: Having a robust website means that it’s compatible with different third-party technologies, such as screen readers and web browsers, as well as meeting HTML and CSS standards. This will help website visitors easily process your content no matter what technologies they are using.
Here is an in-depth guide that covers how your brand can meet the needs of users with disabilities, as well as the WCAG standards.
Users with disabilities will not choose to purchase from a business that has inaccessible content, especially when there are hundreds of other brands that are ADA-compliant. By addressing web accessibility, your business can reach a much larger audience that holds billions in purchasing power and see an increase in revenue.
Keeping accessibility should remain top of mind when your business takes on any new web projects or marketing initiatives. With Chatmeter, your business can simultaneously optimize your online presence and reach new audiences with Local Pages. Chatmeter’s Local Pages meet accessibility standards and guidelines, offer compatibility with assistive technologies, and come complete with user-friendly features such as a geo-locator and optimized landing pages. With Local Pages, your brand can create an ADA-friendly, SEO optimized user experience that ensures every consumer can find you at any moment.
If you’re interested in learning more about how your business can leverage Local Pages to drive online traffic, speak to a Local Pages expert today.Book a Chatmeter Demo