Ways To Make Your Website More Accessible - Handy Tips By Semalt
The primary objective of every website owner is to attract as many visitors as possible. This is so important because no matter how useful or essential the content of any website is, it has lost its primary purpose without someone to view it.
However, a few steps must be taken to ensure that a website is accessible to everyone. Today, we have millions of internet users who need your website to be very convenient to use it, and if you do not take out time and effort to understand the needs of these users, your website wouldn't be able to achieve its purpose.
Fortunately, it isn't difficult to make your website more accessible. To get it right, all you need to do is understand the underlying issues or factors that contribute to making a website difficult to use by certain users. Once you can understand these issues, it becomes easier to avoid these mistakes and make your website more accessible to all visitors.
In this article, Semalt will help you look at what website accessibility involves and what makes it so important to SEO. We will also outline some accessibility guidelines and show you how you can implement each guideline on your site. Let's get going!
An introduction to web accessibility
Ideally, the internet should be open to everyone. This means that we should all be able to use any website on the internet. It shouldn't matter the device they use, the software, or if they have a condition that affects their capabilities; everyone should use any website on the internet. This forms the main idea behind the concept of web accessibility.
We sometimes fail to recognize that millions of internet users have special needs, disabilities, and impairments that can make using some websites more difficult than it should be. In some cases, these individuals can't use certain websites. However, when we design our websites with these challenges in mind, it becomes easier to ensure that it accommodates the needs of a wider range of users.
While some disabilities and conditions affect how people use websites, here are some of the most common categories of impairments:
- Visual Impairment: some internet users suffer a partial or total inability to see or differentiate colors or contrast.
- Hearing Impairment: Some users have an abnormal ability to hear.
- Motor Skills/Physical Disabilities: some users may find it difficult to move certain parts of their bodies or make precise movements (such as when using a mouse).
- Photosensitive Seizures: flashing lights on a website can trigger seizures as a result of epilepsy.
- Cognitive Disabilities: Many conditions affect cognitive ability; some of these conditions are dementia and dyslexia.
Getting around these hurdles can be daunting, but with the use of assistive technologies to browse the internet, web designers' workload is reduced to an extent. Some of these technologies include screen readers that convert the written text on websites and vocalizes them. We also have speech recognition software that converts speech into text, Braille terminals, and alternative keyboards designed to accommodate special needs.
With these at hand, it becomes easier for almost anyone to browse the internet. However, as website owners, it would be best if you didn't fold your arms but make their experiences significantly better by designing your site with better accessibility in mind.
Why making your website accessible should be a priority
As you must have guessed, making your website more accessible comes with huge benefits. Not only is this an important step from a humanitarian approach, but it is also a key step in ranking better on SERP. A more accessible website shows that you aren't shutting out individuals with one disability or the other, which means your website gets more clicks from the disabled population, which means better SEO rankings.
The first or most obvious benefit of having a more accessible site is that it immediately expands your potential audience. It's pretty easy to understand why. By increasing the number of users your website is friendly towards, you've grown your user base directly. Having just the feature is enough to put you ahead of the competition who may not have been smart enough to make their website more accessible.
When we say to make our website more accessible, it benefits your disabled audience and every other person who uses the internet. Many times, when we design a website to be more accessible for special needs, we get to improve the overall design and usability of the website, making it better for everyone. In addition to this, you also make your website more flexible and futuristic in its design.
Finally, we must note that countries now have laws that govern web and software accessibility. With that in mind, it becomes compulsory to match specific accessibility standards on your website if you plan on operating in such countries.
Thankfully, there are ways to improve the accessibility of your website. The Web Accessibility Initiative is one project that's determined to improve the accessibility of websites since 1997. They have also drafted an accessibility guideline known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, to find out more on their site. These guidelines specifically pointed out the steps web owners will need to take when making their websites more user-friendly.
Similarly, other web stakeholders such as WordPress have developed their own Make WordPress Accessible team with the sole purpose of making WordPress websites more accessible. Several other community-driven projects advocate for more accessible websites, such as A11Y. They provide guidance and resources web owners can use to create highly accessible websites.
3 ways to make your website accessible
Now that we know what makes accessibility so important, it is time to look at how we can make your website more accessible.
Before we begin listing, we should mention that you need the right Content Management System (CMS) to run your site. CMS is crucial to your website's accessibility, and only a select few can top WordPress.
1. Have a keyboard-friendly website
This comes as the first step, probably because it is the most important step in this process. For any website to be accessible, it must be able to function adequately without using a mouse. This is because many assistive technologies function with keyboard-only navigation.
This means that it is important that all of your site's major features can be accessed via a keyboard. One way to achieve navigation with a keyboard is with the Tab key. This helps assistive technology change areas on the webpage that have "keyboard focus."
You can try this out on your own by experimenting with your website. Try to see if you can access all the important elements on your website using your keyboard alone. From this, you can pinpoint areas that need to be worked on. To help you out, you can rely on a tool such as Web AIM, which provides a handy guide for keyboard accessibility design.
2. Make sure all content is easily accessible
There is no logic in trying to make your website more accessible when your content isn't. To make a more accessible website, you need to ensure that the contents on your website's page are accessible. While achieving this is usually not a problem, it may become more difficult to achieve when you have dynamic content.
When content is dynamic, it changes without the page reloading, and this can become a problem if the site is unable to inform the assistive tool that a change has taken place with regards to the content. For example, many screen reading assistive tools only "vocalize" the content on the site when it first loads. Many times, it wouldn't realize a change has taken place to inform the reader. As such, the website needs to make such tools aware that a certain change has occurred or the user will miss the new content.
3. Add Alt Text to all images
If you're familiar with using WordPress, the chances are that you've noticed this when you add images to WordPress.
Alt Tags, attributes, alt descriptions, or Alt Texts are descriptions of the attached images. Since certain users cannot see the images, screen readers read out the Alt Text to give users a clear understanding of what was captured in the image. This way, the pictures can be readout. You can now use this field to appropriately describe the image and give context to users who otherwise would have missed the information carried in that image.
As if that weren't enough, these Alt Texts also go a long way in improving your site's SEO. This is because you give search engines more information and keywords to crawl. When using Alt Text, make sure to write a descriptive summary of each image. Try to include your keywords whenever it makes sense to improve your keyword density without making it look unnatural.