Website development has a “one size fits all” problem.
Every day, around 500,000 new websites are created globally. And the vast majority of them are “inaccessible”, which prevents the world’s one billion disabled people – 15% of the global population – from enjoying an easy online experience.
Digging down into the numbers, according to the WHO 430 million people “require rehabilitation to address their ‘disabling’ hearing loss”. And it’s a growing issue, with that figure projected to hit 700 million by 2050.
As well as those with disabilities, there’s also a growing demographic that we need to account for – the world’s ageing population.
Natural signs of ageing including loss of sight, the ability to process cognitive load, and fine motor skills. These can all play a significant factor in how the older generation interacts with your website.
So, while the trend is for cleverly designed websites, with bright colours and brand-defining fonts, following that trend means excluding a large number of potential customers.
Today, a huge 70% of all websites do not meet the basic WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) principles, set back in 2017.
What Are the Benefits of Creating an Accessible Website?
Ethics aside, creating an accessible (disability-friendly) website can strengthen your overall brand identity and build brand trust for the foreseeable future.
If we look at this from a strictly commercial perspective, businesses with websites that are not accessible are failing to maximise their market potential.
Let's look at the United States as an example. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, around 54 million people are living with disabilities in the U.S. This represents approximately $1 trillion in aggregate income, which translates into more than $220 billion in discretionary consumer spending power.
That’s a considerable amount of cheddar.
7 Ways to Make Your Website More Accessible
What’s clear is that a lot of brands don’t know where to start when designing an accessible website, but it’s a lot easier than you might think. Below, we’ve put together 7 simple ways to make your website accessible to all.
1. Include People with Disabilities in the Design Process
This may sound like an obvious point, but if you want to create a disability-friendly site then you need to reach out to the community and learn of the problems they face when navigating your website.
Once you know what your users struggle with, you can design a website without said user issues.
When you’ve reached the development process of your website, you should try to include people with disabilities on your marketing team or in the process. They will be able to inform you of their needs, help you develop appropriate strategies and iron out any potential flaws before they arise.
To check the overall accessibility of a website, we use Siteimprove. This software allows you to check the overall functionality of your site.
With Siteimprove, you can easily identify and fix accessibility issues across all conformance levels and these levels are scored with an A, AA, or AAA ratings, with AAA being the highest score. Most digital marketers aspire to have an AA rating.
2. Use Alt Tags
A great proportion of websites use pictures in one way or another. If you hover your mouse over an image and words pop up, those words are known as alt tags.
These nifty little tags are great for someone who has a visual impairment and needs to use a screen reader - a program that reads website text aloud.
These tags allow you to add further detail to your site, but you should make sure the descriptions are accurate and reflect your brand’s identity.
For example, if the picture is an object, we would suggest using a couple of words to describe it. Or if it’s a picture of a person, include their name and a brief description if you think it’s appropriate.
3. Choose Your Font Wisely
Fancy or unique fonts can lend an identity to a brand or make websites look more personal, but using non-standard fonts is not particularly practical for many users.
While Serif fonts can look pretty, they are incredibly difficult to read for people with dyslexia or visual impairments. We advise using Sans Serif fonts, which are much easier to read and distinguish from images and coloured backgrounds.
It’s not just about the style of font you choose - you also need to consider the size of the font. For easy readability, we would suggest a minimum size of 16 pixels for a Serif font and 14 for a Sans Serif font.
To check if your choice of font is meeting the mark, try downloading the WhatFont browser extension as this will test if your font is accessible.
4. Choose an Accessible Colour Palette
First and foremost, you want to create an accessible layout for your site, but an easy-to-use layout is pointless if you’re using the wrong colours. Clashing colours, for instance, will make text difficult to distinguish.
Choosing the right colour palette can be difficult. Nearly 8% of all men have colour vision deficiency (CVD), the most common form of which is known as ‘red/green colour blindness’. So, avoid using these colours where possible.
On the flip side, using different colour schemes to structure your content can be very beneficial for people with learning difficulties.
It’s all a balancing act when it comes down to choosing colours, so make sure you choose colours that aren’t too garish. For example, bright blue, yellow and green together can be hard for users to distinguish. You should also use whitespace to help users differentiate content blocks.
To check the contrast of your colour choices, you can use WebAim. This tool helps you choose colour palettes based on usability rather than personal preference.
5. Make Navigation Seamless
Most of us use a keyboard and mouse to navigate our way through the web, but using these devices is not an option for others.
Millions of people who live with motor skill difficulties are unable to use a mouse or keyboard and will often use speech recognition software, screen readers, head wands, adaptive keyboards and trackball mouses to explore the internet.
While these high-tech solutions are incredibly beneficial, they will remain redundant if your website is not programmed to support them.
There are a few simple steps you can take to help people navigate your site. First, you should make sure your whole website is keyboard-friendly, this will allow users to access every part of your site with ease.
Visual indicators are essential when using tabs as this will help users know where they are on each landing page. For pages that are quite heavy on content, we would advise splitting this content into small digestible sections, which can be done using jump lists.
One final step to consider is your video content. If you have videos embedded on your site, make sure your videos do not play automatically as this can be detrimental for users who use screen readers. And this leads us nicely to our next tip.
6. Create Subtitles and Transcripts
For those of you who want to include video in your web content, we would strongly advise adding subtitles as these are a great help to those with hearing disabilities.
Subtitles are also helpful for people with ADHD as they give them something to focus on and make it easier for them to understand and enjoy.
The likes of YouTube already have tools that allow users to add subtitles to their videos automatically, but if you’re producing your own videos, please make sure you add subtitles before you upload them to your website.
Providing transcripts and captioning for your videos is another great way to ensure everyone can enjoy your website and its content.
7. Make Links Descriptive
When adding links to your website, the “click here” button may seem like an easy choice, but it’s actually quite unhelpful for people using screen readers. Screen readers will scan your website for links and if your links are too generalised they may not be able to read it.
With this in mind, it’s much more beneficial to write a descriptive link, as it will help users understand the content of the next page.
For example, it’s better to write “to learn more about our job opportunities, check out Adapt’s careers page”, instead of “to learn about our job opportunities, click here”.
Underlining your links is a great way to make sure they stand out for those who are visually impaired. You can also add a colour contrast between the link and webpage background to ensure it stands out.
A number of websites also include links that are incredibly small, which is not helpful for those with visual impairments or mobility difficulties. Always ensure your links have a wide range so users can click on your links with as little hassle as possible.
The internet should be accessible for everyone, and everyone deserves to enjoy an easy user experience. It’s also worth pointing out that make your website more accessible benefits everyone – descriptive links are more compelling, subtitling is best-practice and alt-tags benefit search.
While the thought of checking over your website and adapting its functionality to meet your users’ needs may be daunting it is a lot easier than you may think.