A great website only matters if it works for everyone — but, what does that really mean?
For some of us, navigating a website is as simple as reading and clicking, a user experience we presume to be universal.
In reality, there are countless ways a website can be inaccessible to people.
To have a fully accessible website there are numerous factors that need to be considered. This post will take a look at some of the examples of how accessibility works in practice, and what can be done to make websites more accessible.
Optimizing For Screen Readers
Creating an accessible website is often about paying attention to the details, and making sure you put the effort in when you’re building a site so that all users can access it seamlessly.
It also means acknowledging that your experience of using the internet will be radically different from others. This is especially true for people who rely on screen readers.
For the visually impaired, a screen reader is a vital tool that allows them to browse online by having the text read aloud.
Where many go wrong is the presumption that a screen reader can simply read words on a page, no matter how they’re organized — the reality is a little more complicated than that.
Because screen readers use heading structures to navigate, headings must be correctly formatted and ordered.
One great way of doing this is through the use of alt text tags for images, which helps to ensure the messaging of an image is conveyed even if the image itself can’t be seen.
Substance And Style
When it comes to visuals the first thing you’ll be considering is the simple matter of whether or not it looks good — but this shouldn’t be where you stop.
There’s no use having eye-catching visuals if they’re off-putting or unusable for others, which is why you need to be careful when you’re selecting colors.
The most well-known example of this is the use of red-green as the most common form of color deficiency: nearly 10% of the population is affected by the inability to distinguish between red and green.
Having color schemes that rely on these two colors, especially for buttons, make them hard to use for some.
Movement Across The Page
For users with mobility disabilities, the experience of scrolling a website can be a difficult one if it’s not set up correctly.
These users are reliant on keyboard scrolling, meaning all content needs to be easily accessible through this method.
In practice, this means the tab order needs to match up with the visual order, long pages should be broken up with anchor links, and all submenus and multiple level areas should be configured for keyboard access.
Captions And Transcripts
It may look like something small — but hugely important given how prevalent video content is — that if your site contains video elements, you need to account for how those with hearing impairments will experience your site.
That means captioning or transcripts, not just subtitles. Subtitles simply describe the speech on-screen, while captions describe both speech and significant audio events.
A transcript can be a great option if you have a long video, interview, or podcast, allowing people to read rather than listen.
Do The Research
If there’s one thing to take away from this, it isn’t the specific tips or principles, which only scratch the surface of the various accessibility measures and options.
It’s that making a website accessible requires a willingness to engage with the material that’s out there and to look things up if you’re unsure.
Accessibility — like many features of the user experience — is easier to integrate with custom websites. Custom websites allow for greater control, variety, and quality.