Why Accessible Design Is An Urgent Priority For All Businesses
Accessibility using and within online applications, whether that’s an app, the internet or even a piece of hardware, is a hot topic in the digital marketing industry. Any websites designed without accessibility in mind not only alienates those who may have disabilities but can turn away all of your potential and returning customers and so it’s undeniable that this is becoming a key part of the design process.
With 1 in 4 people having disabilities back in 2016 and the number potentially higher today, the need for accessibility online is growing every single day. For websites that aren’t already offering accessibility, it’s time to shake up your web design. Here, we’re looking into just why accessibility is becoming so urgent, and how you can go about changing up your website to suit.
The Importance Of Accessibility Online
The internet has become a leading force in our daily lives. From entertainment and a way to fill time, to the likes of our education, employment, health care and even government services, the online world is full of different websites, applications and services that make accessing and navigating the world around us much simpler. For those with disabilities, having easy access to these services can be far more important than standard, but far too often, these services fall short of what is needed.
Equal access and equal opportunity are vital online, particularly for those wanting to widen their client reach. Online interaction can often be the easiest way for anyone to speak to those with disabilities, or for those with disabilities to access information, communication and more.
So, How Do We Make Things Accessible?
If you’re unsure as to whether your website is accessible, chances are it’s not. While accessible design is relatively easy to implement if you know where to begin, implementing enough to cover all areas of accessibility isn’t always simple. With approximately 10% of the population living with a disability, taking the first step towards accessibility has the potential to open up your brand and services to millions of people.
According to Gov.uk, accessibility on websites or apps refers to being useable by as many people as possible, including those with impaired vision, hearing difficulties, motor difficulties and other cognitive and learning disabilities and impairments. So, where do you start?
Compatibility With Software And Hardware
Technology has revolutionised the world of accessibility, offering everything from screen readers, to speech recognition software. However, not every website is compatible with this kind of technology which could soon become a problem for those in the public sector. The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018 require all websites and apps within the public sector to meet certain standards and designers and developers now have until 2020 to ensure that all of these are met. These regulations were put into place to ensure that all digital platforms are “perceivable, operable, understandable and robust”.
With this in mind, any businesses operating as a public body need to start considering accessibility as a priority. For businesses that are in the private sector, this isn’t a legal obligation just yet, but any company looking to make the user journey a more seamless and inclusive experience should consider ensuring their websites are compatible with any and all software and hardware available.
So, you’ve made your homepage accessible – what about the rest of your website? Very few customers will click to your homepage and make a purchase or conversion directly from here, and you certainly can’t predict the exact journey of every visitor. Some may be searching with different forms of search intent, whether that’s informational, transactional or navigational, and so could very well take a different path throughout your site. If someone living with a disability comes across an area of your site that lacks in accessible design, they may be inclined to bounce.
For this reason, you need to ensure that every part of your site is accessible, even down to your blogs, terms and conditions and other smaller, lesser-visited pages. Your design, content, site layout and sitewide features need to remain simple enough that anyone can use it without the need for assistance.
Make Your Site Keyboard-Friendly
Many accessible technologies utilise keyboard-only navigation, and so you need to ensure that your website can be accessed and navigated without a mouse. Ever link, page, content, feature and even videos should be accessed and selected using only the keys on a keyboard, though one of the core keys to take into consideration is the Tab key.
For those that aren’t living with disabilities, the tab key is a simple way to get to the field on a form we want but for those living with disabilities, it can be the only way to navigate when a mouse is difficult to use. Generally, the Tab button will jump between ‘keyboard focus’ elements, usually links, buttons and forms and you can test this with your own keyboard easily.
Utilise Alt Text On All Images
Alt text, or alternative text, is essentially a description of an image that will act as a replacement if the image doesn’t load for any reason. In accessibility, these tags will also be read out by text-to-speech readers to describe an image and give the user better context and descriptions to those who might otherwise be confused or simply miss out on the image.
Alt text also has SEO benefit, allowing Google to gain a better idea of how relevant the images are to your content, improving relevancy, context and, therefore, where your site is listed within the SERPs.
Avoid Automatic Media Or Navigation
We’ve all scrolled through Facebook and faced auto-playing videos. While they can be annoying, having to use a screen reader, for example, in order to turn the video off can be jarring and stressful, resulting in the user clicking away from your site completely. Sudden noises can be frightening for those with learning difficulties or other cognitive or motor disabilities, which again, can result in a higher bounce rate.
Removing any autoplay elements throughout your website is an important part of the accessibility battle. This can include carousels and sliders that text-to-speech readers may not be able to keep up with, or where more time may be needed to absorb the information.
Accessibility should be a core value when designing and implementing changes across your website. From navigational ease, to compatibility with common software and hardware applications, a few small changes to your website can ensure that your user-base can not only visit your website and gain the information they need, but that they are more likely to convert. Reducing bounce rates whilst creating an equal, safe place for those living with disabilities is a key part of the digital marketing landscape today – is your site accessible?
For more information or for help with making your site accessible, get in touch with a member of our team on 0800 088 6000, today.