Like other aspects of design, web accessibility is a balancing act. On the one hand, you want your website to be functional, appealing, and usable. On the other hand, you want it to be accessible to as many people as possible.
Taken together, these two things form a concept known as universal design. In fact, in some countries (including the U.S.), it’s a legal requirement for government websites to provide access for disabled users. Let’s dive deeper into this key concept known as web accessibility.
What Is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility is the practice of designing and optimizing websites and web applications to be used by all people regardless of disabilities, hardware, or software configurations. It is an essential part of universal design and makes online services accessible to disabled people including those with visual, hearing, cognitive, and motor impairments.
Accessibility features are typically built into a website’s interface and functionality, but they can also refer to the site’s content itself. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines a Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 for developing accessible content for people with disabilities. So what does it entail?
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
It should be noted that the standards of WCAG 2.0 are not set in stone and they can change over time. The WCAG 2.0 has 12 guidelines that are grouped into four categories:
- Perceivable – The content should be perceivable to users with disabilities such as blindness or low vision, deafness or hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, or limited movement skills.
- Operable – All functionality should be executable for users with disabilities such as limited dexterity or limited reach skills. Unnecessary design features that require fine motor dexterity should also be avoided. These can prevent proper operation of the site.
- Understandable -All website users should easily understand information, content, and the presentation of a site.
- Robust – Robust features are used to enhance the accessibility of content across multiple platforms and technologies. Websites must be able to be viewed and interpreted by people who use assistive technology such as screen readers and must remain functional after platform updates.
Why Is Accessibility Important?
Accessibility is important because it makes your website available to more people. This in return means you’ll get more traffic and more conversions. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do.
Making your site accessible means that you’re treating everyone equally and providing them with equal access to the resources they need. It means that you’re putting everyone ahead of yourself, which is a great way to run any business. Being required by law, being accessible helps to improve user experience as well. Let’s take a closer look at these two factors:
Tailoring your website to meet the needs of people with disabilities will make it more user-friendly for everyone. Websites designed with accessibility in mind often provide a more improved experience for all visitors, not just those with disabilities.
With more than 10% of internet users in the U.S having some kind of disability, accessibility has also proven to play a significant role business-wise. What’s more, Google rewards websites that are built on an accessible framework. They tend to be much more usable and therefore increase user engagement and help search engine rankings.
Accessibility features serve:
- blind and limited vision users
- people who are deaf or hard of hearing
- individuals with cognitive limitations and use assistive technologies such as screen readers and alternative keyboards
- people with mobility disabilities who use assistive technologies such as screen magnifiers or alternative mice
- anyone who simply prefers a different style of interaction
Accessibility is becoming increasingly important as the legal landscape stands today. Many governments have made it law for all websites to be accessible to users with disabilities and an increasing number of users come to rely on the internet and mobile devices to function.
This is reflected in legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act by the US government. These laws affect the design and development of government sites, higher education institutions, and all businesses that sell products or services online.
In simple terms, it means if a business has a website and fails to make sure their website is accessible for disabled people, then it could be held legally liable under this act. These laws not only ensure a better user experience but also have positive impacts on the company as well — through increased user interactions with your site and lower legal implications.
How Does SEO and Accessibility Work Together?
One thing that many people might not realize is that having an accessible website also makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site. Google and other search engines have been constantly improving their ability to serve content that is accessible on the web. This means that if you take steps toward making your site more accessible to individuals with disabilities, then you will also be improving the overall quality of your site from an SEO perspective.
However, users with disabilities can often be overlooked when it comes to the design and usability of sites. In reality, 15% of the global population suffers from a disability. Various legislations have been enforced, to ensure fairness for all users.
The practice of accessibility started in the mid-1980s when Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This civil rights law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and takes legal action against such acts. One more thing to note is that Google also penalizes websites that do not have an accessible version. This means businesses have to be ADA compliant to have an SEO-friendly site.
Think About Accessibility From the Start
As a developer, you understand that the user experience of your site can make all the difference in whether or not users return. And accessibility is one of the easiest ways to improve your website’s conversion rate because it helps people of all sorts gain access to your content.
Treating accessibility as an integral aspect of design can ensure that design outputs are equally usable by all people. This makes it easy for everyone to use your product, including people who might need assistance accessing or interacting with it. And this is where accessibility features come in.
Here is an outline of 6 key accessible factors that also make your website SEO-friendly.
6 Accessible SEO Factors To Check For
Well-optimized sites have architecture that’s been customized to support business’ goals. And it will also be accessible to a broad range of devices and users. By following these 6 SEO factors, you can make your site more user-friendly for everyone, not just those with special needs.
The title tag is one of the most important elements of a page. It should be unique for each page on your site. Not just for each URL, but also for each section of content on a page. It should be descriptive and concise, but also unique for your site’s content. If you have multiple pages with the same title, you will confuse the search engines and users alike.
Make sure your title tag includes the most important keywords from your content so that people and screen readers can find it easily. If they find what they are looking for quickly, they are more likely to click through to your site and visit additional pages on your site, as well as return to your site in the future.
2. Alt Tags for Images
Providing alternative text for images that appear on your page plays a very important role in making your site more accessible. They are used when there is no text for screen readers to read on the page. Your alt tag should describe and give search engines more information about what the image is about. This helps search engines process what you are visually promoting through detailed descriptions on the image. While it might be good to throw a keyword into the alt tag, describing the image comes first.
The language used must not interfere with another’s ability to navigate and make meaning of the content. For example, if your site content uses specific jargon, then you might want to make sure that it is easy for someone using a screen reader or with cognitive disabilities. Making your content readable and easy to read helps improve your web accessibility.
The navigation on your site is very important in making sure your visitors can quickly find what they’re looking for, whether it be an information page or a product. Navigation bars need to be well-structured and easily accessible by screen readers to be usable by all users.
5. Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are summaries of what web pages contain. A good description will entice people to click through to your site from a search engine results page (SERP). They should also be unique to each page on your website, including internal pages like blog posts or product pages.
It’s also common for users of assistive technology to rely heavily on metadata — in this case, metadata refers to page titles and descriptions — for efficient web navigation. Additionally, keyword-rich metadata can help improve the efficiency of search engine indexing.
6. Site Structure
You must use proper HTML headings to organize your site. For example, a heading 1 should only be used once per page, and not jumbled in with paragraphs of text. This can help with indexing and accessibility. Site structure is one of the most important factors in SEO, so make sure you have an XML sitemap so that Google knows what pages you have on your site.
Making Your Website Optimized and Accessible
Making your website accessible and up-to-date is something your business should be aware and mindful of. Sometimes it can be a lot to go through your website and find all the things that need optimizing. If you’ve got too much on your plate to handle all at once, let Boostability help you out! Boostability is a white label SEO company that can optimize and improve your website. Learn more about our white label SEO program to get started today!