Whenever you are building your site, what is your top priority?
The aesthetic? the interactive elements?
One thing you really need to remember is how to make your site accessible. It’s much easier than you might think, and crucial for a seamless site!
What is accessibility and why is it important?
Some users have disabilities that require them to use assistive technology, like screen readers. To make your site useful to these users, you need to make sure it is accessible.
This has quite a few layers to it.
One of the most important things to include in your site to make it accessible is “alt text.” Alt text is alternative text. Screen readers pick up on this and read it aloud to those who use it when they visit a site. If a user has a sight impairment, having the alt text read to them lets them know what an image looks. Even a simple description like “picture of a cup of earl grey tea” can make all the difference.
Alt text can be added into your site in a variety of ways. It could be added into your code or quickly tagged through a content editor, like those found in Drupal or WordPress.
The topic of accessibility is so important that recently there have been a number of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits arising based on how accessible websites are (or aren’t!).
As the Internet becomes more prevalent in the lives of people around the world, it is important for websites to meet the needs of as many users as possible.
How can you check how accessible your site is?
So how do you know if your site is accessible?
One of the easiest ways to check is to put your site through the WAVE test for accessibility.
The test doesn’t take very long, and it can show you where your site is inaccessible and how you can improve it, step by step.
The test breaks down your site into what works, errors, and alerts. It lets you know the exact amount of each, breaks down the explanation of each into layman’s terms, and says clearly how to fix them. It also shows where to find each setback on your site.
There are also some simple factors you can look out for.
Do you use Flash elements on your site?
Is the text on your site legible on both the desktop and mobile site?
Do you link away from the site without warning, especially from the homepage?
What’s the problem with Flash?
So what’s wrong with Flash? For starters, users with sight impairments cannot navigate a site that relies heavily on Flash.
Remember, people who use screen-readers have the pages read aloud to them. And since Flash has no text (it uses fast-loading vector references to draw words and images), the reader has no content to pick up and read. This can leave users in a bind.
Also, text size cannot be increased, so those with limited sight are unable to access legible text.
While newer Flash programs have been updated to be more accessible, there are other downsides to using it—such as slower page loading. We think it is simply not worth it to use Flash on your site.
What’s the importance of legible text?
This one is pretty basic. If you can’t read the text on a site, how can you enjoy the site?
This isn’t just about text size. It can also have to do with color.
Gray text on a white background can get washed out. If you’re playing with color, make sure the text is still dark and bold enough to stand out and be legible.
Why should you tell users where links lead?
Linking without warning is unpleasant for users—whether they have disabilities or not. If you are linking to another page, a PDF, etc. let your users know.
For any user, it’s annoying and troublesome when you click a link and a PDF reader program launches or download windows start popping up. Why? Huh? What the …
The user has to backtrack to get to the original page or download a PDF without notice (which is really bad for mobile users, as it uses up their data).
For users with disabilities, it can get them totally lost. PDFs are often fairly incompatible with screen readers so linking to one without warning is a mess waiting to happen.
And no matter what, being pulled away from the page you are on without any clue where you’ll end up is confusing and frustrating.
What should you take away from this?
Make sure your site is accessible—plain and simple.
It won’t take too much time out of your day, and it will make a huge difference for your users.
If you are having trouble with it, contact the Fort Pitt Web Shop – we can help.
Accessibility in your site should be as important to you as the visible aesthetic. The internet is full of billions of users. Don’t limit which ones can view your site.