Your website should be accessible to everyone. But what about someone who is unable to use a mouse or who cannot see the screen?
According to the web access charity We Are Purple, there are 8.6 million internet users who have access needs living in the UK alone.
Despite this, many websites are still not designed or built with accessibility and inclusivity in mind, which means that you could be turning away millions of users.
Not only is making your content more accessible good for helping your users, it could also be beneficial for your SEO.
We know that Google prioritises sites which put their users first and being mindful of accessibility when creating content does exactly that.
In this article, we will explore some top tips for making your content more accessible for people who have accessibility issues or use assistive technology, instead of the standard mouse, keyboard and monitor.
1. Provide unique page titles for every page on your site
Each and every page on your website should have a unique page title, to help to distinguish it from other pages.
The most relevant information should be listed first and you may also want to include your brand name. This will help users to navigate your site.
If the page is part of the checkout process or another multi-step process, then be sure to include the current step within the page title (for example: Step 1 of 3).
Check out our other tips for creating great title tags.
2. Create meaningful alt tags
It used to be that alt tags for images were seen as just another location to add in that page’s keyword.
However, well written alt tags should actually used to describe what is contained within the image itself.
This will help anyone who is visually impaired to understand what the image contains.
Keep the description concise, clear and descriptive.
Do not use the same alt text for each image as this then becomes meaningless and just adds clutter for screen readers.
If your image is complicated, you may want to add a caption below the image which everyone is able to access.
If the image is purely for decorative purposes, then you can leave the alt text field blank and screen readers will then ignore the image.
Try to use images which do not include text overlaid on them, as screen readers are unable to access this.
If you are using an infographic within your content, then you will need to include a text alternative immediately after the infographic.
This should be the same information that users get from the image. You should include an anchor link at the top of the infographic, to skip straight to the text.
3. Write simply and clearly
Using simple language and sentence structure will help to make your text more accessible.
Keep content simple and concise, with short sentences which are no more than 25 words in length.
Use the simplest language wherever you can as this will open up your content to more people.
Avoid jargon or slang which might be difficult to understand and always explain what any abbreviations or acronyms mean.
You can use a tool such as Hemmingway Editor or the Yoast plug in if you have a WordPress site to help analyse the readability of your content.
4. Structure your headings
As well as helping Google to understand what your content is about, your heading structure is critical for accessible content.
Screen readers can use headings to jump directly to specific sections of content, which in turn can help the user to save valuable time.
Remember, there should only be one H1 on your page. Your content should then be structured under H2s and H3s in turn.
Ensure that you clearly separate out different topics with paragraphs and headers and prioritise the most important information.
5. Use bullet lists
Wherever you can, opt for bullet pointed lists instead of using tables, paragraphs or line breaks.
Tables can be made accessible but anyone who uses a screen reader will need to know advanced keystroke commands in order to understand them.
Using bullet lists with the correct code will tell screen readers how many items are in the list and using numbered lists will ensure that the number is read out too.
6. Caption all videos
All video content with sound should include captions for the benefit of anyone who is deaf or has a hearing impairment. It can also help anyone watching who may otherwise have to have the sound turned off because they are in a busy office or on a train, for example.
If you are embedding videos from YouTube then be sure to find one which already has captions on it.
If you are creating your own video content then YouTube has a feature which automatically generates captions.
However, these are not always the most accurate, so its recommended that you upload your own captions.
You should also provide a written description of the video for anyone who is visually impaired.
7. Make your links descriptive
Be sure to make all of your contextual hyperlinks descriptive.
Each description should give the user an idea of what to expect when they click on it.
Screen readers provide a links list tool which can just list the links on a certain page without any of the content.
No additional context is provided here and so you will need to make sure that your links are descriptive enough.
Avoid using generic text like “click here”, “find out more” or “see this page”.
8. Avoid mentioning the layout
Avoid using any language which requires users to see the layout of the webpage.
Not only will this help people who are visually impaired but it will also help to future your content against design changes.
For example, avoid using phrases such as “click the button in the right side bar” or similar instructions.
9. Choose your colours carefully
For those with visual impairment, it can make all the difference if it is easy to distinguish text from the background of a given webpage.
Ensure that there is a high contrast between the colours your choose for your font and the background colours of your website and be sure to pick accessible colours for any headers and content.
Unfortunately, in the worst case scenario, this might mean that it is time for a rebrand!
If you are interested in finding out more about making your website accessible then take a look at the Web Accessibility Initiative which provides strategies, standards and supporting resources to help you make your website more accessible for anyone with a disability.
The best way to make your website accessible to all
In summary, in order to make your website as accessible as possible, you should:
- Provide unique page titles for every page on your site
- Create meaningful alt tags
- Write simply and clearly
- Structure your headings
- Use bullet lists
- Caption all videos
- Make your links descriptive
- Avoid mentioning the layout
- Choose your colours carefully