Your website is generally the first impression a potential customer gets of your brand and business. So, what message are you sending if your website isn’t accessible to everyone?
We shouldn’t have to explain why an inaccessible, non-inclusive website is bad for your biz, but heck, we’ll do it anyway. For people with disabilities, your website (and your blog and your social media pages) may be the best, easiest way to interact with your brand. Make their user experience more difficult than it has to be, and you’re missing out on potential business — and basic humanity.
Creating an inclusive user experience is just the right thing to do. Everyone deserves the ability to use websites easily and comfortably as much as the next person. Not sure your website and/or blog are up to snuff when it comes to accessibility? We have some website and content accessibility tips for you below that may help.
Make content scannable and easy to read
This is good website design advice in general, but it’s even more important for accessibility. Use short, straightforward sentences in short paragraphs. Use bullet points, images, graphics, and headings (more on those later) to break up blocks of text. Pick site colors that are high contrast so they’re more readable.
Keep your word choice and reading level in mind, too. Avoid using pretentious jargon or fancy lingo. It should be clear to everyone what you do, who you serve, what you offer, and how people can hire you or buy from you.
Also, always make sure you explain what an acronym or abbreviation stands for when you first use it in your content and copy. For example, don’t just throw “WCAG” into a blog post without spelling it out what it stands for the first time you use it. (That stands for “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.”)
One last thing about good design: please, please, please do not choose a terrible, “fancy” font for your website or blog that’s hard to read. Don’t use them in your social media captions, either. Pick one that’s easy to read and parse, and in a size big enough to be readable. WebAIM has a good source on making typefaces and fonts accessible.
Tip: Use an online tool like Readable to check your content. It’ll evaluate the reading level of your copy but also point out any spelling and grammar issues. Misspelled words can cause problems for screen readers, so this tool can help you avoid even more accessibility blunders.
Be mindful of headings, fonts, and emojis
Have multiple headings on your website or in a blog post? Properly assign different headings to signify new sections of content. Don’t just change the font size or bold a word or phrase. Headings help people using assistive technologies understand how sections of content relate to each other and the whole piece.
Use descriptive headings, too. Descriptive headings give people an idea of what the content is and how it’s organized. They also allow people browsing to jump to a specific section on a page if needed.
While we’re talking about creating accessible copy thoughtfully, be careful how you use emojis. Put them at the end of your sentence, otherwise it’ll interrupt the flow of screen readers and sound super confusing, not to mention annoying.
Tip: If you want to know how a screen reader interprets the emoji you chose—and how someone will hear it described to them— look it up on a site like Emoji Dictionary.
Use descriptive links, alt text, and images
How often do you link to another page in a sentence by using the phrase “Click here”? That’s not helpful for screen readers, and honestly, it’s not the most interesting way to share a source or a link in your content.
Ditch the tired “click here” and instead describe what a site user can expect if they click it. Take a moment to look back through this blog post so far and look at the four links we’ve provided. They’re all examples of descriptive links.
You should also describe any images you’ve included on your site or blog. Got a chart or infographic in a blog post? Include a detailed text explanation of the data shown in the image in a caption or small paragraph.
The same goes for using alternative text, or alt text. Alt text is the physical description assigned to an image, which a screen reader uses to describe it out loud. Alt text should be descriptive, helpful and straightforward. This is not the place to stuff in keywords. Get to the point, and keep alt text at fewer than 120 or 125 characters, which is the cutoff for most screen readers.
Tip: There is an excellent post about writing effective image descriptions on the UX Collective website.
Ignore accessibility and it’ll cost ya
Making your website and blog accessible is your responsibility as a business owner, but it’s also the law. Even though there aren’t any straightforward, enforceable legal standards in the U.S. regarding website accessibility, that doesn’t protect you from getting slapped with a lawsuit.
There were over 11,000 digital accessibility lawsuits in 2019. That’s about a 9% increase from the number of claims in 2018, and a huge 44% increase from 2017.
People with disabilities have the right to fight for the equal access and user experience they deserve when using online tools and resources. If you’re not doing your part with your own small corner of the internet, you’re turning away potential customers for your biz…and you could get fined for it.
Be a good business owner, k? Do your part to create a more inclusive internet for everyone.
Extra resources on web accessibility
- Web Accessibility Initiative’s Test & Evaluate page, which includes step-by-step guides to checking accessibility and over 100 tools to evaluate web accessibility
- WebAIM’s resources and tools, including Color Contrast Checker, Accessibility Evaluation, PowerPoint Evaluation Checklist, and more
- American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Social Media Accessibility Guidelines
- “Website Accessibility & the Law: Why Your Website Must Be Compliant”