Your business wants to attract visitors to its website. That’s the motivation behind search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing. But have you thought about website accessibility? You could lose potential customers and revenue if you don’t. Try these strategies to enhance your business website accessibility.
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, puts it succinctly: “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
Digital accessibility ensures people with different hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive abilities can participate online. Web accessibility can also help a small business drive innovation, enhance its brand, and extend market reach.
Prioritizing website accessibility can also minimize legal risk. After all, many countries require digital accessibility. In the United States, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires web accessibility.
Having an ADA-compliant business website can benefit other users too, including:
- People using mobile phones, smartwatches, smart TVs, and other devices with small screens, different input modes, etc
- Users with changing abilities due to aging
- The temporary disabled (broken arm or lost glasses)
- People with “situational limitations” (bright sunlight or cannot listen to audio)
- Visitors using a slow Internet connection or who have limited or expensive bandwidth
The global standard, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), has about 50 things to consider. This article shares preliminary steps to boost web accessibility, including:
- Add images with alt text
- Closed caption audio/video components
- Focus on contrast
- Support keyboard navigation
- Use hierarchical headings
- Give links descriptive names
Add Images With Alt Text
Someone who is visually impaired and or using a screen reader won’t “see” an image. But, if you provide relevant alt text, you can help those users understand why images were included. If the image itself includes text (e.g., an infographic or a picture of a sign), you would want to write a description in that alt text. For example, “sign showing store is open.”
On the other hand, if you’ve added an image purely for decorative purposes, you can leave the alt text blank. This will save the screen reader from distracting the user from the important information on the page.
Closed Caption Audio/Video Components
An entire section of the website accessibility standards are devoted to audio and video elements of a website.
For any pre-recorded audio or video, you’ll need to provide an alternative. This could be a full transcript, closed captioning, sign language interpretation, or an audio description of what is happening in a video. For live audio content, you’ll want to provide synchronous captioning or another alternative.
Focus on Color Contrasts
Are any of your family members color blind? If they can’t differentiate between a red or green tie or socks, think of their struggle on a website using those colors. People with low visual abilities and some learning difficulties can also struggle on a site that isn’t careful with color.
Make use of color contrast to help users distinguish content blocks. In addition to using color, add other symbols or white space to help those with varying levels of visual impairment to navigate the page.
Try one of these two website accessibility checkers to evaluate whether your site uses color contrast effectively:
Support Keyboard Navigation
There are many reasons an individual may not be able to use a mouse or trackpad to navigate your website. Ensure people can access your content using a keyboard’s tab and arrow keys or using alternative input devices such as single-switch input or mouth stick. Don’t use elements that can only be accessed by hovering the cursor. Those will not work for these users.
Thinking about web accessibility navigation also means:
- Breaking up long pages with anchor links (jump lists)
- Providing a “Skip to main content” link at the top of each page
- Configuring page menus so that multiple levels and sub-items can be accessed with the keyboard
Use Hierarchical Headings
Maybe you thought you were using headings for SEO. It also benefits web accessibility. This content organization helps screen reader users navigate your business website content. So, you shouldn’t just be using headings as a way to make something look good on the webpage. If you want to make something stand out stylistically, code it differently.
You also want to avoid skipping a heading level. Going from an H1 to an H3 tag will leave screen reader users wondering if they’ve missed a section of your content.
This is another aspect of web accessibility that may be handled easily in your web hosting platform. For example, the WordPress editing toolbar already includes heading options.
Give Links Descriptive Names
“Click here” is not a descriptive name. When you include a link to another URL on your website, be explicit about where the link goes. This means that instead of having your call-to-action read “Learn more,” you might say, “To learn more, read about our service offerings.” The hyperlink would be on the service offerings text, which goes to the business’s service section of the website.
You can find out more about the power of backlinks in this article.
Web Accessibility for All
Web accessibility improves the user experience for everyone—whether it is people with disabilities, older people, or people in rural areas or developing countries. Following website accessibility guidelines may require a small website redesign. Or you could use this as an opportunity to launch a new web design too. Learn more about website design for small businesses in our resource center.