While creating accessible websites is something companies and web designers have been doing for years, web accessibility has only recently become somewhat of a buzzword. As newer generations become more conscientious and mindful of their actions, they prefer to engage and interact with companies that are more ethical and equitable.
Furthermore, creating accessible websites is not just about catering to new, conscientious mindsets; it’s about genuinely doing what is right and building a brand and a website that is inclusive and mindful of all people. Thus, website and content accessibility has become essential for brands that want to continue attracting today’s consumers, build a quality reputation and expand their reach to all consumers.
In general, accessibility refers to the ease of use and access to a website or the content that a company produces. Creating accessible content and web designs is the act of ensuring that websites can be accessed by everyone, no matter their socio-economic limitations or physical disabilities.
In more depth, web accessibility ensures that all users can find, perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with a website no matter who they are, where they are located, and what disabilities they might have. This includes situational, economic and environmental limitations, as well as auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical and visual disabilities.
Searchability or perceivability means that all users can find and perceive your website by removing barriers that would keep them from accessing the content. Ensuring a website is operable and easily navigable means making it usable for everyone, no matter the device they might be using to access it.
The website also needs to be easily understood. In other words, the information and content displayed must be clear and easy to understand. It also means having consistent, reliable and predictable navigation. And as a whole, an accessible website must be robust, meaning users must be able to access and interpret it no matter what technology, device, or platform they are using.
The majority of today’s consumers access the internet every day for various reasons, but especially to learn about brands and purchase products or services. Unfortunately, many disabled people cannot or do not access the internet and certain websites due to a lack of accessibility. According to research, disabled Americans are about three times less likely to go online compared to the average user.
Furthermore, not only do individuals with disabilities struggle to access the internet, but those in rural communities and lower-income areas also lack access to quality internet services. Around 21 million Americans lack access to broadband connectivity, meaning most lower-income consumers rely heavily on their smartphones for internet access.
And despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) stating that all public places must be accessible to individuals with disabilities – with websites being counted as public spaces, there is no easy way to regulate web accessibility as of yet. Thus, many public and private businesses still get away with falling short of accessible technical standards.
This lack of accessibility in itself is why web accessibility is so important and needed. Just because people have limitations based on their income or where they live, or due to disabilities does not mean they should not have access to the same things as everyone else. No matter their capabilities, a consumer should be able to access a company’s website for products and services without hindrance due to a lack of accessibility.
Though search engine optimization (SEO) and web design are not the same things, they do overlap, especially where accessibility is concerned. As a quality SEO strategy works to optimize a brand’s website to provide users with the most informative and relative content possible, it relates to the aspect of web accessibility that is concerned with ensuring a website is perceivable and the information is easily understood.
While SEO does require an understanding of data analytics and how search engines work, it is primarily focused on creating informative, optimized content. And quality content is also an essential part of web accessibility. It doesn’t matter how fancy your web design is; instead, it’s about creating content that informs your customer and meets their needs. Similarly, with web accessibility, having an appealing web design won’t get you far if the design and the content are not clear and accessible. Thus, accessible SEO and accessible websites go hand in hand.
Overall, creating a more accessible website can improve search engine rankings, meaning web accessibility can directly affect your SEO strategy – in a good way. When you improve your website’s accessibility, you also improve things connected to SEO, such as UX signals, structure and readability, metadata and alt text, anchor text, video transcriptions and natural language processing.
From a business standpoint, one of the greatest benefits of personalizing your customer experience by improving web and SEO accessibility is that it improves customer retention rates. Customers are an essential part of any business and the success it has. Without your customers, you wouldn’t make any money.
Businesses that focus on creating appealing websites and content might initially attract new customers, but retaining your customers requires providing a valuable incentive. And brands that are more accessible and inclusive offer more value.
Thus, by improving your accessibility, you will not only expand your reach to new customers with disabilities and limitations but also improve your overall appeal as a business, which will help you retain customers at higher rates. And companies that have better retention rates have more success because it helps them increase their profits and their growth trajectory.
There are numerous best practices and strategies for making a website and your SEO techniques more accessible. Again, as the two overlap, improving either one will naturally improve the other.
To ensure your website and content are optimized and accessible according to ADA and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), follow the tips and strategies below:
• Alt-text: Alternative text is important for SEO and accessibility. Tagging images with text ensures they help with ranking in search results in addition to helping those with visual disabilities. People with certain disabilities may use screen reader devices that read the text on a website to help them understand what is in front of them. So if they can’t physically see an image, it’s important to use text that the screen reader can interpret. Alt-text is also useful for people who have slow internet connections that can’t load images or for those who access the internet on their phones.
• Page titles: Title tags are another essential aspect of SEO as they can help a page rank in search results. And in the same way that descriptive title tags help Google understand the topic or purpose of a page, they also help people with visual impairments who use screen readers to understand what kind of content is on the page. Descriptive title tags can also be useful for people with cognitive disabilities that need clear and easy-to-read text that reminds them what page they are on, especially with websites that have multiple pages or tabs. Thus, a title tag should provide an accurate description of the page using relevant keywords in 70 characters or less.
• Video transcripts: Video content is engaging and can help search engine rankings, but for search engines to understand the content, it needs to have a transcription. From an accessibility standpoint, videos can be overwhelming for certain people with disabilities, or they might not be able to watch them or hear them, so it’s incredibly helpful for there to be a transcription that can be read and interpreted by a screen reader, or converted to audio or braille. Videos also take a long time to load or may not load at all for people accessing your site with slower internet speeds or from other devices, so it’s essential to have a transcription for them to still gain context.
The top three tips are the most essential regarding SEO, but there are many additional ways you can improve your website’s accessibility, including:
• Being mindful of color schemes and text, size and design
• Allowing for keyboard navigation
• Using clear and relevant anchor text for links
• Properly labeling forms
• Avoiding media content that plays automatically
You can also improve your accessibility strategy by having your teams take web accessibility training classes. Web accessibility might be easy to understand in theory, but putting it into practice can be more of a challenge. With classes or courses, your teams can more thoroughly understand ADA and WCAG guidelines, learn from qualified accessibility trainers, implement accessibility updates more quickly and more.
Using the tips and strategies above, in addition to SEO tools for auditing and monitoring your website, can overall help you significantly improve your website’s accessibility. Despite there being a lack of strict accessibility standards enforced on businesses, it is still crucial for brands to follow the ADA and WCAG guidelines to ensure their website is accessible to all. Plus, the more accessible your website is, the more you will improve customer retention rates and have greater success.