How many meetings have you been in where you hear the words: “We need to get our sales up”? If you’re involved in the digital marketing side of the business marketing, chances are you’re using various vehicles, like social media, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), advertising etc. to drive visitors to the website. But how much time and focus is spent on visitors once they arrive at the website? What if I told you your website may be frustrating or even preventing some visitors from buying or signing up for your product or service? Want a way to fix some basic issues using Web Accessibility techniques?
What is Web Accessibility?
At a basic level it means being able to access what you need through the Internet. Another term for this is web accessibility. Although the term is typically used in relation to people with disabilities, not being able to access what you need online affects us all, whether you have a disability or not. Has a website ever frustrated you so much that you left? In fact, improving a User’s Experience (UX) not only increases sales, it reduces the amount of marketing dollars wasted.
Focusing on Web Accessibility Improves the Experience for Everyone
Web accessibility, or as I now love to refer to it as UXA, can seem daunting and complex. But you’ll be happy to hear that it’s common sense.
There are many ways to improve a website’s usability. But one of my favourites is using web accessibility guidelines to provide a path. Fix a website for people with disabilities and you’ll improve the experience for more users. Besides, having a website that excludes anyone throws money away. And it may even get you into trouble. I dare any IT or senior manager to go to the President of the company and say the website works great but excludes people with disabilities and some seniors.
Three Areas to Address that have a Big Impact
Having worked in accessibility for many years, you tend to see the same issues. So in Part One, let’s start with three big ones.
- Navigate with the Keyboard only
Not everyone can use a mouse. They may have a permanent, temporary or situational disability that prevents them from using one. Visitors that are blind use tools that read the website out loud to them. So, the first thing to tackle is making sure a website works with only a keyboard. If you’re not sure if it does, take the “no mouse challenge.” Simply use the tab key on the keyboard and try to navigate through the website. Is the navigation highlighted or outlined? Do you know where you are? If not, you’ll need to fix that. Why? If someone who can only use a keyboard can’t navigate your website, they leave. Your website is pretty much locked to them. Those are potential customers you’ve just turned away for no good reason.
- Heading Structure
Next, look at how your website’s content is structured. If a visitor uses assistive technology, like a screen reader, they’ll need to be able to navigate the website quickly to get where they want to go. Screen reader users often navigate a web page using headings.Think of a web page like a book. There’s a main title, table of contents, chapters and sub-headings. The equivalent website heading structures are H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 and H6. The mistake most content producers make is that they don’t use proper heading structure. They use headings because they like the look, not because the content is a heading.Another big advantage of proper heading structure is that search engines can scan your website to know what a page is all about. An accessible website is search engine friendly, thereby helping sales.
- Describe Images
Not everyone can see the images on your website. It could be because they are blind. Or, they might just have a poor internet connection and decide not to load images to save time and data.For both of those users, providing alternative text describes what the image is all about. Writing alternative text also encourages you to pick images that are relevant to the content. Too often we see images that “look nice” but don’t support the content. Images that don’t add value need to go.
Start the Journey
Fixing the accessibility barriers on your site will make your site more inclusive, search engine friendly, easier to navigate and help turn more visitors into customers.
Tackling these three issues will start you on your journey. We’ll reveal some more in Part Two.