Things to consider to make your website accessible for everyone
In the new millennium, we’ve seen the internet reach the mainstream and the introduction of new devices to browse the internet, from laptops to smartphones - but how do we keep this technology accessible for all? To help encourage the development of this space for everyone, guidelines have been developed by national and international government bodies.
These guidelines aren’t just helpful for people with a disability - they can be super helpful to ensure people without a disability can use a website seamlessly. Some very helpful best practices that were designed for optimum accessibility - no matter your physical abilities - include:
Making sure your website scales correctly no matter your device - have you ever tried to use a website that doesn’t quite fit into your iPhone screen? It can be very frustrating!
Subtitles are super helpful no matter who you are, maybe the actors in the video you are watching are speaking too fast (or in a thick accent!) or maybe you’ve got kids asleep in the next room so want to keep your sound low.
A consistent navigation bar throughout a website is an excellent practice to be enforced - could you image if the navigation bar changed each time you visited a different page of a website?!
AA minimum contrast levels are implemented to address the loss of contrast that users experience if they are affected by age-related loss of acuity (most people over 40), or colour deficiencies (up to 10% of the population).
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
The major adviser in the web accessibility space is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines - or WCAG for short. These guidelines are developed by the international Web Accessibility Initiative to make the internet accessible for everyone, no matter their abilities.
We design all of our websites and web content to be in line with tier 2.1, which was developed in 2018 and covers the most recent changes in technology, including the increased use of mobile devices, auto-filling the address bar and the spacing of the text on a website. Australian government organisations have to adhere to all tiers of these guidelines (even the non-compulsory ones) - which is why government sites can sometimes look a bit plain.
Like all guidelines, it is just a guide, but we do implement the majority of the suggestions into our design work. We adhere to these guidelines to the best of our ability, designing all websites to meet the required guidelines first, and then looking at any additional features - always coming back to our handy checklist.
Do’s and don’ts
So what should you keep in mind when you’re thinking about your next website? We’ve created a list of thinking points to help you think about your idea and how to see if from your customers’ perspective - no matter their ability.
Colour is everything when it comes to design, especially when working online and displaying your business and brand to the world. Whenever we design a website, it is always a balancing act of making something that is creative and great to look at, and a website that is accessible for everyone and every device. A major part of this is ensuring that the text uses colours with adequate contrast, font size and readability.
We have developed our own colour contrast testing platform, so we can input the HEX (a combination of RGB values for online use) into the system, and it tells us where it ranks. This also helps to ensure that the end product will be able to be read by people who are colourblind - which is 8.4% of Australia’s population. This is done before we show our clients a design - to make sure we show you a final product that is accessible and visually appealing.
A great font can make a world of difference and can help consolidate your business’ brand and identity. When you’re choosing a font it’s important to ensure that your contrast and your sizes are adequate so your content is readable. It is recommended that your contrast should be higher for light fonts, and have a slightly lower contrast for heavy or larger fonts.
How will it look on a mobile phone?
Mobile phone users make up 62% of all internet users which is why we always encourage our customers to think about how their website will look on a small screen. Mobile devices will often not show certain elements, and some features can be quite annoying on a mobile device - like when a newsletter pop-up appears and you can’t quite find the ‘close’ button on your phone.
Your page also needs to work on any orientation - portrait or landscape - and needs to be resized to 200% without any loss of content or function. This is a common feature that a lot of people use in their daily life that can help improve your online experience.
Avoid automatic media and navigation
Those of us who remember the days of MySpace and Tumblr will remember the annoyance of visiting a page and instantly being blasted with music out of nowhere from an automatic player. Not only is this very disruptive, but it can also be really difficult to turn off if you’re using an assisted device. Assistive technology is very popular with people who need some help operating various devices - from kettles to cars - providing people with a disability the opportunity to be more independent. Using assistive technological devices makes it easier for a user to navigate around a page, but it can still be frustrating trying to quickly act and pause audio and visuals that have automatically started playing.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again - content is king! Every word, image, callout box and video affects your user’s experience and your search engine ranking. Having original content helps your website to stand out from everyone else’s, and also creates a positive user experience, encouraging people to share your website with others.
The accessibility guidelines also help support these best practices with the following content requirements:
Present content in a meaningful order
Helpful and clear page title
Every link’s purpose is clear from its context
Use clear headings and labels
These layout features can help you to present your content in a meaningful and engaging way and can improve every user’s experience. It can also help attract new users and can also be advantageous with any SEO work you are doing.
Stepping into your customer’s shoes and imagining your website from their perspective is super important to ensure that your website appeals to your audience and target market. Taking into consideration how your website will be used, and by which people will help not only your layout and customer conversion rates, but it will help you to understand how to reach your customers effectively.