As long as you have an internet connection, then every website is accessible, right?
Ok, imagine building a house for a wheelchair user. What would you typically include? Ramps to entrances, stair lifts, wider doorways for access and larger rooms for ease of moving, to name a few.
The same applies with your website. Our guide on what is website accessibility covers the basics to ensure your website is inclusive for all and more importantly, ensuring potential customers are able to access the information for your services.
What are the four types of website accessibility?
The four main types of website accessibility are:
What is website accessibility?
Perceivable – A word I only came across when researching this subject. In a nutshell – can your visitors perceive, or understand (for those who didn’t attend Cambridge, like yours truly) the information on your website.
This includes text & text styles, images, videos, colours and anything visual. Users with restricted eyesight will use audio or braille tools to convey the message – but the message needs to be there in the first place.
Operable – Can everyone operate your website without a mouse? Why? Well, not everyone is able to use a mouse. Is your website easy to navigate from all pages? Can the content on your website be paused, slowed down or viewed in a reasonable amount of time?
We all make mistakes, selecting the wrong page, or signing up to a marketing email in error – spam folders are about to get busy! Making sure your website is forgiving and gives users enough time to operate is essential when thinking about what is website accessibility.
Understandable – Let’s be honest here, tradespeople love tradie slang. Chippy, brickie, lagger, and probably the most well known, cowboy! Good for the building site, bad for your website.
Clearly written text and easy to understand language is essential for website accessibility. You may know your trade in and out, but does your customer? The language used to describe an action or link should lead the user to that exact space.
Robust – Whilst you cannot be producing website content to work on a 1995 version of internet explorer, websites shouldn’t dictate the browser or technology the user has to use to be able to reach them. Websites should be compatible with a variety of browsers and screen sizes, such as tablet and mobile.
When reviewing your website and what is website accessibility, the next step is finding out how what actions to take to make your website more accessible.
How do I make my website accessible?
Let’s look at how you can implement the four main areas of website accessibility into your website.
Text Alternatives – Non-text content, such as images, should have a text alternative to ensure non-sighted users can hear them. Hear you say? Yes, hear. Transcript software will read out the text alternative to each piece of content – so be sure to include things such as image alt text with your non-decorative images. Image alt text is also an essential part of your technical SEO for trades.
Video & Audio – Time based media, such as video and audio, require either a full transcript (for audio) content and subtitles or captions (for video). This will enable users with limited hearing and/or visual capabilities to consume the content.
Text Structure – If we stripped your website back to text only, does it still make sense? Do you have hierarchical headings (H1, H2, H3 etc) in the correct order. Do you emphasise the correct message via bold and italic text? Copy and paste your website copy from top to bottom onto a blank word document and get reading.
Colours & Sounds – You don’t need a degree in fashion to realise, some colours just don’t go, and even if they do, are they merging into one? Utilising colour contrast will ensure your users can read the text with the background. Black & White? Good. Blue & Purple, not so great. A colour tone palette can really help identify colours that mix well and their contrasting colours. Similarly, your video or audio content needs to be easy to hear, and should include pause and playback features.
Keyboard only test – Head over to your website, right now, and see if you can navigate the entire website without a mouse. Use the tab key to move about, and enter to select buttons or pages. Not everyone can use a mouse, so ensuring your website can be navigated with a keyboard only is an important step when asking what is website accessibility.
Page navigation – Can your users easily navigate to and from all pages on your website? Page navigation is a biggie when it comes to digital marketing for trades and website design structure. When thinking, what is website accessibility, ask yourself, can I easily identify where I need to go in order to navigate around the website? Simple tweeks such as a sticky header menu, or page links in your footer means users can easily navigate around your website. Layering this with internal links, where you expect to find them and click-through images which clearly show the way to your services.
Flashing content – According to W3C, any content, such as text, images or videos that flashes or blinks 3 times within a second can trigger seizures – either avoid altogether or have a pre-warning.
Readable text – As previously mentioned, slang, whether regional or trade sector related, probably doesn’t speak to your target audience. Whilst in Scotland, “wee” usually means small, down south (of the wall that is) it’s usually something we do on the toilet. Avoiding slang and jargon means your website content is understandable to more users, such as those reading it as their second language or such.
Text content should also be in contrast to the background colour on which it sits, bright white text over a light blue background may suit your branding, but it can be very difficult to read. It’s never a bad idea to add some base core colours to your website design to balance out the branding and bring some neutrality and balance to your pages.
Site structure – When laying out your web pages – ask yourself, are they logical? Do they follow a flow in which makes sense, and are the navigational elements where you would expect to find them? This is not only important for website users in general, but also for SEO.
Please ensure you have filled out all of the required fields – Your website should clearly explain why something isn’t working, such as a contact form, and the reason. The most common, which we all recognise is the required fields mark. Is the message conveying this error clear to the user and easy to understand?
HTML < / > – A robust website relies on the code being clean and straightforward, so the majority of browsers are able to resize and display your website. In honesty, this ones for your website developer, but there are a few ways to check when looking into, what is website accessibility, that your website ticks the robust box.
Browsers – Whilst your website may look good on your laptop, how does it fair on different sized screens or devices? You’d be surprised how often websites look fantastic on one screen – only to look awful everywhere else. It’s also worth noting that website users are on mobile more than 50% of the time, meaning website friendly websites are important more than ever!
Google’s own developer tool (Ctrl + Shift + I) is a great way to check your website on a mixture of different devices, you can select from a pre-made list and also add your own screen sizes to check.
How do I know if my website is accessible or not?
So now you’ve spent all of this time researching what is website accessibility, it’s time to check out how your website stacks up against the guidelines above, you can see for yourself with WAVE.
This website accessibility tool allows you to see in real time what issues your web pages have and suggests how to resolve them. They also have a nifty chrome plugin so you can check as you go! Whilst it doesn’t detect language, it covers the essentials when it comes to website accessibility and is a useful tool for any website owner.