From online shopping to staying connected with others, it is safe to say the internet has changed the world. For many, the net can be a place where many of the barriers of the physical world no longer exist. However, according to the Office For National Statistics, one in five people in the UK report having some kind of disability. That’s approximately 20% of the population. And unfortunately for many, the digital wonderland of the web can soon lose its appeal when faced with badly designed, inaccessible sites. You’d actually be surprised the number of websites we find that have inaccessible colours or fonts – let alone if you need to use a screen reader… a total nightmare!
As an ethical agency, we strongly believe in accessibility and digital inclusion. Because of this, we believe in building websites that people can actually read or access, whether they have a disability or not. It also makes business sense. Not only are you would be ignoring numerous potential clients, but you may also be putting your business at risk of a discrimination claim. No joke.
“one in five people in the UK report having some kind of disability”
So hoping to inspire a little bit of change, we’ve put together a roundup of five tips to consider in making your website more accessible for everyone:
1. Use Alt Tags on images
This is often seen as one of the best things you can do to make your website accessible, yet time and time again it is overlooked.
Alternative text – usually called an Alt Tag – is the image description you add to images when you upload them to your website. They need to be descriptive, for example, ‘Dog with ball’ should be ‘Large black dog jumping into the air to catch a red ball’. In the words of TV show Catchphrase – say what you see!
Why is this important? Many people with visual impairment use a screen reader, a brilliant bit of tech that reads web pages aloud to users. However, these programs soon hit a hurdle when they are asked to ‘read’ images with no description. At best this is irritating and damages the users’ experience. At worse, the page becomes unreadable.
It is worth remembering that search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) also ‘read’ images. So good alt descriptions should be included in any SEO plan anyway.
2. Subtitles, Transcriptions and Audio Describe
Great multi-media websites are much more engaging than their text-only rivals. Fast internet and easy to use technology has made it even easier for everyone to add these fun elements to their site.
To make these accessible for everyone, subtitles should be added to all audio videos and transcripts offered for any audio files. If videos rely heavily on non-audio elements, then adding audio descriptions allows visually impaired to enjoy videos they may otherwise struggle to understand.
3. Be Cautious with Colours
Everyone sees colour differently. In 2015, a woman on the tiny Scottish island of Colonsay inadvertently sparked a worldwide debate with the innocent query of ‘what colour do you think my dress is?’
But for many internet users, colours can become a real obstacle. Colours should never be used solely to convey information. If you are using a green button for yes and a red button for no, then make sure to use text alongside this.
The bigger the contrast, the easier it is to see. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your background-to-text contrast ratio is at least 4.5:1. Any less and many people will struggle to differentiate between the words and their background. And for everyone’s sake, avoid any headache-inducing combos – no one wants to read red text on a black background.
4. Inclusive Design
Everyone wants an attractive website and design is one of the most important aspects of creating a site. But, as in life, looks ain’t everything. There is no point in having a sleek, glamourous website that is impossible to navigate. Using images or icons to travel from one page to another looks nice, but these need to be accompanied by clear text.
When embedding links make sure to describe what they are. So, avoid using ‘click here’ and instead use ‘to read more about x product’. See example below:
5. Make it keyboard-friendly
People with limited motor control often find using a mouse difficult or impossible. An inclusive site should be entirely navigable by keyboard. This means users should be able to access all interactive elements with their keyboard, avoiding elements that only reveal themselves once hovered over or drop-down menus that do not allow scrolling. A great example of a keyboard-friendly website is email service provider, Mailchimp. All you have to do when you land on their homepage is press tab (->) and you’ll see how it takes you to the different elements of the site without having to use your mouse.
Want to know how accessible your website is? Get in touch with our expert UX Team for a free consultation!