Around 15% of the world’s population is affected by some form of disability, which puts a notable deal of emphasis on website accessibility. In this informational write-up, we go over a few salient steps that you can take towards improving your website’s accessibility, so stick around.
1. Choose the Appropriate Content Management System
A content management system is a software application that’s utilized to manage digital content. There’s plenty of content management systems available that you can make use of to build your website, including WordPress, Drupal, Blogger, Squarespace, CPanel, and Joomla!
WordPress is by far the most popular content management system available, which stems from its ease of use. Due to the rapid progress that WordPress undergoes, the software has become increasingly popular amongst specialists that are primarily concerned with accessibility.
Another thing that’s worth noting about WordPress is that it features an accessibility team that’s always available to provide web developers with the assistance needed to improve accessibility on their websites, which is extremely valuable considering how hard the process can be.
We strongly recommend opting for a content management system that runs on an open-source format because these systems tend to undergo improvements that allow them to support newer technologies on a regular basis, which in turn enhances their accessibility features.
Now that you’ve selected the content management system that meets your needs, you need to make sure that the template you choose for your website is accessible. Make sure that you use the template’s documentation as a reference when trying to create accessible content.
As far as plugins, modules, widgets, and things of that nature, the tips and guidelines stated in the template’s documentation with regard to accessibility should be your reference as well. The administration options featured in your content management system should also be accessible.
Moreover, you want to make sure that elements such as video players and editing toolbars are capable of creating accessible content. For instance, your video players should offer the option of closed captioning, and your editing toolbars should offer the option of accessible tables.
2. Use Headings to Structure Your Content Hierarchically
Structuring your content properly doesn’t only affect the user’s perception of what your site has to offer, but it also affects how search engines interpret the context of your site. This is why you should structure your content with the aid of headings in a hierarchical fashion.
Using headings to structure your website’s content is a fairly simple process compared to other steps that are taken towards enhancing website accessibility. However, you should pay special attention to the H1 heading tag since it holds great prominence in the world of SEO.
Generally, a page should begin with an H1 heading for the title, followed by H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 subheadings in a hierarchical approach. By hierarchical, we mean that you must use headers in order. For example, you can’t employ an H4 heading directly after an H2 heading, and so on.
By structuring the content of your web pages, you help screen readers navigate through content with ease. Further, the strategic use of heading tags helps lend your website an orderly look that will fall comfortably on screen readers’ eyes, encouraging them to spend more time on your site.
3. Implement Optimal Alt Text for the Images on Your Site
Sometimes it’s hard to interpret the message that certain images are trying to convey, especially informative images such as infographics and gifographics. For that exact reason, it’s crucial that you implement proper alternative text for the images you use to make the interpretation easier.
Additionally, alternative texts serve as replacements for the images themselves if the images fail to load. It’s also advised that you include any pieces of text used in images in the alternative text region. This isn’t mandatory, but it’s considered a best practice when it comes to using alt text.
You should also be aware that if you implement images that are used as links without the use of alternative text, screen readers will be able to read the file’s name. To prevent this, it’s important that you fill the alternative text region with eloquent text for images that are used as links.
Now we’re not saying that every single image on your page should include an alt text region that explains what the image is all about. Images that are utilized as a means of decoration don’t have to abide by this rule, so it’s totally fine to leave the alternative text region empty for such images.
4. Design Your Forms While Having Accessibility in Mind
One of the problems that screen readers tend to struggle with when dealing with sites with poor accessibility is filling out form fields that aren’t labeled properly. In some cases, these forms can be quite impossible to fill, so we recommend inspecting and ridding your website of such forms.
What makes a form accessible? Well, for a form to be accessible, each of its fields should have a descriptive label that’s positioned appropriately. Further, your forms should include a tab order that allows users to fill out every single field by following the visual order before the submission.
Another best practice that you should do when designing accessible forms is to group fields that are related to each other together, which can be done using fieldsets. By organizing your form in this fashion, you help make it a lot easier for screen readers to track their progress.
In most forms, not every field is required to fill, which means that you need to label the ones that are necessary to fill in such a way that’s accessible for screen readers. Further, you may want to go the extra mile by noting these fields with asterisks so that users are alerted of their presence.
Last but certainly not least, you want to make sure you include error counts so that users can be alerted to the presence of any errors after submission. If a user submits the form with errors, the user should be redirected back to the submission page in order to resolve these errors.
On a side note, you should abstain from the use of CAPTCHA if you want to make your website more accessible since CAPTCHA is pretty much inaccessible. Here’s a terrific list of alternatives that you can use to verify authentic users and get rid of bots that are trying to spam your forms.
5. Be Extra Critical of Your Choice of Color Combinations
Are you aware that around 8% of the world’s population suffers from red-green color deficiency? In other words, if you decide to use such colors exclusively for your website, some of your users will find it extremely hard to interpret the message you’re trying to convey.
Color blindness differs from one person to the next, since it’s more of a spectrum than a solitary case. This means that different people discern colors in their own unique way, so your choice of colors on your website should be well-thought-out in order to obtain an ideal level of contrast.
Generally speaking, you want to make sure that you set light colors against darker ones in order to ensure great contrast between text and background. During the selection process, you should favor colors that don’t bleed into each other. Click here to learn more about color schemes.
Testing color combinations is a fairly simple procedure since there’s a wide range of online tools that you can use to find the ideal color scheme for your website, such as Contrast Checker. All in all, your aim should be to achieve optimal contrast and reduce the use of eye-straining colors.
Website accessibility should be at the top of every web developer’s list of priorities since it won’t only impact a significant amount of users in a positive way, but it will also increase the traffic and number of conversions that a site garners, so make sure your site is optimized for accessibility.