The Age of the Inaccessible Website Is Over
We’ve all landed on websites that are horrendous to use. Maybe you’re overloaded by popups, or the content keeps shifting around because the site’s trying to load more ads, or it just continually crashes and tries to reload. It’s annoying, but it’s generally accepted as just part of the internet experience.
Now imagine you’re one of the estimated ones in seven people worldwide with a disability. The World Health Organization estimates around 15% of the global population lives with a disability, and poorly designed websites can exclude people with disabilities entirely by being completely unusable.
That includes copy written in unreadable fonts, blends chameleon-like into the website’s background, or is written in labyrinthine sentence structures.
It’s images with no alt text that screen readers can’t describe, videos without captions, and links that give no indication as to where they’ll take you.
Or color contrasts that make it impossible to distinguish between website elements and companies that only give one contact method.
While for many people poorly designed websites are simply frustration that makes things harder, for people with disabilities it can prevent them from completing simple online tasks altogether.
Though it feels like a hangover of the early internet days, according to the web accessibility agency KreativeInc, even today most UK websites are designed and developed without giving any thought to people with access difficulties.
That’s backed up by WebAIM’s 2021 study which found less than 3% of the world’s top *one million* websites provide full accessibility. The same study reported an average of 51 accessibility errors on websites’ homepages alone.
There have been some success stories of accessibility campaigners taking on the big brands, although progress has been hard-fought. The Australian supermarket giant Coles was taken to court by a blind user who found online shopping through their site almost impossible, and a 10-year dialogue with the company ended with Coles improving their website accessible to the extent that the same user put Coles forward for a national accessibility award, which they duly won.
There’s a growing sense in the digital industry that a collective stance is being taken: inaccessible sites simply aren’t good enough anymore. Even within the past 12 months, the presentations hub Slideshare has seen the average number of presentations uploaded each day that reference web accessibility rise from 5.9 to 8.8.
It helps that industry giants are finally helping to lead the charge. Twitter and Linkedin have both added alt text features for images recently, while Microsoft is launching a campaign to increase alt text take-up in the same way that closed captions provision for videos has risen.
At Evoluted, as a digital agency, they take their responsibility to lead education about website best practices seriously. This month they’ve released a comprehensive free guide to website UX which focuses heavily on improving accessibility and is packed with practical tips for providing a better user experience. They want brands and individuals to use it to make their websites usable for all.
The rise of Web 3.0 seems the perfect chance to leave inaccessible websites in the past, creating a better, more inclusive internet.
As digital agencies we have the opportunity to lead from the front, showing our clients how to make their sites more accessible and demonstrating their importance, and educating the wider industry through our expertise.
3 Simple Ways to Make Your Website More Accessible
Check your color contrast: Make sure text is readable against the background you’ve used – poor color contrasts can make websites mainly unusable for users with visual impairments.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines recommend a color contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for normal text to ensure it’s easy to read. For larger text, graphics or UI components, the standard is at least 3:1. If you’re not sure how to calculate your contrast ratios, there are free tools that do this for you after you input which hex codes you’re using.
Let your words do the talking: Short, clear sentences written for humans rather than search engines are a must. Writing in this way makes your content much easier to follow for people with learning or cognitive disabilities and non-native speakers of the language you’re writing in.
Consider your font choice, too – the aesthetic benefits of a creative font style are negated if users struggle to read your copy.
Caption multimedia content: Make sure your multimedia content can be enjoyed by everyone. Adding captions to videos has been shown to increase engagement and watch time; there are many reasons why people might prefer to play videos without sound, like if they’re watching in a busy environment without headphones. Free tools will help you generate captions.
It’s also important to explain what your images show. This is done through alt text, a description that browsers can read aloud to visually impaired users.
The ability to add image alt text has been added by Twitter and Linkedin, Microsoft Edge is leading a campaign to increase worldwide alt text use, and it’s expected to be added to email providers soon.