What Is Accessible Design: Optimizing B2B for Usability
Inclusivity is more than just a buzzword. It represents the long-overdue evolution of a broad collection of standards aimed at disrupting any and all inherent unfairness in activities, attitudes, and behaviors for both leisure and business. In web design, this specifically refers to the importance of creating or adapting web content to make it more accessible to people with disabilities.
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What Is Accessible Website Design?
W3C spearheads an effort referred to as the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) that has developed guidelines that are widely regarded as the international standard for web accessibility. Collectively referred to as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which are currently in version 2.1, these guidelines cover web content and applications, browsers, and authoring tools. Making your B2B website accessible by employing WCAG 2.1 guidelines will ensure accessibility for the highest number of individuals and will help your B2B company avoid litigation.
WCAG Website Compliance Standards
The full document covering WCAG 2.1 can be found here but the standards break down to four basic principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust. Let’s take a deeper dive into what these terms actually mean:
Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways that they can perceive. The information being presented cannot be invisible to all of a user’s senses.
User interface components and navigation must be operable. Users must be able to operate the interface without the requirement of interaction that a user is incapable of performing.
Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable. Users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface. In other words, the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding.
Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, which includes assistive technologies. As technologies and user agents advance and evolve, the content must remain accessible.
Identifying Accessibility in B2B Website Design
A B2B website must consider user experience at all times. Unless a website is specifically designed and built to be accessible and ADA compliant, it is highly unlikely that any B2B website will meet the WCAG 2.1 standards without a design overhaul.
To get started on the path to website accessibility, a website audit for adherence to WCAG 2.1 standards must be conducted. Once the audit is completed those results can be used to remediate your existing company website.
The current best practice for completing a compliance audit is a 3-factor WCAG 2.1 audit. Though automated tools exist that claim to be able to identify accessibility issues, these tools often only identify an average of about 30% of WCAG issues, so they can only be relied upon in part when testing or auditing your B2B site.
The 3-factor WCAG 2.1 steps include the following:
- Automated WCAG Testing – The above-mentioned tools crawl the entire website to capture basic or common barriers to usability
- Manual WCAG Testing – A manual review of code and use-cases for unique pages
- Assistive Technology Testing – Using the tools that people with disabilities use for use-cases on unique pages.
Once an in-depth WCAG audit report has identified what and where the WCAG violations are on your B2B website, the challenge of how to correct these violations is the next phase in optimizing for B2B usability.
Best Practices for Accessible Content on B2B Websites
Digital content creators should always consider the following factors when designing for accessibility:
- Never rely on color as a navigational tool or as the only way to differentiate items on the site
- Always use alt text in the markup code for images. If the image is complex (like a chart) then there should be more extensive descriptions near the image, either as a caption or a descriptive summary built into a nearby paragraph
- Functionality should be accessible through mouse and keyboard and should also be tagged to work with voice control systems
- If your B2B site includes audio-only media such as podcasts, transcripts should be provided
- If your B2B site includes video, offer visual access to the audio component via in-sync captioning on the video itself
- Offer a “skip navigation” feature. This is normally a link at the top of the page that, when activated, jumps the user to the beginning of the main content area. This link can be positioned off the screen for sighted users without hiding it from screen readers
Quick Tips for Accessibility on B2B Websites
Though government organizations are legally obligated to design for accessibility, the lack of codification for private companies has not yet reached that standard. This does not mean that your company website is not at risk if non-compliant.
There are countless special interest groups and legal concerns that have made it common practice to demand civil (usually monetary) relief if your B2B website does not have rich accessibility options. Whether you are designing a site from scratch or adapting current content, keep the following considerations at the forefront of your efforts.
- Create content that can be perceived in different ways without losing meaning
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways
- Give users enough time to read and use content
- Do not use content that needs to carry a seizure warning
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content
- Provide captions and other alternatives for all multimedia elements
First Steps in Optimizing for B2B Website Accessibility
A complete website audit will provide you with clarity regarding WCAG infractions and a path forward for correcting those issues. Getting on board with WCAG 2.1 accessibility standards is often intimidating for B2B entities that have never addressed these issues before.
Partnering with our GoingClear team allows your organization to seamlessly transform your B2B content and allow the maximum number of users to have access to your products and services.
Connect with us today to get started!