What is Accessibility?
The definition of accessibility is the “quality of being able to be reached or entered”. In the B2B world of web design and web apps, that definition is expanded to mean the quality of being easily able to obtain, use, be understood, and be appreciated. Though there is a current fixation in the space on ensuring that accessibility complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to prevent being victimized by legal conglomerates looking to extort settlements from companies of all sizes, the real issues surrounding website accessibility must be crystallized in a much greater fashion to truly have a positive impact that generates returns in addition to protection from those monitoring simply for compliance.
Let GoingClear conduct a website audit to assess your website’s current level of accessibility.
What Accessibility Issues Can Impact User Experience?
To fully consider the value of user experience, it is helpful to think about your personal experiences. When was the last time a website error caused frustration for you while trying to accomplish a task? Have you run into problems while trying to work remotely, perhaps from a cell phone, only to find that the site you need to utilize doesn’t have a mobile version? Sometimes that mobile version doesn’t have the complete functionality of the main site, occasionally even automatically directing your smartphone browser to an alternate address so that ticking the “view complete page” box doesn’t correct the issue. These types of UX frustrations can impact the average user and cause a litany of problems, ranging from dissatisfaction to loss of clientele.
The true impact of such issues, though, when centering consideration around disabled individuals, means that problems that irritate the general public can render a site completely unusable. This is not only a legal problem that violates the ADA. It is a weakness that needlessly limits your user base. It is also an indication that the leadership team responsible for the content is not up to speed or on board with the current climate surrounding the vital factor of inclusivity, and can lead to reputation problems and legal entanglements that extend far beyond web experience.
Accessible web design is needed to focus on people that have disabilities that impede their vision, hearing, and movement. At GoingClear, our designers constantly strive to create and adapt websites that are inclusive, easy to navigate, and easy to understand for any visitor.
Guidelines for Accessible Website Design
The World Wide Web Consortium has developed a series of guidelines, referred to as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, that break down the question of accessibility into four main spheres as follows:
Perceivable: Can the content on the site be used in different ways? (ie, does video content include closed captions?)
Operable: Can the site function cleanly without the use of a mouse, complex clicking, or touchscreen interactions?
Understandable: How well can an average user understand the user interface, how it functions, and how to locate and consume the information being presented on the site?
Robust: Can different assistive devices utilized by disabled individuals such as screen readers understand the complete content and communicate it effectively?
The full document can be found here, and the versions are continually updated. The most recent release, 3.0, was implemented in June of 2021. To summarize the most important considerations and how successfully a site meets the standards, the four spheres are graded A, AA, or AAA to represent “good, better, and great,” respectively.
Actionable Changes to Enhance Accessibility
Scheduling a website review or consultation with GoingClear is a great first step to making improvements to your current site, or implementing methods and content that will increase inclusivity quickly and efficiently. Here are a few of the ways we approach this:
Check Your Text!
Typography, including the hierarchy coded into text. This helps improve organization by using header tags and nesting them properly and also improves SEO and the experience of people who have visual impairments or difficulty remembering and consuming certain kinds of content.
Text size might seem like a simple factor, but it is critical for people who are visually impaired. If you have to squint to read a site, or find yourself frequently having to pinch/zoom your screen when reading, imagine the difficulty the same text can present to someone who is visually compromised. The WCAG standards recommend keeping lines of text characters below 80 characters, and GoingClear employs strict quality control methodology to ensure these standards are met at AAA level.
The color contrast between foreground and background color can change the legibility of websites and is even more difficult for an end-user to adjust. Text needs to have a 4:5:1 contrast ratio for a mere AA rating, and a 7:1 ratio for AAA.
Improve Asset Descriptions
The ability to describe an image with ALT text improves SEO and also allows users to visualize an image. When a screen reader translates content for an impaired individual, the alt-text is the only way to allow for visualization of the posted images. It is bad form to leave an img tag with the default naming convention file labels that are created from a mobile device like a cell phone. Learn more about Google’s best (and worst) practices for alt-text.
If you’ve never heard of ARIA labels (Accessible Rich Internet Applications), then your development team may not yet be on board with the latest standards for accessibility. GoingClear can offer a direct overhaul of your site, or design and produce a learning workshop session to ensure that your development team can meet standards on accessibility today and in the future.
Design Clear Focus States
Since there are people that cannot use a mouse to navigate websites, the most-used alternative involves tabbing through fields, making focus states a vital piece of grading accessibility. Input fields, buttons, and interactive elements need to be properly designed to allow tab navigation. The error states that return when information has been improperly submitted also needs to be clearly designed and able to clearly communicate where the user went wrong.
Improve the Accessibility Of Your Web Design
Accessibility is a team effort. Designers, developers, copywriters, and content creators must all manage their silos with the end goal of a completely accessible design. This might seem intimidating if it’s a new venture, and that’s why GoingClear is proud to offer businesses the opportunity to launch their design and user experience into the top AAA echelons of accessibility quickly and effectively.
Get started by reaching out to us today!