In this post we’ll take a look at the hot-button topic of ‘accessibility.’ Read on for a quick dive into what that means for site owners and some practical tips on what to watch out for, both in the design process and in everyday content updates and management. We hope you like it–we sure did!.
The term ‘accessibility’ is getting tossed around quite a bit these days, and it’s easy to miss how it might apply to your site in all the hoopla. In a recent post we learned that over 15% of American adults have hearing problems, and nearly 10% have trouble with eyesight, meaning that even without considering any other factors, anywhere from 15-25% of the American population is experiencing obstacles with accessibility every day.
Even if you have perfect hearing and eyesight, think to a time when you’ve interacted with a website, and the experience was less than savory. Maybe you were checking out some new site, and 12 different ads and videos popped up in your face out of nowhere. Maybe you were in public on your phone trying to catch up on the latest viral videos but forgot your headphones at home and closed captions was not an option. Or maybe you’ve experienced an even more harrowing website horror that left you shaken (if so, we’d love to hear about it below!). Whatever the case, if you’ve experienced a website horror story, rest assured you are not alone.
If at this point you’re thinking, “OK, I get your point- website accessibility (or inaccessibility!) is all around us, but what are ways to make my pages more accessible?” then never fear- top website accessibility tips are here!
Concise and Easy: Short and simple is good to go
Website accessibility revolves around the principle that people with disabilities can use the web, so it is important to focus on making all content- especially text- approachable, and easy to comprehend. Think back to the age old: “less is more” technique when adding content to pages, as too much material on a page can be overtly distracting to people with ADHD, or autism. Also pay attention to font size, and the space between paragraphs. For best practices, line spacing should make up 120-160% of text size, and paragraph spacing should be roughly equal to the size of body text. In terms of font sizes, in most cases sticking with the default ‘100%’ is a good starting point for body copy on phones, tablets and laptops/desktops. This is equivalent to 16px in desktop browsers, and on smaller devices will generally yield a good readable text size. Be sure to test, and don’t be shy about making the text even larger on bigger screens that may be viewed from a greater distance (think flat screens in conference rooms). As you’re probably picking up, different mediums of communication vary for different screen sizes, but the key takeaway here is to make sure that whatever way you display your information, it needs to be large enough to read.
Font size and spacing is not the only important thing- font type is important to! A study focusing on Dyslexia and font type found that better readability was given to Helvetica over Arial Italicized (see above photo). While you or I may not notice a difference in the readability of the fonts, it doesn’t mean everyone shares our perceptions.
Consistency is Everything: Keep things uniform
A big part of accessibility on a web page is readability, or the ease at which a reader can comprehend the text in front of them. Because readability is a major factor in information conveyance, it is extremely important to make sure your websites are easy to read- something attained through consistency. One way to keep things consistent is through headings and subtitles. Headings and subtitles work to keep the webpages organized, and the website viewer on track as to where they are in the website’s pages. For instance, if you have HEADINGS LIKE THIS, Subheadings Like This, and normal text like this, a website viewer is easily able to tell how deep into the website navigation they are.
Close Your Captions: Closed captions and subtitles are the way to go
Closed captions might not be something that you’d think of immediately as an aspect of web page accessibility, but for anyone that struggles with hearing or has auditory sensitivity, it is. Even if you don’t struggle with your auditory sense, no closed captions still may be a deal breaker for you; in fact, a studyin the UK suggested that of the 18% of the population that used closed captions, 80% of those viewers used the captions for reasons other than hearing loss. If that 80% seems large to you, think back to the last time you watched Netflix in a loud environment, or as aforementioned, wanted to see a Facebook video but had forgotten your headphones- now does the number make a bit more sense?
Content Placement is Key: Put important things up top
If you’re looking to get to a website’s homepage you’d look top left. If you’re looking for a website’s shopping cart, you’d expect it to be top right. Top placements like these are second nature to us when using a website, but can be overlooked when creating the website. To keep things accessible, remember key placement spots on the website, and keep important things up top. A study by Nielsen found that people read webpages in an “F” pattern, meaning that only the tops and left sides of the pages are scanned. With this in mind, you can see how important it is to keep important tidbits in the upper and left-hand sections of your webpage!
Continuous Checking: Test your website before proclaiming it done
Check, double check, have a friend triple check super quick when they have a minute; whatever you do, make sure your site has been reviewed. If you’re struggling with how to review it, you can always try using the site on different mediums such as screens with different resolutions, mobile devices or tablets (if you do this, it’s a good idea to check out any pictures or videos that may be included to ensure they carry through). You can also try using your website without a keyboard to see how flexible its accessibility is, or try an online tool such as the one from Webpagefx to check the readability of the website. As a final resort, you can have someone outside of your industry check out your site to make sure content and layout makes sense and flows well.
Overall: The Takeaway
Website accessibility is incredibly important when it comes to web interaction. If you are looking to make your site more accessible, remember:
- Closed Captions
- Content Placement
- Continuous Checking
Hopefully these tips have helped you learn about top things to be mindful of when it comes to making the most of website accessibility.
Missing anything? Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Website horror stories? We’d love to hear what you have to say below!