Here’s a riddle: what do Beyoncé, Netflix and Domino’s Pizza have in common? The answer is that all three have been sued over website accessibility issues. Trust us, it’s a costly club you do not want to join. This is one of those rare instances when you don’t want to be more like Beyoncé, because while she may have “diamonds on her neck, diamonds on her records,” most small businesses certainly do not.
Avoiding legal action is one reason why you want your digital presence to be as accessible as possible, but there are many. For starters, according to the United Nations, more than 650 million people live with a disability, making them the world’s largest minority group. In other words, if you aren’t mindful about accessibility, your website could present a poor user experience for up to 10% of your customers.
So, how do you ensure your website is more equitable?
There are a number of ways to make your website more accessible. In all fairness, unless you are a web dev wizard, a lot of the technical requirements are hard to understand. And frankly, almost every website fails in one way or another. Both of the top two most common guidelines (ADA’s Title II Checklist and Section 508 of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Workforce Investment Act) are pretty daunting. But while you probably won’t achieve accessibility perfection tomorrow, it’s important to do what you can today.
If you can’t do it all, at least start with the easiest action items. Here are five ways to make your website more accessible right now.
Many visually impaired people use screen readers to understand your website. Alt text, or an alt tag, is a short description of the contents of a graphic or image. If the photos on your site do not have alt text, visitors who can’t see them won’t have any idea what’s on the screen. This is especially awful if the photo is critical to understanding the landing page as a whole. It only takes two seconds to type out an alt tag in the CMS, so write alt text for every photo. And don’t think too much about it. Rather than “long-haired blonde woman in a white dress holding a bottle and a glass of red wine,” go with “woman drinking red wine.” Simple.
Format your website and social media hashtags in title case—or to be more precise, camel case. I admit, I much prefer the aesthetic of all lowercase hashtags. However, lowercase hashtags are harder to read and understand for many visually impaired people and people with cognitive disabilities such as dyslexia. Plus, screen readers aren’t advanced enough to know where the breaks are in words when the hashtags are all lowercase, so #bestmarketingagency comes across as gibberish whereas #BestMarketingAgency reads correctly.
Make your video content more accessible by adding transcriptions. Aside from the fact that transcriptions are a great marketing strategy, your deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors deserve the same access and user experience as everyone else. YouTube and other video hosts often include closed captioning features, but when transcriptions are auto-generated you always want to check the results. Bad transcriptions can be embarrassing. On social, there are several apps that integrate well with Instagram stories, etc. so you don’t need to transcribe manually.
The Flesch-Kincaid test is a metric that determines the readability of your copy. There’s actually a complicated mathematical formula, but there’s no need to be that detailed. What you really need to keep in mind is that intellectual accessibility is as important as visual accessibility. While some of us are privileged to have a vast vocabulary and the ability to quickly grasp complex concepts, not all of us are. Write your website copy with an eighth grader in mind. To put it another way, avoid sesquipedalian terms and stick to common words with fewer syllables.
Unless your website is in Arabic, Hebrew or other right-to-left script, align your body copy to the left of the page. Center alignment or justification is almost entirely an aesthetic choice, one that can create problems for visually impaired visitors. Even for users such as myself who don’t have a visual impairment, it can be difficult to find where one line ends and the next line begins in center-aligned copy. By all means, use center justification in moderation for headers or call-to-action buttons, but left-align your body copy to be as accessible as possible.
Although the five action items above are only the beginning, they may still be overwhelming. We get it. Digital marketing isn’t rocket science, but the rules and regulations of online accessibility are difficult to navigate. It’s a good thing you’re on elevatemybrand.com, isn’t it?
Give us a call and let’s talk about how to elevate your site’s accessibility over a cocktail or coffee.
Cody H. Owens, Account Executive
Elevate My Brand