Website accessibility is more important than ever, especially since search engines like Google have begun taking this into account when ranking websites on their SERPs (search engine results pages). Furthermore, given the surprisingly high number of internet users with disabilities (particularly visual ones), there is a large potential user base that most websites are not currently accommodating. While optimizing your website for accessibility standards is the morally right thing to do, there are also potential monetary rewards that come with this too. In this article, we will guide you through optimizing your website for accessibility, highlighting why website design is essential for convenience, and how you can improve your website’s accessibility through a combination of ADA standards, UX improvements, and SEO optimization.
What is Web Design?
In a nutshell, Web Design encompasses a combination of both the visual design of a website in conjunction with the website’s user experience. The visual design process generally consists of determining the appearance and layout of the website. When designing the website’s appearance, factors such as the website’s color scheme, font type, iconography, and images are selected. The layout consists of the arrangement of the web page itself, along with how the information it contains is structured and categorized.
According to R11 Solutions, good web design is conducive to accessibility. It is easy to use, navigate, and it’s aesthetically pleasing. A good design aims specifically to address the needs of its target audience, and communicate the brand’s overall message. Furthermore, good web design develops the audience’s trust in its brand and addresses the user’s pain points and potential frustrations.
Why Web Design is Essential
If a site ignores the website design process, they run the risk of potentially alienating a significant portion of potential visitors on the internet. That will inevitably result in lower SERPs rankings and visitor numbers, a high bounce rate, and fewer conversions, which will ultimately translate to fewer sales and little to no money made. By including web design in the development process, you can prevent and mitigate these negative consequences by obtaining the following benefits:
- Improved accessibility – A significant portion of potential visitors are disabled. By designing your website to be accommodating to these groups, you’re increasing your potential user base, resulting in more traffic, conversions, and revenue.
- Improved user experience – A simple and easy to use website results in exceptional user experience. That, in turn, results in increased engagement time, higher conversion rates, and ultimately increased revenue.
- Better SEO – A more straightforward, cleaner, and well-designed website will improve your website’s SEO. Search Engine Robots will be able to gather more information from your website to rank it more appropriately. Higher ranks will result in more traffic and thus more conversions, which will generate you more money.
Improving the accessibility of your website is by no means an easy task, it will take a lot of time, effort, and careful consideration to get right. If you’re up for the challenge, then we suggest that you focus your efforts on the following areas:
Good User Experience
Achieving a good user experience is essential to improving the accessibility of your website. First and foremost, the website’s performance should be speedy, especially on mobile devices. Page loading times longer than 3 seconds run the risk of losing potential users, the probability of which increases drastically for each consecutive 0.5 seconds. Secondly, you should ensure browser compatibility. Unfortunately, websites do not load the same way on each browser, so you must test and refine your design until it does – a person’s choice of web browsers should not limit them from accessing your website! Thirdly, you should use journey mapping to optimize and refine the number of steps required by users to perform essential tasks on your website. In addition to these steps, you may also want to ensure that your users can successfully navigate your site without a mouse and use high contrasting colors to allow elements on your page to be distinguishable from each other.
Optimizing your website for search engines goes hand in hand with ADA Requirements. Sites with a high degree of accessibility are rewarded by Google, with increased SERPs rankings. Similarly, by optimizing your website for SEO, you are inadvertently making it ADA compliant. Consider the actions of creating descriptive meta title tags, meta description tags, and image alt tags. If a blind person relying on a screen reader to translate the page comes across a website with useful and highly descriptive meta tags, they will be able to understand the purpose and function of the site and be more willing to use it. This same premise extends to website images. An image alone is useless to a blind person, but with a descriptive alt-tag, they will understand what the picture is illustrating.
Keeping this in mind, we highly recommend against keyword stuffing. While tempting, this novice mistake is not only harmful to your SEO but also severely restricts your website’s accessibility – the nonsensical descriptions that arise from keyword stuffing while interpretable by machines will prove extremely unhelpful for humans.
The ADA (Americans with disabilities act) is a civil rights law first passed in 1990 that aims to protect those with disabilities from discrimination. This broad and comprehensive act was designed to provide those with disabilities access to all facets of society to an identical degree to those without disabilities. As part of its reach, the ADA also extends to the internet, protecting and enshrining the fundamental right to access the available information.
When designing a website and optimizing it for accessibility, it’s a good idea to keep it ADA compliant. When striving for ADA compliance, consider users who may be visually impaired. Use easily legible font types, colors, and sizes, implement a toggleable dark mode button, and ensure that the website’s primary functions are easy to find and perform. Furthermore, for those with color blindness, you may want to pay attention to your choice of color and color pairings. We recommend that you stick to high contrast pairings as they’re much straightforward to process for those with visual impairments.
Designing for accessibility is no short task. Ideally, accessibility standards should be factored into the website design process, but accessibility improvements can still be made well after the website has gone live. When creating solutions for accessibility problems, consider a wide range of potential disabilities and how they may impact the way someone uses your website. Furthermore, ensure that your website provides excellent user experience and is optimized for search engines. By adhering to accessibility standards, not only can you feel good about yourself for doing the right thing, but you can also expect more site visitors, increased engagement time, conversions, and subsequent profit. It’s a win-win for everyone!