Designing an accessible website isn’t just critical for legal compliance — but it’s also good for your business.
Web accessibility ensures everyone can use and navigate your site, including those with impairments and disabilities.
Considering 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability, accommodating these users’ needs ensures you’re not losing out on potential business.
Let’s also not forget the aging population whose ability to process cognitive load and fine motor skills diminishes over time…
More visitors equals more customers.
More customers equals more business.
At this point, you’re probably wondering how to actually create an accessible website.
Not to worry; we’ve got you covered!
Read on to learn the key best practices you can implement to prioritize web accessibility.
What is web accessibility, and why is it important?
Web accessibility involves developing and designing inclusive websites that can be easily navigated, used, interacted with, and consumed by everyone.
An “accessible” website ensures people with auditory, cognitive, neurological, speech, physical, and visual disabilities and limitations enjoy the same or similar experience as those without, giving every user equal access to your digital content.
Aside from ethics, website accessibility is important for legal reasons and is critical in maximizing visitors. Let's review these benefits in more detail below:
Ideally, your website should comply with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
For ADA compliance, your website should be accessible to those with disabilities. It involves following specific web design practices to prevent discrimination between users based on disability.
For WCAG compliance, your website needs to follow the standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In other words, it should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
While there isn’t a formal web accessibility law, digital accessibility non-compliance isn’t an option. We kid you not — multiple companies have had costly lawsuits filed against them for having an inaccessible website.
Website accessibility increases your potential target audience. And when you maximize your visitors, you also increase your potential profit from a business standpoint.
As mentioned, a significant number of people have a disability and require assistance to access online content. If these people cannot access your online platform, they can’t/won’t make a purchase.
By making your site more usable and interactive, you open your products and services to this section of the audience.
How to create an accessible website?
Designing an accessible website is a lot easier than you might think — provided you have the right guidance.
Here are five ways to make your website accessible:
1. Allow for keyboard navigation
Navigation is the most common challenge for visually impaired and blind users. They can’t use a mouse to navigate between the different page sections or toggle between actionable items. Instead, they rely on Braille keyboards to browse. That’s why incorporating keyboard navigation is key to designing an accessible website.
Allow disabled users to access the key elements of your website by just using the keyboard. This includes:
- CTAs and other buttons
- Form fields
- Dialog boxes
- Anchor texts
- Drop-down menus
Here are a couple of practical tips:
- Instead of a click, ensure each interactive element should respond to the ‘Enter’ key.
- Users should also be able to navigate items using the arrow keys and jump between different sections of the page using the ‘Tab’ key.
- If you have long pages with lots of content, break it up using anchor links or jump lists.
- Add ‘Skip to main content’ at the top of each page so keyboard-only users can get to the main content faster.
2. Leverage heading hierarchies
Your digital content should be easy to interpret and consume by all users. If they can’t, your website isn’t accessible.
Luckily, you can use headlines and lists to structure and organize your content.
The different headings levels create a logical hierarchy for your site, thereby improving web accessibility. Keep the following pointers in mind to correctly structure your content:
- Use only one H1 tag (your main page title)
- Use H2s, followed by H3s, for each subheading
- Use other HTML headings (for example, H4s, H5s), only when necessary
Seeing the difference in heading sizes, screen readers can easily understand and interpret your pages and know whether one type of content is a subset of another section.
Heading hierarchies also assist with in-page navigation, helping users use assistive technologies to browse your page’s contents with more ease.
For more information about Typografic Hierarchy, check out our UI/UX Design Book!
3. Perfect the art of color contrasts
Another crucial aspect of web accessibility is choosing the right website color scheme.
Several users have some form of visual impairment or color blindness, so it’s harder for them to differentiate between different colors. Including a strong color contrast enables better site navigation for such users.
When the colors on the website aren’t very similar, there's a high contrast between the foreground and background. This makes each element easily distinguishable from one another.
Think about it: isn’t white text on a black background more readable than a yellow background with green text?
According to WCAG guidelines, accessible websites have a color contrast ratio of 4.5:1, except for large text, which can have a 3:1 ratio.
A good tip is to use color with another visual indicator (think: color + boldface type or color + size). This will help disabled users easily read and understand your content.
4. Add descriptive alt text
Alt text, also known as alt tag or alt attribute, is an HTML attribute you add to graphic content, such as images and videos. It’s a short phrase or description of the graphic that allows screen readers who cannot see the photo to understand its content.
Think of it as the text replacement for the image. For instance, the alt text for the following image will be "a slice of pizza on a plate."
Adding proper alt text is particularly important for informative images, such as infographics. But you can leave it empty for images used purely for decoration so that the screen reader isn’t distracted from the more important content on your page.
Alt text also helps with SEO, optimizing your site to be more visible in search engines. When writing the phrase, try incorporating frequently searched keywords relevant to your images.
5. Ensure optimal compliance with powerful third-party solutions
An accessible website is a legal requirement, so ensuring compliance is a no-brainer. The good news is we have several third-party solutions today that make it easier than ever to improve web accessibility.
Take accessiBe, for example.
This powerful, AI-powered tool helps make your website accessible to people with disabilities and comply with the WCAG and ADA legislation. You can use accessScan to receive a detailed audit of your website’s compliance level, followed by accessWidget and accessFlow to test and remediate your website.
With accessiBe, you can make your website accessible and inclusive for everyone in the easiest way possible.
You can use this free web accessibility checker to test whether your website is currently accessible.
Another convenient option is EXPERTE.com's Accessibility Checker. Based around Lighthouse, this free tool automatically crawls up to 500 URLs, allowing anyone to check how accessible their entire website is. The tool measures 41 accessibility features grouped into eight categories (Navigation, ARIA, Names and Labels, Contrast, Tables and Lists, Best Practices, Audio & Video, and Internationalization & Localization). As an added bonus, it's possible to upload custom lists of URLs, to focus on specific pages.
Accessible websites are the future
Website accessibility isn’t a “cool” thing to do. Rather, it’s the ethical thing to do.
The internet was built for everyone, not just a privileged few. Commit to making your website more accessible so all users can approach your content the same way. Use our tips and strategies to design a memorable and positive UX, and you’ll see a significant boost in customer loyalty.