Simon Fernandes is a Senior Developer at KVA with a passion for technology and providing positive user experiences. He shares his insight into website accessibility best practices to improve UX:
1) It’s the law
- Accessibility is not just about making it easy for users, it’s the law under the Equality Act 2010 (or the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in Northern Ireland).
- It’s even more important if you’re a public sector organisation, which is covered under the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018.
- Accessibility lawsuits - while uncommon - are on the rise, especially in the USA.
- While you don’t have to focus every single aspect of your site around full accessibility, you need to ensure core functionality is usable by all.
2) You’re probably labelling your forms incorrectly
Unfortunately, this all-too-common mistake is one we see just about everywhere. Make sure to follow best practices with forms as they are normally a driving factor in conversions. An inaccessible form will lose you users or customers.
- Do not use the “placeholder” attribute as a label, that is not what they are intended for! Instead, use placeholder text to give an example of what should be entered into the field or add a hint.
- If you have a long form and make a mistake, the only way to clarify what the field should have been is to delete your entry in the field to make the label appear again!
- Screenreaders may not read out placeholder text at all, making the fields completely inaccessible to the blind or partially sighted if you use them as labels.
- The default placeholder text colour normally has a poor contrast with the background colour of the form, making it more difficult for individuals with visual impairments to read the text.
- You should be able to tab through your entire form with the use of the keyboard, but don’t rely on the tabindex attribute. Instead, structure your form elements correctly so they flow naturally.
For a more comprehensive article on forms, please read the Nielson Norman Group article on form accessibility.
3) SEO and accessibility complement each other
Good SEO practice and accessibility requirements complement each other and have many similar guidelines. By making your website accessible, you will enjoy the benefits of improved SEO. Search engines favour sites that are built to be usable by humans and assistive technologies, not by machines and web crawlers.
4) Not everyone uses a mouse or keyboard (on desktops or laptops)
If you have a website, navigate to it and then try the following:
- Try navigating without the use of a mouse or touchpad
- Try navigating without the use of a mouse, touchpad OR keyboard
- Try navigating your site using just voice commands (if your operating system supports this)
Some points to consider:
- Individuals with physical impairments may require the use of assistive technologies that are not generally standard peripherals – make sure your website or app functions without them.
- Some people may need to interact with your website or app entirely through voice or other non-physical means – do your interactive page elements work with this in mind?
- Just because something “looks pretty” doesn’t mean it’s accessible. It can be hard to see things from an entirely different perspective, but it’s important to think about how people who use unconventional methods may navigate your site.
- Sometimes small tweaks to your structure or design can have a massive impact on your websites sales or conversions.
- Use appropriate copy in your links. Avoid using “Click here” in your link or button text as it’s very easy for the partially sighted to lose context on what the link is talking about.
5) It’s not all about physical impairments
Accessibility goes beyond people with disabilities or impairments, but it also extends to individuals in developing nations and those who do not have easy access to modern technologies. Some other accessibility points to consider:
- How quickly does your site or app load? Not everyone has the latest smartphone with the latest CPU and GB’s of RAM. Slow-loading apps offer poor accessibility and a frustrating user experience.
- The internet is getting better and more affordable, but for many places in the world it is still extremely slow or plagued by expensive or harsh data caps – even in developed nations. If you are targeting a global audience, neglecting to think about this can lead to frustration and loss of user confidence in your brand:
- How are your script/image-heavy websites impacting users on old devices running on poor wireless internet connections? Does your super hi-res hero image actually add any value to your webpage, or is it just adding increased load times?
- Is your website causing users to eat through their data caps?
- Cognitive disabilities are common too. Think about people who have difficulties with digesting the content on your website and the language you use on your site. Make your content easy to read and understand:
- Is your English copy easy to understand by users whose first language isn’t English?
- How well can someone with dyslexia read your content?
I highly recommend anyone producing digital products to have a read of Nielson Norman Groups website as they have some excellent articles on common accessibility issues and how to solve them. Our in-house team, including all of our developers, is on hand to offer advice for your new web build and/or refresh.
We know how much investment is put into these types of projects, not just financial, but also the research hours and project management. Contact us today to speak to one of our specialists.