Modern technology has opened up all new possibilities in independence for disabled communities, but sometimes it can be hard to keep up on our own personal website to make sure we are best serving these groups. Google prefers accessible websites to ensure they’re delivering the best content to all communities. So by investing a little into improving the accessibility of your website, you can open up a whole new market for you while improving the user experience (and search engine rankings) for the rest of your client base as well!
See How You Stack Up
WAVE is a free suite of evaluation tools that go through a page of your website and show exactly where on the page a disabled user may have troubles interacting in with your website in the way it is intended. Use it to evaluate your most important pages or the entire website to create a list of actionable items to increase accessibility.
Take Advantage of Heading Structure
Screen readers for the visually impaired can navigate pages more clearly with <h1>, <h2> style headings. Choose key phrases relevant to the content that will inform the user what to expect from the body text associated with it, and pick the correct header for the structure of your page instead of choosing one that is visually appealing as it can create confusion. Google gives preference to header content for rankings, so using key search terms in this structure can improve keyword ranking for sighted users.
Make Keyboard Navigation Intuitive
People with mobility disabilities or repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel are sometimes unable to operate a mouse or track pad. Instead, they often use the tab or arrow keys to navigate the page. To ensure a good experience, the tab order should match the visual order of your website. Break up long pages with a lot of content with jump lists, which are often paired to a the heading structure, to allow keyboard users to skip portions of the page irrelevant to them. This also creates another queue for search engines to recognize the most relevant content on your website.
Give Links Descriptive Names
Like a user can scan a page to see an underlined or highlighted phrase to click on a link, so can a screen reader. This means that hyperlinks with vague anchor text aren’t as useful since the user will need to navigate away from the link to learn its function. For example, instead of using “Click here to learn more about our brand process.” try “To learn more about our brand process, read about Our Approach.” To boot, descriptive anchor text is more likely to ensure a higher click-through rate for all users.
Write Alt Text for Images
Alt text is part the metadata associated with images on your website. By putting a short description of the image in alt text, users who are not able to see the image will be able to glean some context they would otherwise miss. This is especially important when an image also contains text, such as with an infographic. But images that are purely for decoration should have alt text left blank so as not to distract a screen reader user from the more important content on the site. Otherwise, writing alt text is simple, and it’s a great way to get one more hit on an important keyword or phrase.
Good accessible web design is good website design overall. Improve the user experience on your site, and you may see improved search engine rankings.