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Creating Accessible Websites: A Win-Win for UX and SEO

Creating Accessible Websites: A Win-Win for UX and SEO

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Important tip about creating Accessible Websites: Did you know that over 1.3 billion people worldwide have a disability?
Source; Disability – World Health Organization (WHO)

For companies looking to grow their digital presence, making websites accessible to these users through inclusive design is now both a moral and business imperative.

Beyond being the right thing to do, building accessibility into your website also directly benefits SEO and user experience for all visitors.

Optimizing for capabilities like impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive disorders, deafness and blindness improves website usability and search discoverability overall.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover:

  • Common website accessibility issues and recommendations
  • The business case for accessibility
  • How to test and validate accessible experiences
  • Proven UX and SEO benefits

You’ll gain actionable tips and tools to champion accessibility at your organization and capitalize on the many rewards it generates.

What is Accessible Website?

Website accessibility refers to designing digital experiences that work for all users regardless of physical or cognitive ability.

Specifically, it means ensuring website content and functionality remain easily perceivable, operable, understandable and robust:

  • Perceivable – Can users with vision, hearing, or learning disabilities access information? Is content readable via assistive technology?
  • Operable – Are all features and navigation operable without requiring precise motor control or complex interactions?
  • Understandable – Is information and UI presented in an intuitive way for those with cognitive disabilities? Is language clear and simple?
  • Robust – Does the experience remain accessible as technologies advance?

These may seem like novel considerations to digital teams accustomed to building for more general audiences. But designing inclusively is now table stakes for any brand with a conscience aiming to maximize reach and loyalty.

Creating accessible websites

The Business Case for Creating Accessible Websites

Beyond basic ethics, ensuring your website’s accessibility makes smart business sense:

  • Attract more visitors – Accessible sites draw more traffic from search engines and social media who favor inclusivity.
  • Serve more customers – People with disabilities have over $1 trillion in annual discretionary spending. Most won’t engage with inaccessible sites.
  • Reduce legal risks – Inaccessible sites increasingly spur lawsuits and regulatory penalties.
  • Improve brand sentiment – Accessibility demonstrates social responsibility. Customers gravitate toward ethical companies.
  • Enhance UX – Inclusive design improves usability for everyone through simplified navigation, readable fonts, alt text etc.
  • Boost SEO – More accessible pages earn higher rankings in search engines.

Clearly, the upside of championing accessibility drastically outweighs any perceived downsides. Failing to address accessibility actively hurts your brand’s potential.

Common Website Accessibility Issues

What are some specific accessibility issues commonly encountered, and how can you address them?

  • Low color contrast – Text and elements don’t have enough contrast against background, making them hard to read. Use AA rating.
  • Small text size – Text is too small at default browser sizes to read. Set minimum size of 16px.
  • Missing image alt text – Images lack alt text descriptions for screen readers. Add descriptive alt text to all images.
  • No video captions – Videos lack subtitles and transcripts for the deaf. Embed or link captions and transcripts.
  • Poor keyboard controls – Site can’t be navigated by keyboard alone. Ensure all elements are reachable by tabbing.
  • No headings hierarchy – Headings aren’t used to structure pages. Proper headers guide users.
  • Flashing content – Blinking or strobing content that can trigger reactions. Avoid excessive flashing items.
  • Wordy navigation – Menus use long unclear labels. Concise descriptive menu labels are easier to understand.

These common issues present barriers making site content inaccessible or frustrating to use. But they have clear solutions testable by web accessibility audits and real user testing.

Testing for Accessibility Issues

Verifying your website’s inclusive UX requires continuously testing with assistive technology and real users with disabilities:

Assistive Technology Testing

  • Screen readers – Use a screen reader like NVDA to ensure all elements are readable and navigable non-visually.
  • Magnification software – Test enlarged page views to identify poorly placed/sized elements.
  • Speech input – Attempt navigating the site by voice control alone. Note any difficulties.
  • Keyboard-only – Disable mouse usage and navigate the interface by tabs and keys only.

Real-World User Testing

  • Recruit testers – Hire participants with diverse abilities and disabilities to test the live site.
  • Facilitate testing – Provide accessibility aids but don’t lead behavior. Observe natural interactions.
  • Generate feedback – Have testers describe ease or difficulty of tasks. Capture quotes.
  • Iterate improvements – Use observed issues and feedback to guide website enhancements. Retest changes.

Ongoing inclusive testing is the only way to truly gauge accessibility, catch issues, and validate fixes. No automated tool alone can do it.

UX and SEO Benefits of Accessibility

Cyprus web design - by speed marketing agency

What payoffs come specifically from improving website accessibility? Here are compelling advantages beyond just compliance:

More Intuitive UX for All Users

Design focused on inclusion tends to be minimalist, consistent, context-rich and task-focused. These broadly benefit UX:

  • Clean layouts guided by structural headings
  • Easy-to-comprehend content written in plain language with explanations of niche terms
  • Contextual cues like well-formatted links and captions that facilitate understanding
  • Focus on key tasks without distraction or interruption

In other words, if a site works well when relying on assistive technology or in high cognitive load situations, it likely works much better for all visitors. Accessibility best practices lead to stellar mainstream UX.

Higher Search Rankings

Search engines increasingly factor website accessibility into rankings because accessible pages better satisfy all searcher intents.

Tactics like alt text, video transcripts, and structured navigation help search bots index and comprehend content more easily. Google also uses scores like Lighthouse accessibility audits as page ranking signals.

Home Depot saw this firsthand, increasing organic traffic by over 400% after refining website accessibility!

More Social Media Traffic

Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and even LinkedIn all utilize advanced algorithms to detect how accessible shared content is. More accessible content gets higher visibility and reach.

Alt text means images drive engagement. Transcripts allow videos to be understood when played without sound. The dividends of optimizing accessibility now pay off across channels.

Expanded Audience Reach and Loyalty

Building accessibility into all designs broadens your brand’s audience to include users with disabilities, estimated to number over 1 billion people globally.

Showing this underserved group that you care about their user experience earns long-term loyalty. Word spreads that you are an ethical, conscientious company.

Mitigated Legal Risks

With websites increasingly subject to ADA and other accessibility regulations around the world, minimizing compliance risks is crucial.

By proactively optimizing accessibility early, you avoid regulatory actions and lawsuits down the line while showing good faith efforts to support inclusion.

Top Accessibility Tips to Get Started

Here are some top tips to begin improving accessibility at your organization:

  • Conduct audits using tools like Lighthouse to measure current site accessibility and identify gaps. Be comprehensive.
  • Incorporate accessibility reviews into all design and development sprints. Account for assistive technology needs from the start.
  • Perform manual testing with screen readers, keyboards, magnifiers etc. to experience your site from perspectives of disabled users.
  • Recruit a diversity of testers like blind, deaf, dyslexic, motor impaired, epileptic, and elderly users for real world validation.
  • Set key metrics like color contrast, link labels, alt text compliance, and keyboard navigability and track progress.
  • Design inclusively always, not just for minimum compliance. Treat accessibility as a core component of UX, not an afterthought.
  • Train staff on common challenges faced by disabled users and how to design empathetically for inclusion.
  • Showcase improvements in accessibility proudly both internally and externally. Make it part of your brand story.

With some education and advocacy, you can build staff alignment around accessibility as a cross-functional priority that enhances brand reputation, UX satisfaction, and SEO reach in mutually-reinforcing ways.

Those that embed inclusive design into their digital experiences reap significant benefits – both ethical and commercial – for years to come. Is your website ready to realize the many upsides of becoming accessible?

Jesus Guzman

M&G Speed Marketing LTD. CEO

Jesus Guzman is the CEO and founder of M&G Speed Marketing LTD, a digital marketing agency focused on rapidly growing businesses through strategies like SEO, PPC, social media, email campaigns, and website optimization. With an MBA and over 11 years of experience, Guzman combines his marketing expertise with web design skills to create captivating online experiences. His journey as an in-house SEO expert has given him insights into effective online marketing. Guzman is passionate about helping businesses achieve impressive growth through his honed skills. He has proud case studies to share and is eager to connect to take your business to the next level.