Why Web Accessibility is So Important Right Now
A lot of discussion recently has been around how we can help clients to do better on the web - particularly, how we can be doing better with web accessibility. For businesses and organisations of all sizes, making sure your website is accessible to everyone is essential, especially given our challenging new circumstances.
If you missed our first article on web accessibility, we unpacked the basics of accessibility, who is impacted, the guidelines and who is responsible. In this article, we will discuss why we should all be doing better and how to get started.
Now is the Time to Be Doing Better
Faced with a new normal in recent times, now is the time to be doing better on the web. Making websites and content as accessible as possible to ensure that the widest range of users can access important information or products and services is more crucial now than it has ever been.
Your users or customers interact with your brand across a range of channels and touchpoints - in person, on the web. Now that some of those channels are closed or limited, people are relying more on the web and having a website or digital content that had accessibility issues before is an even bigger problem now.
It can often be difficult to measure or compare quality when it comes to the web - who decides one blue is better than another? It’s subjective. We do have all sorts of testing methods and metrics, but for the most part they measure success (did this version or decision perform better than the other?).
Referring to the example in our first article about the build of a new website where accessibility was an afterthought, a web project where accessibility was a key philosophy in decision making from the start will be (in our experience) a much higher quality product.
Considering who will use the website, what their abilities are and what situation they are in will always lead to a more inclusive, better quality end product.
When looking at the benefits of doing better with accessibility, there are many, both for the end-users and for your organisation. The benefits to the end-user should be obvious to us by now - removing barriers, allowing access to vital information such as news and alerts, access to products and services such as online ordering, and better access to resources.
The benefits to your organisation may not be as immediately clear, so let’s touch on a few examples. When we look at marketing, sales, and growth, how often can you say that you can turn on the tap to upwards of 50% more traffic? It doesn't happen. Often sales and marketing targets are measured in single-digit figures. If accessibility isn’t on your agenda, it’s likely you are turning away a sizable chunk of your audience just because they can’t access, or are having difficulty accessing, your content online.
There’s no doubt we should be doing better, but where do we start?
How Do We Get Started?
Getting started can be daunting, but doesn’t mean scrapping everything and starting from scratch. Our suggestions are laid out here, including further learning, auditing, taking a strategic approach and exploring quick wins through low hanging fruit.
Engage an accessibility subject matter expert to help bring your knowledge and awareness up. A logical first step is to get your team and your digital agency on board - whether it’s a ‘lunch n learn’, introductory workshop, or more in-depth on-topic training, e.g.:
- Accessible document authoring (e.g. PDFs)
- Accessibility for decision-makers (strategy, requirements, business cases)
- How to conduct an audit (evaluation methodology, testing tools, prioritisation)
Of course there is value in all types of audits, whether it’s a content audit or an accessibility audit. In the case of an accessibility audit, it could be high level (having an expert run a brief eye over the website to get a feel for where you are at), right through to a highly detailed, line by line report, testing and reporting against the WCAG criteria.
In the case of detailed auditing, engage an expert who understands the WCAG evaluation methodology, and brings valuable experience to the process - knowledge of testing tools, use of third-party technology like screen readers and so on.
Whichever version you start with, an audit is essential to take stock of the current situation, and a document you can socialise in your organisation which will better inform the decisions you make going forward.
Forming an accessibility strategy is crucial - to better understand and articulate your organization's goals and direction (in detail, including what you will and won't be doing), in which order, what the timeline looks like and what success looks like. An accessibility strategy should include an accessibility statement which can be published on your website to communicate your commitment to your users.
Taking a strategic approach will help you succeed, and having a clear direction helps get buy-in from the relevant stakeholders, breaks down the enormity (often clients take a phased approach) and it helps with factoring in other business requirements (budget, timeline).
Quick Wins & Low Hanging Fruit
How do we prioritise where to start? Low hanging fruit are those items that sit in the sweet spot between having the highest impact and being the easiest to remedy. If fixing an issue will have a low impact on the user experience, then it's a low priority, even if it's easy to remedy. If resolving an issue will have a high impact, but will take a large investment or is complex, then it should remain on the to-do list but certainly isn't considered low hanging fruit.
What we are looking for are the issues that can be attended to relatively quickly / easily, which will have the most impact. These quick wins vary from website to website, but some examples we often see are:
- Attending to keyboard navigation issues - in particular, making dropdown menus accessible by keyboard. High on the impact scale as users relying on the keyboard and/or screen readers to operate a website can’t access important menus, and usually a relatively simple fix.
- Rebuilding images that have embedded text (images of text) so that the text can be accessed by those users who can’t see the images. A common problem, which can have a large impact unlocking important information which is ‘hidden’ in an image - and often a relatively straightforward fix.
Discoverly can help – get in touch to discuss how we can help your organisation do better on the web. Any digital product, such as a website or app, should always take accessibility into consideration. The needs, skill level, abilities and goals of your users should be at the forefront of your mind in all digital products. In doing so, you’ll ensure that your users experience better interactions with your brand on the web. And remember, the end-user doesn’t know the rules - they simply need to engage with you without barriers.