A commercial case for web accessibility – Part two

Part 2 – Let’s have some examples then

In the first part of our look at web accessibility and how it can benefit businesses, I told you that web accessibility benefited not just those in the obvious groups, but pretty much everyone else as well. So now I’ll explain myself with a few small examples of things that usually fall foul of web accessibility guidelines, and how improving them will bring wider benefits.

The problem: Poorly built websites that ignore web standards look fine in your browser…

but try navigating and reading the content using a screen reader

How does it affect some users? Despite advances in screen reader software, it’s still possible to confuse users if your website is not designed and built correctly, making it hard for blind or sight impaired users to navigate. Issues such as running text and badly ordered content can quickly make them lose track of what they’re reading.

How should your agency fix it? Make sure your website is built following recommended web standards with at least a basic level of accessibility guidelines met.

How would that benefit ALL of your visitors? Sites built following recommended web standards are usually more friendly to search engines, generally load quicker, and are usually easier and quicker to maintain.

The problem: Flash movies, video clips or presentations that have spoken parts without captions

How does it affect some users? The obvious answer here is that those with impaired hearing would not be able to follow the clip, and could miss out on important information that you provide in the presentation or video.

How should your agency fix it? By ensuring that any visual presentation can be understood without sound. Captions are the obvious answer here.

How would that benefit ALL of your visitors? In many corporate environments, PCs may not have speakers or soundcards, and so cannot hear the audio.

The problem: Badly chosen colour contrasts make it difficult to read content

How does it affect some users? Those with impaired sight of some form would be most effected. Not sure those with obvious sight problems, but the colour-blind will also have major problems with your site.

How should your agency fix it? ensuring that the colours chosen for text and backgrounds should contrast sufficiently to make text stand out. Being able to provide custom alternative colour schemes for users via cookies or a permanent user profile if your site has the potential for that. Viewing your site using a greyscale “favelet” can help identify bad colour schemes.

How would that benefit ALL of your visitors? Your site may not look as readable across various computers. It’s quite possible that on some monitors the text isn’t very clear due to the colours chosen and make it hard to read. Careful colour choice therefore makes your site readable for those with incorrect monitor colour calibration.

The problem: Images with no text alternatives

How does it affect some users? Whether it’s navigation buttons, a logo, a photo, or a chart, if the image provides useful or important information and can be described in some way then you should make sure blind users are given that information in an alternative way.

How should your agency fix it? specifying alt attributes on images, and where a longer description is needed, when showing a complex chart, for example, provide that description in the body of the page, or provide a clickable link to a longer description of the image.

How would that benefit ALL of your visitors? Some people still surf with images disabled for faster browsing. Another reason is that sometimes the web server hosting the image could have a lot of traffic, potentially causing some images not to load entirely.

What else does this affect? Your website’s search engine rankings. Your text descriptions will usually end up containing a key word or phrase that a user is potentially likely to search on. By providing descriptions for your images, it will increase the relevancy of the content on your page, and potentially make your pages rank higher in search queries.

The problem: Link text that aren’t descriptive

How does it affect some users? Those using screen readers may navigate your pages by cycling through each clickable link. As an example, you may have pages where the text reads “click here to read about some important product information,” where the “click here” is clickable. This means the screen reader will read out “click here”, but the user will not have any idea of the context in which those words are used. Imagine if you have lots of links like that? The screen reader would just read out a string of “click here”, “click here”, “click here”.

How should your agency fix it? Re-arranging the clickable links so that they read something like “Read some important product information”, making the whole thing clickable, now allows the user to fully understand what each link will take them to.

What else does this affect? Your website’s search engine rankings. Those clickable links could contain valuable keywords, ones that a user could potentially search on. It increases the relevancy of the content on your page, and potentially make your pages rank higher in search queries.

The problem: Small fixed font sizes

How does it affect some users? Users with poor eye sight may not be able to read the text on a page. Thankfully newer browsers have the ability to increase font sizes on a page, even if you set them as fixed, but for some older browsers this isn’t the case. By fixing your font sizes, it could make it unreadable to those with poor eyesight, whether they have a condition or just as a result of old age.

How should your agency fix it? Use “ems” and percentages, when specifying font sizes on your web pages, rather than using pt or px.

Who else does this affect? Monitors are getting bigger and so are screen resolutions. Whereas once a page would have been viewed in 800×600 on a 14″ monitor, now they might be viewed on a 22″ monitor in 1680×1050 resolution. The result of which is that your text will probably look smaller on their massive screen compared to how it looks on yours. With the ability the re-size fonts in their browser, they can increase the text on your page to a more readable size.

What Next?

If your website has any of these issues then you’ll probably want to speak to your agency about them. None of them should pose particular technical difficulty to solve, and are well worth it in the long run. Alternatively, contact me, and ask about a Web Accessibility Audit or indeed anything else you may want to talk to me about, and what I can do for you and your website.

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