In web design, accessibility refers to making your content, tools, and features available to as many people as possible. That includes people on different devices and in different locations.
While that might sound broad, accessibility also has a narrower focus, which is ensuring your website is accessible to people with disabilities. That can include people with impaired vision, impaired hearing, dyslexia, and other disabilities.
Here’s what you need to know about accessible web design and the main benefits of making your website easier to access.
- Prevents Discrimination and Legal Issues
The ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act, was passed in 1990 and prohibits businesses and government agencies from discriminating against people with disabilities.
Title III covers places of public accommodation and commercial facilities, which include restaurants, bars, hotels, movie theaters, and many other types of businesses.
Most business owners are aware of the ADA, and they provide ramps for people in wheelchairs and otherwise accommodate people with disabilities.
What many business owners don’t realize is that the same can apply to websites, apps, and other digital media. Two famous cases involving Domino’s Pizza and Netflix came out in favor of the people with disabilities bringing those cases against said companies.
In other words, the judges ruled that online businesses and businesses offering services via online applications can fall under the scope of Title III.
In 2010, the Department of Justice released revised regulations determining what constitutes accessibility. The DOJ was clear that it included websites operated by public accommodations in its guidelines, despite the language of the ADA not explicitly mentioning the internet.
At the same time, the DOJ has not released further guidelines on web accessibility like it said it would. You may use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines instead.
Some ways to make your website more accessible to people with disabilities may include:
- Including screen enlargement software for people with low vision
- Including text-to-voice reading software for blind people
- Ensuring images have alternative text for such text-to-voice software
- Including transcriptions of videos or audio for people who are deaf
You can see other examples here.
We suggest getting in touch with a lawyer for additional legal advice. Nothing said above constitutes legal advice. In other countries, different rules may apply, so always consult a legal expert.
The bottom line is: By ensuring your website is accessible to all, including people with disabilities, you can remain compliant with any applicable laws and avoid lawsuits.
- Improves Website Visibility for All Kinds of Visitors
Making your website accessible means all kinds of visitors will have an easier time navigating it, reading your blog content, seeing your promotions, and taking action by clicking your CTA buttons, filling out forms, and purchasing products.
Older people may suffer from low vision, so ensuring your text isn’t too small or even allowing for text magnification is critical. Besides, remember that text can appear smaller on mobile devices, especially phones with small screen sizes. You don’t want it to be difficult for mobile users to read your content.
You might also add a built-in translation tool on your website, allowing people to translate a page automatically from English into Spanish, Russian, or any other language. If you’re servicing an area with a large immigrant population, that’s really important.
- Increases the Number of Potential Leads
Making your website more accessible to all kinds of visitors will help you get more leads.
When someone can’t properly navigate or access your website, they may leave it right away, and you won’t get the chance to convert them into a lead. Even if they stick around, trying to make things work, they may not be able to follow through on actions like clicking a CTA button or filling out a form.
For example, while many website owners use different colors to set certain buttons or signup features apart from each other, people who are color-blind may not notice the difference.
In general, making your website more accessible will lead to more leads. Let’s see some examples:
- Make a mobile-optimized menu, so people can find the products and services they need while on mobile.
- Make a mobile-optimized contact form so that people can get in touch with you on mobile.
- Ensure your site loads quickly, so people with slow internet connections can still view it.
- Indirectly Improves Your Search Engine Optimization
Accessible web design isn’t only about increasing conversions and getting more leads. Indirectly, you’ll also be improving your search engine rankings.
Web accessibility and SEO go hand in hand. Many aspects of web design impact rankings, whether directly or indirectly. Site speed, which is a major factor in web accessibility, is also a major factor in SEO. Google will rank you better if your site loads quickly.
Having a font that is simple and easy on the eyes can help with SEO as well. You generally want to lower your bounce rate to increase your rankings. A high bounce rate means that people bounce off your first page without visiting additional pages. Google may take that as a sign that your website isn’t relevant to what they searched for, leading to lower rankings indirectly.
According to a blog post that Bing published more than ten years ago, dwell time or time spent on a page may be taken into account when ranking pages. If someone spends just one or two seconds on your page, the search engines may consider your page irrelevant, and you may lose rankings. If you don’t make your website accessible to everyone, more people may end up leaving your site as soon as they realize they can’t read what it is saying. That can, in turn, lead to lower rankings.
- Gives You a Positive Business Reputation
Building a positive business reputation should be one of your top priorities. Your main focus should be strengthening connections, increasing trust and loyalty, and making relationships with consumers and leads. By ensuring your website is easy to navigate, you’ll help increase this trust and authority. If your website looks bad, is hard to navigate, doesn’t adapt to mobile devices, or is slow to load, people won’t look at you the same way.
If you go a step further and ensure people with disabilities can access your website (even when not required by law), people will also see that you care about your customers and don’t want to leave anyone behind. That will help you improve your reputation, leading to more sales and conversions overall.
- Gives You a Competitive Edge
Making your website more accessible will give you an edge over your competitors. Chances are that many of your competitors are failing, in some way or another, when it comes to web accessibility. Perhaps their websites are slow to load, or they don’t provide a mobile app or optimized mobile site version. Perhaps they didn’t think to include people with disabilities when designing their website, with no added features and tools to help them read and navigate the site.
By making your site accessible, you’ll stand out from your competitors. People will mentally compare your site with others (consciously or not), and your site will emerge as the winner. They’ll start preferring your site over your competitors’ sites whenever they need information.
- Helps Grow Your Business Overall
Finally, making your website more accessible is just smart business. If you want to ensure your business grows as much as possible, pay attention to web design!
For example, one way in which accessible web design can help your business grow is when it comes to backlinks. When your content is easy to access, more people will start linking to you naturally. Backlink building must be part of your SEO strategy, as it will help you increase your rankings and get more traffic.
Making your site easier to access can lead to more email signups. It can lead to more phone calls, and it can even lead to more in-person visits. For example, you can make an accessible calendar that people can use to book appointments on-demand, or you can insert an accessible map widget that people can use to get directions. If you provide a self-managed portal for customers to manage their billing cycles, past orders, addresses, subscriptions, and payment information, you’re also more likely to retain more customers. Otherwise, people can easily get frustrated while on your site.
A higher customer retention rate can be the crucial factor that makes the difference between making a profit and just breaking even.
If accessibility was not yet part of your web design strategy, make it a priority going forward. Audit your site for accessibility issues while taking multiple segments of the population and their needs into account. Ask yourself whether certain actions, features, or tools may not be fully accessible to certain demographics or people with disabilities. Make the necessary changes to ensure that they are, and include a feedback form, so people can make suggestions on how you can improve accessibility for all.