As more small businesses have built up and expanded their online presence in recent years, a visit to your website is often the first interaction a potential customer has with your business. Whether a consumer is in search of your opening hours, product information, or testimonials from happy clients, you want to make the experience simple and seamless. If you’re an ecommerce business reliant on online sales, having an accessible and effective digital shop window is even more important to the success of your business.
Recite Me explain why accessibility in the digital space is important for your customers, the guidelines in place to ensure website meet certain standards, and the small steps you can start to take towards making your website more accessible.
Why digital accessibility matters for your customers and your business
Everyone should have access to information online. The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, believes that the internet should empower all members of society by making information accessible to everyone. In fact, Microsoft’s application guide for developers states that designing inclusive software results in improved usability and customer satisfaction.
Did you know?
- 86% of users with access needs would spend more if there were fewer barriers
- 83% of people with access needs limit their shopping to sites that they know are accessible
- 71% of users leave a site that they find hard to use
- Approximately one in every 100 people worldwide has a learning difficulty that can make accessing information online difficult
- At least one billion people worldwide have a recognised disability that can make accessing information online difficult
- 20% of the UK population live with a disability
- One in ten people in the UK doesn’t speak English as their first language
With small businesses making up over 99% of the total UK business population, improving your website accessibility can make an impact for many customers. Here are seven steps you can take to start making your website more inclusive for your current and future customers.
1. Get to know the guidelines
To ensure websites around the world can work towards meeting the same standard of online accessibility, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) include the core principles to meet consumer needs. The WCAG define how content should be made more accessible to those with disabilities, covering four main areas:
- Perceivable. This includes how content is presented on your website, such as text alternatives, captions, and assistive technologies. Its aim is to make content easier to see, hear and understand for all users.
- Operable. You should consider how users engage with your content. This section includes how users navigate and input into your website, such as with a mouse or keyboard.
- Understandable. It’s important that your text is readable, appears in predictable ways and is consistent.
- Robust. Lastly, your website must consider compatibility with assistive technologies.
How can I meet the WACG guidelines?
Your business needs to be aware of the guidelines to be able to apply with them. Of course, there are many more ways that you can make your website inclusive than listed here, and you can find these in the WCAG guidelines. Learn more about the WCAG and the upcoming changes.
2. Understand your compliance requirements
Is web accessibility a legal requirement?
It’s expected by law that businesses and service providers don’t treat disabled people less favourably. In the UK, the Equality Act of 2010 states that all UK service providers must consider ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people, and this covers website accessibility.
Across the globe, similar laws and requirements are in place. For example, in Norway, it’s illegal for commercial websites to not provide equal access for people with disabilities, and fines are issued to companies that don’t comply. Whilst this isn’t the case in the UK, Norway’s position shows just how important website accessibility is.
Does my website need an accessibility statement?
An accessibility statement shows your commitment to online inclusivity and provides users with information about the accessibility of your website. It highlights the steps you’re taking and offers contact details should someone have an issue with accessing your website.
The W3C has more detailed guidance on writing your statement as well as an accessibility statement generator tool to get you started.
3. Caption your content
Whether it’s a video tour of your business on your about us page, or a customer testimonial that you’re sharing on social media, adding captions and subtitles to your videos helps more people to engage with your content. Transcribing videos and audio can be time-consuming, but there are many services online that you can use.
Also, with so many people browsing the internet on their phone, it’s common for users to scroll with the sound off. Adding subtitles can increase your reach and ensure more people interact with your business. Transcriptions are beneficial from a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective, as this allows search engines to crawl and understand content on your website.
4. Add alt text to your images
Alternative text, commonly referred to as alt text, is a clear and concise description of an image. People who use a screen reader are then able to better understand your webpage, and search engines use it when indexing your website. Alt text also displays if your image doesn’t load.
For example, if you’re a bakery and your homepage features a photo of your team outside your shop, you might describe this as ‘employees stand outside bakery shop holding bread and baked goods’.
5. Check your colours and contrast
Another key component of the WCAG principles is your use of colour and contrast levels. You should use colours that help users to clearly see the text and other content on your webpage. The guidelines require that you use colour combinations with defined contrast ratios.
You can use a free colour contrast checker tool to test your colour combinations with examples and see if they would meet the WCAG requirements.
6. Can your website be accessed with a keyboard?
For users who solely use a keyboard, ensuring that your website can be navigated using the tab key is important. Navigating interactive elements should be logical and efficient. Web AIM have a useful guide to keyboard accessibility, including potential problems and keyboard testing.
7. Easy navigation
Finally, there are several ways you can make your website easier to navigate, such as using:
- Headers, sub-headers and lists to break up text and present your content in a logical way.
- Descriptive links that make sense out of context, rather than ‘click here’ or ‘learn more’.
- Assistive software, for example, Recite Me’s Assistive Toolbar, which provides additional accessibility and language options to help people to read and understand your content.
“It is important to provide an inclusive online experience, where everyone can use our digital world in a way in which best suits their needs,” says Ross Linnett, Founder and CEO of Recite Me. “As more organisations provide accessibility tools online, those who face online barriers can access information and services hassle-free. The digital world must be accessible for all.”
About Recite Me
Recite Me believes in accessibility for all, allowing everyone the opportunity to use the internet in the way that it is intended.