By Peter Boyd, a Florida attorney who founded PaperStreet. He has helped over 1,500 law firms with their websites, content and marketing.
In this fast-paced world we live in, people consume information in various ways. Whether it’s by listening to the radio, watching YouTube videos or scrolling through pages online, there is one thing we know for sure—information must be made available to everybody regardless of where they are in life’s journey.
If you have a website, you have probably taken great pains to ensure that it is eye-catching, easy to follow and in proper working order at all times. But did you take everyone into account when you created your website? All too often, individuals with disabilities are unable to use the internet in ways that those without disabilities typically take for granted. However, when creating a website, it is crucial to keep in mind the diverse skill sets and abilities of your users. So, what can you do to ensure accessibility for the masses? Below are a few ideas to help you have a website that meets the majority of people’s needs.
In order for your site to appeal to a wide range of users (including those with cognitive or other types of disabilities), your site should be designed accordingly.
How your website appears to everyone matters.
We know that having flashy graphics and using cool fonts may be the ultimate goal for those who want their websites to immediately grab people. However, what about those who are visually impaired? Can they enjoy your site just as much?
There are several things you can do to help ensure your site is meeting the needs of all who visit. For instance, make sure it is free from clutter, very well organized and has a uniform look that includes plenty of white space.
Also, be sure that there is a high contrast between your site’s text and the background used. For those who are visually impaired, if the background is too dark, the text will simply fade into it, making it much more difficult to read.
Your web pages should also contain just enough information to get your immediate point across. Do not give users too many choices or too much detail on one page. And definitely steer clear of creating pages where users have to constantly scroll down to get to more information. One way to avoid the “forever scroll” is to simply include links to whatever additional information you’d like to provide so they can be sent to a fresh new page.
Keep it cute and simple.
The average person’s attention span is not as long as you may think. That said, it is important for you to avoid having large chunks of text on your web pages. Break up the text with subheadings and appropriate graphics in order to keep the user interested. Make sure the language is clear and easily understood by the masses (keeping it at an 8th-grade reading level is always a good idea).
Keep your sentences short and sweet and if you include images, make certain they include alt tags so that those with visual impairments can still understand the content even though they are unable to see the images. While you may think your text looks better if it is fully justified, those with reading or vision disabilities may struggle to comprehend what’s on the page.
Make it easy for people to find what they need.
Have you ever been on a site and said to yourself, “All I want to do is find XYZ and pay for it?” The creators of the site have you clicking five times just to get to the intended product that may or may not meet your needs. Annoying, right? Well, imagine that feeling multiplied for those with disabilities.
Accessible website designs should include clear links and buttons that are easy to locate on the webpage. There should be consistent navigational controls that offer clear paths for users to be able to go back with ease or even start over when necessary. And much like the mall maps that say, “YOU ARE HERE,” consider marking each web page with something similar so the user will know where they are at all times.
These are just a few ideas that can help make your website more accessible to those with disabilities. If you need assistance with improving your site, there is plenty of help available to you—take advantage of it.