Building your website with user experience and accessibility in mind

Published November 21, 2022

Websites serve the same purpose as brick-and-mortar employees: they're the digital face of your business.

Your website is how potential and current customers access your products and services, familiarize themselves with your brand, and build trust. You don’t want anyone to feel excluded when trying to broaden and maintain your reach. Not only is it limiting your potential, but it’s also completely overlooking a large part of our community.

As the digital world continues to grow, it is up to businesses and companies to make sure websites are accessible. 

Take a look at these statistics:

Here are some tips for building an accessible site to create a user-friendly experience.

Use a content management system (CMS) that supports accessibility

The CMS you choose will be an integral part of your website. It’s the software used to manage the creation and modification of digital content — it’s how you will get information onto your website to build the platform.

Common CMS choices include WordPress, Brightspot, Squarespace, etc., but many more options exist. Ultimately, you want to make sure it allows you to do the following to create accessible content for your site:

  • Choose an accessible theme/template
  • Select accessible options for modules, plugins, or widgets, including choosing accessible third-party components

A CMS is an investment, so checking the system before committing to the purchase is important. Some software prevents users from adding extra structure or information that would make a webpage properly accessible, while others automatically add additional structure or styling that decreases a webpage’s accessibility. 

Accessible customer service

The statistic mentioned earlier shows the importance of a positive customer service experience. You want to provide a barrier-free option for people to interact with your business — this sends the message that your product is not limited to those without disabilities. 

Here are some things you can do to help:

  • Providing multiple contact options to accommodate the preferences or needs based on disability or for any reason like live chat, phone, email, etc. 
  • Make customer service options clear and easy to find. This lessens the chance of user frustration which results in them disengaging.
  • Train customer service representatives accordingly. If you are working with people as your support agents, ensure they have the proper training to assist those with disabilities. 

Include descriptive alternative text

The source code that alt text creates is read by screen readers or other assistive technology. It’s necessary so those who are blind, have other visual impairments, or physical or cognitive disabilities to have an understanding of images on a website to have a user-friendly experience. 

Be as descriptive as possible in captions and in alt text. Using descriptive words, allows people to visualize what they cannot see in a photo, video, or animation and, in turn be more engaged and feel included. 

It’s important to note that while alt text should be descriptive, it should also be simple and straight to the point to get the message across without including unnecessary details.

Create an accessible layout 

The overall layout plays a major role in the accessibility of your overall site. Here are some design factors to remember:

  • Consider color contrast: The minimum recommended color contrast is 4.5 to 1. This is the ideal contrast between text and background color, which also considers those who are colorblind. 
  • Make sure text is easy to read: Choose a ‘sans-serif’ font that doesn’t have too much flair (Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana are good options). Select size 12 or higher, and those with low vision may need a larger font to see. 
  • Avoid relying on color to convey meaning: It’s common to use colors to separate information, but it shouldn’t be the only way you do this. Those who are blind, have low vision, or color blind will not know you are using different colors, so they will miss out on its meaning. 

Check your site for accessibility 

There are systems to run your site through to check the level of accessibility. You can use an Accessibility Checker, color blind simulators, or get first hand feedback by asking users with different disabilities from your target audience to carry out tasks on your website and give user feedback.

Your website must be an accurate projection of the outreach you want to have, and that means creating an accessible, user-friendly experience for all. The website is the digital foundation of your business, and by ensuring accessibility there, you are setting yourself up for success. 

Event: How Do You Know You're [Still] Accessible?

Join us Tuesday, November 15th at 1 PM ET for our next event on how to maintain accessibility as your company matures through strategies, processes, and maturity models.  Register by clicking here.

Vendor Directory now offers an impartial listing of digital accessibility vendors.  Search for products and services by category, subcategory, or by company name.  Check out our new Vendor Directory here.