- Jan 28, 2021
- 5 MIN
Accessible Websites: Small Optimizations With a Major Impact
What do subway stations have in common with websites? They both need to be accessible, which means easy to use by everyone. Everybody knows how important accessibility is in public spaces but when it comes to digital offerings the issue is not often discussed.
There is a common bias that accessibility standards consist of a long list of detailed and complicated specifications with seemingly limited utility, but is this really the case? Web accessibility is critical to the digital customer experience but is not often discussed because it seems more complicated than it needs to be. Let’s elaborate on why accessibility is an essential part of the digital customer experience, and explain how you can optimize your website without much extra work.
Why Should YOUR Website Be Accessible?
In more than 22 countries around the globe, government regulations and recommendations exist to guarantee barrier-free or at least low-barrier access to online services for people with disabilities. Especially in the process of several amendments of existing laws, the requirements of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) are included in the legislation and taken for granted.
Not only people with disabilities benefit from these guidelines, everyone benefits from them, as they provide well-designed and easy-to-use platforms.
If your navigation is unclear, fonts are tough to read or the mobile experience consists of buttons that make it hard to take the next action, your visitors will quickly become irritated.
The following four principles of accessibility are the essential factors for a good digital customer experience. They can provide a substantial positive effect on your Google ranking, customer satisfaction, and conversion rate, which can lead to financial success for your digital channels, too.
What Does Accessibility Mean for Websites?
Accessibility means that facilities or offerings can be used easily by all people; including people with long-term physical, mental, cognitive, or sensory disabilities.
The four principles for accessibility are:
The content must be perceivable for all users – visible, audible, or legible.
All components of the website must be easy to operate.
Texts (and all content in general) must be easy to understand.
The website must be robust: Capable of being used reliably on as many devices as possible and with all browsers (including with aids for the visually impaired, for example).
What does that mean specifically? Here are some examples:
The color contrast between the font and background must not be too low.
Web forms need to be usable with the keyboard (without the use of the mouse).
Videos must be provided with subtitles and/or a transcript of the text.
Navigation through the website must be clear and usable on all devices, such as via a responsive menu.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 explain the requirements for accessible websites in detail.
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How to Make Websites More Accessible?
Making a website accessible isn’t like flicking a switch, as there are many things to consider. These include the navigation concept, the layout and design, such as the elements and content for each individual view of your digital channels. Alt texts must be maintained for every image or revise the language of texts so that they can be understood easily by everyone.
But exactly these little things are easy to overlook. Numerous errors can soon add up on big websites – destroying the user experience. Finding and eliminating all these errors manually can be costly, if not impossible.
Websites need to be tested by user groups with different disabilities, on different devices and in different scenarios. In a typical workflow, you pass on the feedback to the designers and content authors. They make the adjustments, which you have tested again. Many errors remain undetected and don’t become apparent until customers complain – the most expensive of all “test methods”.
The later errors are discovered, the greater the costs and effort necessary to eliminate them. Errors that are discovered very late cause disproportionately large costs.
Detecting accessibility errors or weaknesses is best done as early as possible, for instance while your designers and content authors are creating the websites. Unfortunately this is essentially impossible to be done manually, and distracts designers and marketers from creating great customer experiences.
Identify and Fix Errors Directly During Content Creation
With Magnolia CMS, there is a simple, efficient solution to this problem: the Siteimprove CMS Plugin. It enables you to use the Siteimprove Accessibility Checker directly in Magnolia’s author interface, and checks whether a page meets the strict standards of the WCAG and highlights errors.
Here’s how it works:
When you open a page in Magnolia, there will be a summary of the Accessibility Check in a widget.
The Digital Certainty Index Score (DCI) shows you on a scale of 0 to 10 how well optimized your site is. In addition to accessibility, Siteimprove takes other factors into account, like SEO, data protection, and loading times. At a glance, you can see the number of dead links, typos, and other minor and major errors.
By clicking on one of the areas, Siteimprove lists all the errors found in detail; for example, missing alt texts for images or elements with too little color contrast.
When you click on an error, Siteimprove marks the element on the page that contains the error – you don’t have to search for it. In addition to that, you can view and edit the HTML code of the relevant element.
Once you have eliminated the errors and updated the site, Siteimprove tests again. You immediately see whether everything is completed or if you still have work to do. This feature saves content authors a lot of time and reduces the amount of work required for further testing significantly.
Existing non-accessible content can also be optimized much more quickly; without needing to search through every individual page. The DCI Score identifies the biggest weaknesses that you should concentrate on.
Accessibility isn’t just a niche topic or something that’s nice to have. If you take the term “customer experience” seriously, it doesn’t just mean taking inspiration from various website personalization examples. You also need to prioritize your users and their needs – including those with disabilities.
With the right tool, accessibility becomes a perfectly normal part of your content process. Even with small improvements, you can have a big impact: for all your users and customers and for the economic success of your digital offerings.