Web accessibility guidelines are one of the most important topics on the world’s agenda. Internet sites are created every day but not many are aware of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). When websites follow the guidelines, it allows people with disabilities to use the website and other digital products without barriers. 

Fonts, colors, alternative text, and keyboard compatibility are just some of the items that web developers and owners should have in mind when creating an accessible website. Not every user can use a mouse, so your website needs to be able to be navigated through a keyboard.

Screen readers cannot describe images on their own, so they need a proper description to indicate what the image contains. This is where alternative text helps. Also, ensuring that your website has acceptable color contrast and easily readable fonts will help all users better understand your content.

These and other best practices are just a part of what makes your website web accessible. When you consider accessibility in your online content, it enhances usability for all of your customers and creates a more intuitive user experience. Online content that meets accessibility guidelines is likely to create a better experience for everyone.

Here are four factors to consider when designing web content to ensure they’re accessible for everyone.

1. Describe Images and Other Non-Text Content

Images and other non-text content must always have a text alternative that can help the blind and low vision access the same content as everyone else. Alternative text or alt text has several important functions that help make accessible web design available for everyone, such as serving as a description for when images cannot be loaded.

It also helps with search engine optimization (SEO) as search engines take into account image descriptions and alternative text as part of their search. And most importantly, web accessibility as many individuals rely on screen readers that need alternative text on images to properly access its content.

An article published by Forbes states that “alt text is a word or phrase that describes an image for those with a visual impairment. Having accurate alt text is important not only because it enables screen reading software, such as NVDA or JAWS, to describe images to visually impaired users, but also because it enables search engines to display images based on written descriptions and to display search results more accurately.” 

Alternative text is not just adding one or two words “describing” the image. So, a simple picture of a pair of glasses on top of a table cannot be written as glasses” because it lacks context. Think about the alt text as a way to properly explain the image in question in relation to the content where it appears. If the image does not show up, what would people need to know about it based on the article topic?

And if the image is linked, the alt text should convey the target of the link; if the image is decorative or has redundant meaning, no alt text is required but the code must accurately reflect this state. Thinking about these essential points is the key to testing website accessibility and helps you analyze what you have to modify.

2. Ensure Your Website Is Optimized for a Wide Range of Devices

The second factor revolves around the action of zooming in and out on a website without the content being altered in a way that people — particularly visually impaired users — cannot properly access.

The World Wide Web Consortium, an international nonprofit group that develops and recommends standards for the Web, affirms that 400% zoom on a typical desktop browser is a reasonable accommodation that can support a wide range of devices and assistive technologies.

To test user accessibility, simply go to your browser on both your mobile and desktop and zoom in a lot. Look at how the content can be accessed, and if anything gets altered and cannot be displayed properly.

The most crucial parts of your website should be accessed clearly even zoomed in at this size. Here are a few things to start your web accessibility testing.

  • Content elements. Does the text appear organized or does it overlap making it hard to view? Does the quality of your texts and other contents appear blurry or clear?
  • Navigation and menus. When zoomed in, does the menu bar show properly? Can you use the search bar and navigate through the website?
  • Headers and footers. Check that sticky headers and footers don't crowd the screen and that the main content is still prominent.

These web accessibility guidelines are just a starting point to make sure you’re moving in the right direction and understand the importance of the details for blind and low vision users.

3. Create Keyboard-Compatible Designs

Web accessibility guidelines highly suggest developers and owners design their website so that everything can be accessed through a keyboard only. This helps those who don’t use a mouse or whose devices are not compatible with them. Make sure you can use the search bar, open menus, and select content using keyboard commands to test website accessibility.

Furthermore, it is recommended to design your website with useful information for keyboard commands that indicate users where they are on your website, very similar to what happens when you set your mouse on a specific place and a small description or word appears below letting you know in which part you are positioned.

Here are some useful web content accessibility guidelines to keep in mind on this topic.

  • Links and buttons. Can you access them using only your keyboard?
  • Forms and subscriptions. Can people fill out forms, surveys, and subscription boxes using only a keyboard?
  • Navigation. Does the content display change between your site’s pages when accessing through a keyboard? Think about your Contact, About Us, Careers, and other important pages that are published on your site apart from your other content.

4. Check Color Choices

The World Health Organization estimates that at least 2.2 billion people are either blind or have a vision impairment. Of these, at least 1 billion have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be treated. From this number, 71% are between the age of 18-64 (approximately 19.1 million) and 29% are 65 and older (7.8 million).

With this in mind, it is important to check your website’s color choices to make sure everyone can have access to your information. An accessible web design has optimal color contrast options that allow text-based content to stand out among backgrounds. Additionally, even people without a visual disability will appreciate a color palette that doesn’t distract them or cause eye strain. High contrast is also beneficial for all in situations such as sunlight on the device screen.

The Bottom Line

Web accessibility is a hot topic where the fight for equal access to content is at its peak. Taking the first step, such as reading this article, can make a huge difference when it comes to making accessible web design so that everyone can approach your website and its content.

To sum up the contents of this article, there are four key topics to to remember when designing an accessible website:

  1. Alternative text
  2. Content optimize for zoom
  3. Keyboard-only navigation
  4. Color contrast 

Providing alternative text by properly describing images helps to allow screen readers and other devices, as well as poor internet connection, to know what the image is about. This not only helps users navigate your site but also drastically improves SEO. As for zoom, it is recommended that website developers make their content optimal for 200% zoom (most browsers are already at 100%, so double this) to allow visually-impaired users to access your content without blurry fonts, images (if possible), and others.

Keyboard-only navigation is a must-have to ensure users who don’t use a mouse can move around your website. Buttons, links, text, and other resources should be all easily accessed through this. Finally, color contrast is important in accessible web design to ensure the content contains contrasting colors (between fonts and backgrounds or two colors). This helps users consume the content clearly without straining their eyes or missing out on information.

Applying these will help your website be more accessible for blind, low-vision, and keyboard-only users.