Optimising your website comes in many guises, from helping it stand out in search results, to improving your conversion rate.
One of the best ways to make sure your website, blog and social media posts work for everybody is to make them accessible. Do this, and existing users will have a better experience, plus you’ll reach more customers too.
It’s easy to forget that your customers will have a wide range of abilities and even easier to overlook how best to cater for each, just see some of the stats of web users below:
- 11 million people in the UK have a disability (Official Statistics 2014)
- Over 2 million people live with sight loss (RNIB 2018)
- 10% have dyslexia (British Dyslexia Association)
- 5 million adults have the literacy levels of a primary school pupil (National Literacy Trust)
- 1 in 10 don’t have English as their first language (2011 Census)
Help users who might struggle online by putting some of these tips into practice.
Clearly lay out your pages
Blind users can use screen reading software to listen to the text on a page.
To get an idea of what this is like, check out this screen reader demo.
By laying out your page clearly, your content will make sense when it’s read out loud.
Use helpful headings
Screen readers let users scroll through the headings like a table of contents.
This helps them skip straight to the bit they’re interested in, without having to listen to all the text.
Write your headings so they concisely sum up what’s in each section – helpful for any reader, regardless of ability – and make sure they’re properly formatted.
Get to the point
Start each new paragraph with your key point.
Blind users often listen to the first sentence or two to work out if it’s relevant before jumping to a new paragraph.
Again, it’s worth doing this anyway, as most users only read 20% of the text on the page, according to readability research.
Leaving important info to the end means plenty of people will miss it.
Break up your text
Try to stick to one or two short sentences per paragraph.
Dyslexic users in particular find it easy to lose their place in big blocks of text.
Take a look at a dyslexia simulator for an idea of what it’s like staring at a dense paragraph:
Breaking up text is sometimes known as chunking, or dividing it up into bite-sized chunks.
This will make it easier for everyone to skim and take in your messages.
Add alternative text to images
Include a description of any images, known as alt text.
Screen readers will read this out to blind and partially sighted users.
- ‘Beagle puppy chasing a ball’ for a pet insurance illustration
- ‘Jane Smith, Chair of Enterprise Ltd’ for a photo of your chairperson.
As an added bonus, tagged images will be easier to find on search engines and so could improve your site ranking.
Use specific link text
Clearly label links to other pages or sites, avoiding generic text like ‘click here’ or ‘more’.
Screen readers will give a list of links on the page, so it won’t help if they’re all the same or simply meaningless without context.
The text should sum up the page you’re pointing to, such as tips about link text.
What’s best for everybody is best for you too
Making sure your site is accessible will lead to a better experience for all your users.
In turn, this should lead to more conversions on your site – along with greater numbers of happy and loyal customers.