Millions of people around the world live with disabilities, whether they are physical, mental, or social ailments. These disabilities affect the way they use the internet and your e-commerce site. That’s why accessibility should be one of your top concerns when designing or redesigning your website.
It’s difficult to design your website for all possible disabilities, but you should do what you can to improve overall accessibility. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that websites make accommodations for their users when possible. New standards will require you by law to improve accessibility on your website if you haven’t already done so. That’s one of the biggest reasons why you should make accessibility a top priority now.
If you want to ensure your e-commerce site is accessible to the growing population of people with disabilities, here are seven things you can do to improve your design.
Be Careful With Color
Image via Flickr by Robson#
Approximately 4.5 percent of the entire population is colorblind. There are varying degrees and levels of the disability, but most people with a colorblind impairment have difficulty seeing red, green, or blue light. Even people who are not colorblind don’t enjoy websites with garish colors and clashing designs
When designing your website for accessibility, be careful with color choices. The best choice is usually black text on a white background. It is the easiest to read and has become a standard in web development. Also, make sure that links within your text are a different color or underlined so people have an easier time finding them.
Avoid Tables and Other Modular Items
People with visual impairments frequently use screen readers to access the content on your website. These screen readers get confused if you use tables in your layout because it is unclear where the screen reader should begin reading. Additionally, screen readers sometimes don’t read the text within tables in the order you intended to have it read.
To improve the accessibility of your website and make it easier for screen readers to do their job, only use tables for adding tabular data and keep your rows and columns as simple as possible. You should also use Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) and landmarks to structure your site instead of modular elements. Pop-up and auto-plays used to be standard elements of web design, but they are not suited well for people with disabilities and therefore hurt your site’s accessibility.
Add Alt Tags to Your Images
When you hover your mouse over a website image, a little box pops up with text to describe it. This is called the “alt tag.” It is used by people who have visual impairments. A screen reader says the alt tags aloud. If you don’t add alt tags to your images, people with visual impairments won’t know the content of the images, and this hinders website accessibility.
Always take the extra time to add meaningful alt tags to your images. Try to accurately describe what is depicted in the image but keep your text concise. For example, you can simply write the name of the person in the image. If you’re using a CMS to add content to your website, there is typically an alt tag field you can fill out when adding an image.
Make Transcripts or Use Subtitles on Videos
Using videos on your website is a great way to show off the features of your products and build hype around your brand. After all, people are much more likely to watch a video than they are to read text. However, people with hearing impairments won’t get the full experience you are trying to create.
To improve the accessibility of your website, add subtitles to your videos or provide a transcript — preferably both. This is an incredibly useful resource for people with hearing impairments or learning disabilities. YouTube and most other video hosting sites have tools to help you add subtitles, so there aren’t good excuses for not adding them.
Design Forms with Accessibility in Mind
Forms are a valuable way to capture information about your customers and provide them with additional information about your business and products. However, you must make sure your forms are designed with accessibility in mind to make the most of them. Each field needs a clear label for a screen reader and an ARIA property to associate the form field with the label.
For instance, if you have a separate field for a person’s first and last name, they should be labeled, “First Name,” and “Last Name,” and have ARIA labels that allow a person to tab from one field to the next in order. The same is true when designing a checkout form. Apply the simple principles of SEO to also improve website accessibility.
Use Headings and Subheadings
People with learning disabilities and new readers have a hard time reading large blocks of text. You can make your website more accessible by breaking your content into smaller paragraphs and organizing them with headings and subheadings. The more scannable your content is, the easier it is for people to read and follow. Smaller chunks of text greatly improve your website’s accessibility, and it only takes a little effort.
Make Sure Content Can Be Accessed With a Keyboard
People with repetitive stress injuries and other mobility disabilities may not use a mouse or trackpad when using the Internet. It’s common to use the tab and arrow keys as an alternative input device. To make your website more accessible for these people, make sure that your page navigation and menus are configured for access by keyboard. This means that all navigation should read from left to right so that the tab function works logically. You should also place a skip-to-main-content button near the top of each page to help people get where they want faster.
Always keep in mind the way that people with disabilities will use your website and look for ways to improve your website’s accessibility. It’s a requirement of the ADA and should be one of your top concerns. Improving your website’s accessibility will make people happy and also bring you more business.