Website accessibility: access all areas

2nd April 2014

When thinking of your website design, what factors did you consider first? Functionality? Navigation? Aesthetics?

At what point did you think about accessibility – did it even cross your mind?

What is accessibility?

Web accessibility refers to the extent to which people can access your website even if they have specific needs or disabilities. ‘Such as what?’ you ask. Disabilities which can affect web usage fall into four main categories: Visual - such as blindness, poor sightedness and colour blindness; auditory – which ranges from profound deafness to hard of hearing; motor – meaning poor fine motor skills or hand movement which affects mouse control; and cognitive which refers to learning disabilities, slow rate of comprehension or difficulty processing large amounts of text.

Who needs it?

It makes good business sense to include as many prospective customers as possible, and it demonstrates good corporate social values but still there is a lot of inconsistency with web accessibility. Some progressive companies insist on it and some designers see it as a core part of the design architecture, but there are many websites which don’t factor it in at all, or put very little effort towards it.

The concept of accessibility covers a broad range of features and as our population ages you might find that your audience picks up quite a few impairments that are just a normal part of growing older.

Here’s another consideration – the user’s impairment might not be down to them personally, it might be part of their environment and include things such as a dodgy Internet connection, harsh glare or dim office lights, background noise, different mobile device formats, or out of date browsers.

Majority rules

You might not want to complicate your website by changing it to appeal to a minority – but if you think about it, accessibility makes it better for all your users – easier to see, easier to listen to, easier to interact with and easier to understand. Another way of thinking about it is that you’re making it more responsive. It’s also cheaper and less disruptive to factor in accessibility at the design and planning stage, rather than adapting your site later on.

Return on investment

There is clear evidence that accessible websites can help to increase revenue if done in the right way, by increasing the number of customers to a website, and by being preferred to non-accessible websites. Large scale e-commerce retailers such as Tesco and Amazon have increased their online profits by optimising their websites for maximum access.

What now?

If you’d like to know how accessible your website is, we can advise you with a review - maybe you’re already in good shape. If there are some obvious clangers, whatever your budget, there are some pretty straightforward fixes that will make an immediate improvement.