How an accessible website benefits your business
You’re probably familiar with accessibility as something required from your website so people with disabilities can use it. But did you know that an accessible website is more straightforward for everyone to use? And that it increases the overall number of people who can visit and use your website, ultimately increasing your visibility and potential sales?
In this article, we’ll demonstrate that an accessible website can only be a good thing for your website visitors and your business.
The legal bit
Your business has a legal obligation to ensure that you do not discriminate against anyone who has a disability (the Equality Act 2010). If you are a public organisation, there are additional regulations you need to comply with: The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018. They stipulate that websites must meet WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standards.
Beyond the legal bit
Beyond the essential legal obligations, an accessible website is open to everyone. By making your website accessible, all of your content can be easily understood by every visitor. Your website is more usable – for everyone. In other words, your online audience just grew. Your website became more appealing to many more people across the UK and worldwide.
How many people need your website to be accessible?
There are over 11 million people in the UK who live with a disability1:
- the 8.1 million people with significant vision impairments, including 2 million people who are blind
- people with hearing impairments
- people with learning disabilities or cognitive limitations, including ADD, Aspergers, and dyslexia
- people who have trouble lifting their hand and have limited movement
- people who have trouble speaking
The UK population stands at 66 million at the time of writing. That’s around 1 in 6 people in the UK who live with a disability – a lot of people to exclude from your website as potential visitors and customers.
1Disability facts and figures [UK Government]
What makes a website accessible?
An accessible website should be easy to use for everyone, anywhere, on any device. This means every visitor can do what they came to do; whether that was to read about something, buy something, download something, contact someone, or register their details with you.
An accessible website is one that everyone can use, irrespective of:
- where they are
- what device they are using
- what their emotional state is
- whether or not they can see the screen clearly or at all
- whether or not they can hear media presenting on the website
- whether or not they can see a full range of colours
- their hand motor impairment
- their dyslexia
- their temporary physical disability
Is this just about screenreaders?
Accessibility is heavily associated with screenreaders (the software people with sight loss use to read a website’s content out loud). While a website should be constructed with screenreader users in mind, as you can see from the list above, there is a lot more to accessibility.
So what are all of the business benefits of having an accessible website?
Beyond avoiding discrimination and legal complications, you will also find there are many significant benefits to ensuring your website is 100% accessible.
You will become easier to find online
Search Engines can’t see the content of your images, just like website visitors who have vision impairments. When you build accessibility features and considerations into your website, alt text for images and transcripts for videos, your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) also improves. Search engines like Google are aware of these features and considerations because they improve the experience for visitors. Not only are you helping your visitors, but you’re also improving your search engine rankings, making it easier for people to find you.
You grow your market
By making your website accessible, you are opening up your business to more people. No-one will be ‘turned away’ because they can’t read the text, can’t tab through the content using their keyboard, or because their screenreader can’t read all of the content aloud.
You increase enquiries and sales
An accessible website means everyone can all perform the actions on your website, including learning about your products or services and completing your enquiry form. If you need to make your pages simpler or your forms easier to fill out, everyone will benefit. Vital if you rely on your website to generate leads or sales.
You can enhance your reputation
An easy-to-use website helps people get things done. It makes them happier. Many disabled people struggle to use websites because their needs weren’t considered when it was built and tested. So coming across your website and its high level of accessibility could be a pleasant surprise, boosting your reputation in their eyes. Being inclusive and demonstrating social responsibility will certainly build positive public relations.
You earn loyal customers
People return to websites that are easy to use. Websites that offer a smooth journey through to completing their goal, whatever that goal might be. They remember positive experiences and become loyal customers. This is especially relevant if you offer a product or service that people may buy regularly.
You’ll have an edge over competitors
Will your competitors have put the same thought, time and effort into making their website accessible as you? If not, you will have an edge when people compare you with your competitors.
Where do you start?
So you know its time to start doing something about accessibility on your website. But where to start? How can you understand and visualise all of the many different needs, circumstances, and connotations?
Understanding and empathy
Consider that not everyone will access your website on a modern phone, tablet or computer. If they are using a computer, they won’t always use a mouse and keyboard. They won’t always have access to a fast, reliable connection. They may not be able to control their body movements. They won’t always be able to control their environment. They won’t always be feeling in full control of their emotions.
Imagine how your website performs in these circumstances:
- Your visitor is travelling by train and only has access to the slow and unreliable onboard wifi connection
- Your visitor is sitting in bright sunshine on their mobile phone which affects their screen
- Your visitor is in an anxious state of mind and needs to complete their task on your website as quickly as possible
- Your visitor’s hand is trembling badly today and yet need to navigate through your menu to reach a particular page
- Your visitor has dyslexia and struggles to focus on your content
- Your visitor cannot use a mouse and navigates using just a keyboard
- Your visitor cannot see the colour red and can struggle to complete forms successfully
- Your visitor has a vision impairment and relies on your videos including a transcript that can be read out to them, describing the speech and action in the video
Perform an accessibility audit
The first step in doing something about accessibility is to discover how accessible your website is currently. You can do this by performing an accessibility audit. This is a series of manual and automated tests using a range of tools and techniques.
These tools and techniques help to identify any major issues like these:
- Low colour contrast (for example, between text and the background) that makes your content hard to read for some people
- Images with no alternative text (‘alt text’) that accurately describes what the image portrays
- Videos with no subtitles or text transcript accurately describing the speech and action
- Complex navigation, forms, and other key functionality that some visitors may find challenging to use
- Content that cannot be quickly skipped through using a keyboard
- Lack of headings in your content that break up large paragraphs of text and make content easy to understand
- Links that are difficult to distinguish from the rest of your content
- Pages that take a long time to load thus alienating people who rely on a slow connection
Fix major issues straight away
If you discover your website has some major issues like these, you should prioritise the work required to address them. While this will require some time and money, it’s vital your website is readable and usable for all online visitors. You may find that you quickly make that money back as a result of having a better website.
If you’re in a situation where it seems there are lots of major issues, it may be time to think about a new website. Some websites could cost thousands of pounds to put right. If this applies to you, the best way forward could be to start again, this time building accessibility in from the start.
Make a plan to fix smaller issues
Even minor issues like your buttons not having an obvious hover state need to be addressed. But it’s understandable that, if you’re dealing with a long list of issues, the smaller problems have to wait until the bigger issues have been addressed. It’s important to note all the issues somewhere, for example, a spreadsheet or an online task management tool like Trello.
Making a plan can be as simple as contacting some website development businesses for some quotes to compare, selecting a supplier, and scheduling the work with them.
Need help making your website accessible?
We provide everything you need to ensure your website is fully accessible; from a detailed audit that highlights accessibility issues, to implementation of all the changes required to make your website 100% accessible.
It’s our belief that accessibility starts at the early design stages of a project and should be considered at every step in the process, right through to development, testing, and quality assurance.
Call an accessibility expert: 01382 848669 (office hours: 9am-5pm, Mon-Fri) or email us.