10 ways digital accessibility improves the user experience

As companies vie for customer attention and online business, they are discovering an important and largely untapped market: accessible content for those who have a disability. With more than a billion people around the world with some type of disability, businesses cannot afford to exclude this portion of the population.

Loyalty is critical when it comes to customer satisfaction and return business. How your users experience your website will help determine whether they become the kind of loyal customers that make up your consumer base. If they feel as though you care for their needs and provide a positive experience on your website, you will create customers that will both buy and come back again.

That’s where digital accessibility comes in. If a visitor has a disability, and your site is not accessible, they can’t shop your product. And not only is ensuring this accessibility the right thing to do, but the number of website accessibility lawsuits nearly tripled from 2017 to 2018. And courts are overwhelmingly ruling in favor of accessibility. Major corporations, from Target to Bank of America, were prosecuted by the Department Of Justice and paid out millions in damages because their websites failed to provide accessibility for all users. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodations. Today, these places of public accommodation include the Internet. Ensuring equal access to your digital content significantly reduces your legal risk.

The Web Accessibility Initiative, which defined what web accessibility is in its  Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WGAC), states that accessibility is "essential for some, useful for all". Using accessibility standards ensure businesses not only reach those who would not be able to access content otherwise, but it will make a simpler, clearer, and more sensible design that benefits everyone.

It is essential, then, for companies to make sure that their website provides a positive user experience for all visitors. Here are ways that digital accessibility will improve your users’ experience:

1.Streamline Pages

Screens that are cluttered with too many ads, articles, or generally disorganized are difficult for anyone to look at and negatively affects the usability of the website. However, for many people with disabilities, cluttered pages can become virtually impossible to navigate. Those who have cognitive disabilities may struggle with comprehending the information, while those who rely on ZoomText may have a difficult time expanding the screen to see the page.

A streamlined website is not only attractive to visitors but increases the usability for those who have disabilities. It creates a positive user experience for all of your potential customers.

2. Keyboard Only Access

People who have motor disabilities typically access the internet through a trackpad, and sometimes they may use only their keyboard to navigate through sites. In order to facilitate their needs, the ability to access the information on your page without a mouse is vital to their user experience.

Consider how easy it is to scroll through sections of your site using only a keyboard. The easier it is, the better the experience for your customers.

3. Captions of Videos and Alternative Reading

Many business use videos and podcasts in order to provide useful content and information to their users. However, this information needs to be put in a way that will make it available to all users. Deaf and hard-of-hearing users rely on captions or text summaries of videos, as well as an opportunity to read podcast transcripts.

Not only will deaf and hard-of-hearing users find captioning and transcripts necessary, but many of your users may find themselves in a position where they would prefer reading alternatives regardless of their hearing status. If your users find themselves in a place that requires them to keep the sound off but does not have headphones or where their internet connection does not allow them to stream, for example, they will have a much better experience with your site and brand if they have the option to read.

4. Better Comprehension

One key component of digital accessibility is simple content. Easy-to-understand content is essential for reaching as many people as possible. The overall guideline is that content should be no higher than a lower secondary (or eighth grade) reading level. If there is a reason why a higher reading level is necessary, supplemental literature that is easier to understand should be provided (i.e., plot summary or overview).

The ability to understand your content will have a substantial impact on both your user’s experience on your website and their overall impression of your business. Do your users understand exactly what you sell, what differentiates you from the competition, and important information about your company? The readability of your page will make sure that all users have a better understanding of your product, your company, and your brand.

5. Prevent Seizures

About 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives. Website features must keep their needs in mind as well. A digitally accessible website will avoid flashing images that can sometimes trigger a seizure in those who are susceptible.

6. Easier to Navigate

Providing a web-accessible website means that users should have a clear understanding of where they are on your website. Unique and meaningful page titles, proper heading structure, bread-crumb menus, proper focus order and guided maps on multiple-step processes all ensure that users will not be confused or lost when they navigate your site.

All users can find what they need faster and easier when your site provides the navigation tools they need. Additionally, frustrated or confused users are far more likely to abandon a page rather than filling out the information or making the purchase.

7. Input Assistance

Digital accessibility also impacts form fields and inputs on your site. When forms or inputs are not accessible, the user can quickly become confused and frustrated. For example, many companies use placeholder text instead of labels on their forms. The low-contrast and grey letters in placeholder text can be difficult for users to read, for starters. It can also be confusing for screen readers, assistive technology for those who have low or no vision. Screen readers often skip over these words in favor of reading labels, leaving the user unable to distinguish what information to provide and where.

Do not make the mistake of confusing simplicity for functionality. Labels on forms and field boxes are necessary for equal user experience.

8. Accurate Headers

The correct headers make content easier for readers to understand. The correct structure to your information allows users with low vision to get an overall sense of the information because screen readers typically depend on heading tags to read the content correctly. This means each site needs to use true titles and headers, not just bold words in a bigger font, to make it easier for all users to read and understand.

9. Adjustable Timing

Not everyone can sort through information and type information in the amount of time you may expect them to. Every user can find themselves running out of time at some point. Make sure that your users have the ability to access your information and type what they need to by allowing them to adjust any timed content. This way, any user that may require a bit more time to watch, read, understand or type has the luxury of more time.

10. Useful Alternatives to Pictures

To improve accessibility, context is everything. Provide text to describe images so that screen readers can provide an accurate description of that image. Images can be crucial to understanding content, so these descriptions ensure that users with low vision may also access all the information. Text should clearly and meaningfully describe the picture in context with the information on the page.

Better Business with Digital Accessibility

A common misconception that keeps many businesses from becoming digitally accessible is that making a site inclusive is both time-consuming and costly. If you’ve built your site without understanding digital accessibility barriers, you may think it’s too late to remediate. This is simply not true! Creating accessible web content does not need to be an overwhelming or costly experience.

The same technology that makes computers accessible to all users, regardless of ability, also makes it easy to make web pages accessible. Automation for accessibility means that businesses can significantly reduce their legal risk, open their content to a larger customer base, and improve their website for much less time and cost than the traditional methods.

Isn’t it time your business created a better user experience for all your users?

Image Creditpathdoc / Shutterstock

Sean Bradley co-founded Audio Eye, Inc. (Nasdaq: AEYE) and serves as the President & Chief Strategy Officer. AudioEye is a technology company serving businesses committed to providing equal access to their online content. Transforming how the world experiences digital content, AudioEye solves issues of accessibility and enhances the user experience for the broadest audience possible.

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