6 tips for creating more accessible web content

We often think about accessibility in the design and build process, but content is always king. These are some ongoing considerations to keep your text and media accessible.

‘Accessibility’ is a measure of how how well your site works for anyone, regardless of the their ability or disability.

Having an accessible website is hugely important. It makes sure that everyone can use and understand it. Being inclusive is good for your organisation’s public image, not to mention that it’s a legal requirement in many countries.

It’s a really worthwhile investment, as being accessible generally impacts your search engine rankings. Besides - the more people who can use your site, the more profit you can make, right?

When designing websites, I tend to shoot for WCAG’s AA-level rating for accessibility. There are a bunch of design and build considerations for making sure your site is accessible, however it doesn’t end there.

In order to maintain this certification, there are also some ongoing content considerations to think about.

1. Use clear and descriptive page titles

Page titles shouldn’t leave any question as to what that content is actually about. This applies to both the title tag of the page, and the main visible heading at the top of the page.

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Giving pages more descriptive titles also has tremendous SEO benefits, there’s added reason to do this.

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2. Break your content into short sections, clearly labeled with headings & sub-headings

Any long-form page content should be broken out into short, digestible sections. Each of these sections should be labeled with a clear heading that describes that part of the content.

Where possible, also use short paragraphs and lists where applicable. This makes the page easily scannable.

Example that shows how content should be broken up with headings and subheadings.

The aim is that any visitor should be able to quickly scroll through a page, stopping when they see content that’s interesting to them.

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3. Use descriptive text on your links & buttons

Links are essence of any site. They allow visitors to move between pages as the basis of a user journey. The ability to easily read and understand links is probably the most important thing in any web-based experience.

The text you put on links and buttons ought clearly describe its purpose. It can’t rely on its position, or the other elements around it. The link text itself needs to stand alone as a sensible instruction for the user.

As with most of these guidelines, the quality of your link text also has big impacts on SEO too. This is another way that Google is incentivising accessibility.

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4. Avoid sensory dependancies in your content

We can’t ever assume that somebody using our site has a certain sense.

If a user needs a specific sensory characteristic to understand or use the information on your site, that’s an accessibility issue. It assumes a physical capability they might not have.

A sensory characteristic can be anything :

  • The ability to see a certain colour.
  • The expectation that they’re capable of using a certain input device (e.g. ‘click the mouse’).
  • The ability to hear an audio instruction.
  • The ability to see a visual layout (not using a screen-rader).

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5. Provide alternative forms of delivery for media content

Any non-text content on your site should have an alternative version for visitors who can’t access the visual and/or audio elements.

There are lots of different ways you can do this, and these vary depending on the medium. What’s important is that you provide :

  • Captions for video content.
  • Descriptive ‘alt text’ for any images.
  • An audio described version of video content, if appropriate.
  • A text transcript for audio content. You can link to a separate article page containing this transcript if you need to.

I try to make an audio recorded version of all of the articles I post on Just UX Design. The hope is that they’re still easily accessible to screen readers, but it never hurts to be safe.

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6. Don’t use images of text

Text should never be used in images. Ever.

If information needs to be communicated using text on your site, it should be done so using live HTML. This is so that it can easily be understood by a screenreader. It also means that the text can be resized and controlled much more easily by browsers.

Once again, doing this has big SEO benefits so it really is in your best interest.

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It’s easy to get wrapped up in the more technical areas of accessibility. There are so many design and build considerations, but they means very little if your core content isn’t fit for purpose.

Follow these guidelines and be mindful of your whole audience, and you’ll be on the right track.

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Chris Myhill, an incredibly handsome UX designer who heads up Just UX Design

Chris Myhill

Chris heads up Just UX Design with 10 years of experience creating digital products and managing design teams.

He’s worked on loads of different projects, using UX wizardry to help businesses make better products.

Learn more about Chris

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