Access to the internet is often described as a basic human right. In an ideal world, persons of all abilities, languages, incomes, locations, and ages will be able to comfortably use the Web and all it has to offer.
“Accessibility” is the term used to describe this project of making websites more inclusive—a big project, to be sure, but the good news is that accessibility is a spectrum. Your site doesn’t have to be perfectly accessible right now—just making it a bit more accessible than it currently is can be a huge improvement. We’ve compiled three tips to help you do just that.
Start Using Alt Text
People with visual impairments often interact with web pages through screen readers—devices that read the contents of a webpage out loud. When a screen reader comes across an image, the device will read the alt text aloud to describe what the individual is unable to see themselves.
Having good alt text on images truly enhances the experience of the web page for visually impaired users and it’s easy to do on your site. With WordPress, for example, you don’t have to know any code to ensure your images have alt text.
When you view a single image in the WordPress Media Library, you’ll notice a field labeled “Alt text.” As its name implies, the contents of this field will be used as the image’s alt text.
You can use this field to enter very simple descriptions of your image so the screen reader can read it out loud.
There is one important exception to note: If an image is purely decorative and is not important to understanding the page’s content, you should just leave the alt text empty.
Use Good Headings and Page Titles
Screen readers and other assistive devices rely on headings and page titles to help their users know what page they’re viewing and where they are in that page. That’s why it’s important to:
- Make sure your headings look like headings—they should be larger than the body text, perhaps bold, perhaps darker than other text, etc.
- Make sure there’s a logical and consistent hierarchy of headings throughout your content. If your blog post titles use H1 tags, then any headers within the blog posts (e.g. section headers) should use H2 tags or lower.
Now for page titles—when a browser tab is opened, the page title is the text used on the tab. Page titles need to be well-formatted and descriptive to accurately convey the page topic, as well as the website where it’s published.
Take this blog post for example. The headline you see above is “3 Tips to Make Your Site More Accessible.” A good page title for this would be “3 Tips to Make Your Site More Accessible | The Events Calendar.” This simple, succinct, and useful title identifies both the page and website in one go.
Stress-Test Your Font Sizes
Let’s assume the typography on your site already looks great on mobile phones, tablets, and laptops—nice! But what happens if you increase the device screen font size settings by 30%?
Many folks need to increase font sizes on their web browser and devices to make content easier to read. If larger font sizes break your design, you may need to enlist the help of a designer or developer to help fix it. Put in a bit of time to check this and make sure your content is still readable when font sizes are significantly increased.
The tips we’ve focused on here happen to deal with screen readers and visual impairment, but don’t forget that accessibility is about so much more.
- Audio and video: Consider offering transcripts for listeners with hearing impairments.
- Multilingual site users: Try using translation services or plugins to display your content in multiple languages.
- Page speed: Put some time and effort into optimizing load times on your site. This will benefit your bottom line and also ensure that people accessing your site on low-quality internet connections don’t have to wait an especially long time for your pages to load.
Whether you’re making tweaks to an existing website or building a new site from scratch, these tips will help improve usability for all of your visitors, regardless of ability or disability. When sites and software are made with accessibility in mind, everybody wins.