How to Make Your Website More Accessible

People are reticent about the human race progress and many really believe that we are heading in the wrong direction. The truth is that there are still some human beings whose actions are inacceptable- we still have wars, slavery and sexual or racial discriminations. I strongly recommend you to access Facebook, visit the official page of Bill & Melissa Gates and hit the like button. This way you will have the opportunity to make a better idea about how the entire planet is evolving. Unfortunately, the rate of evolution is too low, simply because too little people are involved in the never ending fight against poverty and injustice. Definitely, the “fight” for a better world is the job of governments, but at the same time every single one of us may contribute to eradicate the poverty and make people around us happy …yeah, even the web creators have the power to make people feel better! One of the multiple fronts to combat the differences is constituted by the web accessibility.
Web accessibility refers to the methods of making a website adjusted for people encountering various problems such as deafness, blindness or other types of motor disabilities. Also, a website must be accessible for people that can’t use a mouse or for those who use a special software / hardware. Some web designers or website owners consider that these aspects don’t have a considerable influence over the received traffic and they don’t invest in web accessibility. This isn’t a wise decision because the search engines algorithm of cataloging the websites take into account the web accessibility and besides that we have the moral duty of making web creations available for everyone. We care about web accessibility and we strongly encourage the web designers to create more accessible websites. People coming from different backgrounds access Internet and therefore a web designer can’t imagine all the situations; as a consequence, there is no fully accessible website. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be an excuse for lacking accessibility. Therefore, how should one build accessible websites? The design community seems to care about this aspect and we have tons of books treating this subject, but also many blog posts are presenting various ideas regarding this matter. In order to help you win the “fight” for better websites, we will offer you a short guide of creating more accessible web pages. Definitely, it will be great to have your opinion about it, so you may use the comment form- we are waiting for your contribution!

Hierarchy

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When I first delved into the depths of the web accessibility I was wondering how was it possible for the hierarchy to influence it. Well, the truth is that it has a very big influence! A good hierarchy helps the users to make an idea about what is the most important information from a webpage. To create a working hierarchy a web designer should follow two simple steps:
– Strongly analyze the entire web content and classify the information from most to less important items and ideas.
– When coding, the structure of a webpage one must respect this pattern: the most important / relevant information (usually titles) must be used with “h1” tags, then “h2” and so on until “h6”.
It’s not very complicated to realize a good hierarchy, but many designers neglect this fact.

Colors

Any web designer knows that he / she can’t rely only on colors! It’s quite logical; some people are unable to differentiate the colors while others due to technical issues may encounter the same difficulties. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to underline the links- in this way it will become easier to identify them. Also, sometimes the contrast of the color combinations used is too powerful and visual tension fatigues the eyes. But, the other extremity is not a good solution either- the lack of contrast makes it harder to read the content. Fortunately, other web designers encountered these problems and created precious tools to help people determine if the chosen color combinations are accessible. Here are some tools that will help the designers determine if the colors used are “accessible”:
CheckMyColours
3-color-checker
Color Contrast Checker
4-color-checker

Luminosity Colour Contrast Ratio Analyser5-color-checker

Images

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Even if making the images more accessible doesn’t require great skills and much time, it’s quite probable that the most complains about web accessibility to be due to pictures. Everyone heard about alt text (well, some people call it alt tag which is fundamentally wrong, alt is just an attribute). This is very useful because not everyone has good Internet connection or the browser used can’t render images. Alt text should describe as concise as possible the image. A common habit of designers is to label alt text with numbers or short expressions such as “click here” which isn’t useful. In order to correctly label alt text is advisable to use a browser that doesn’t render the images and test if the description is helpful.

Links

A part of us use assistive technology for Internet navigation and designers shouldn’t ignore this kind of users. As a result, the links should be treated apart because using assistive technology offers a different approach than the common Internet use. Of course, due to various reasons an individual may use special browsers and in some cases the links are kept on a separate page from the content. Now imagine that after reading some lines you need more information. Obviously, you are immediately heading to links section, but there are only “click here” texts. Can you identify which link is the one you search for? This is quite enough frustrating, isn’t it?
Avoiding these situations is very simple, all you have to do is to name the links accordingly- it’s just a matter of few minutes for a complex website. Another great accessibility practice is to use underlined texts only for links. Mixing underlined texts both for important messages and links will put the users in big trouble, so definitely avoid making this mistake.
Another tip to keep in mind when dealing with links is to allow navigation via keyboard. Some people may not have a mouse for the moment; as a result it would be a great idea to stay away from click event handlers!
I hope that all these ideas will be applied into your layouts and let’s hope that with every new website Internet will become more accessible. It supposes a huge volume of work but any endeavour should be considered a step further for a better world!