While it’s crucial to make sure your website caters to the widest audience possible you shouldn’t forget that the world is a diverse place. One of the great things about the internet is that it allows people of all types to come together and take part in the global community. But for all of its potential for inclusiveness there are still people who get left out when designers don’t take them into consideration.
The idea of designing websites so that they can be used by people with disabilities is known as web accessibility. Think of it as the internet’s answer to designing a building to be wheelchair accessible. People who have trouble with seeing, hearing and using their hands use the web differently than others and web design needs to take this into consideration. Whether you’re designing a site yourself or hiring someone to do the job you should take the time to learn how you can make your site as accessible and inclusive as possible.
The Importance of Text
Many people who have never considered how a blind individual uses the web have trouble understanding how it’s even possible. After all, for most people it is a highly visual experience. But if you stop and consider most sites you’ll realize that the majority of content is written, which can now be read out by one of the many text-to-speech programs on the market. And it’s not just the text of an article they’re reading, it’s text describing every element on the screen. If any element isn’t properly described this way it might as well be nonexistent to people who can’t see it for themselves.
This all means that the way you use text is crucial, not just where text is readily apparent. Consider the graphics on your site. A person may not be able to see these images, but if they are given a proper alt text then they can still tell what the image is. Alt text is written into the code and can show up when you inspect individual elements or hover your cursor over one, not very important for some but absolutely crucial for those who rely on this tool for navigation and understanding.
Choosing the Right Colors
Proper color choice isn’t just important for creating appealing websites, it also helps create accessible websites. Color blindness is a condition that is more widespread than you might imagine, and it could render your site unusable if you aren’t careful. A website that looks fine to you might be impossible to navigate for others, and when every visitor and customer counts, this is not good.
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Take the time to make sure that your chosen color scheme works with the most common types of color blindness. Remember that it’s not just about particular colors that do or do not work well together, there’s also the matter of contrast. It’s best to stick with colors that stand out from one another in terms of tone and shade. There are also online tools that will help you test images and websites to see for yourself what they look like to the color blind.
One way to approach this problem is making sure that no part of your site depends on color. Instead of simply making links a different color you can also underline them to make them stand out visually even to people who wouldn’t pick up on the color. Use navigation buttons that are clear even without the color and avoid instructing people to simply look for a certain color, knowing that may not enough for many people.
Use Multimedia Carefully
Web design has changed a lot over the last few decades. Trends have moved from simple pages full of text to complicated and busy flash sites and back to a more simple and sleek design aesthetic. But while sites may not be packed with animation anymore there’s still a trend towards more multimedia, whether it’s videos, photos and music. All of them can improve your site but raise unique problems for some.
As you add these types of elements to your site there are two questions you need to ask, who can experience them and whether or not the site will still make sense to people who can’t fully experience them. Take videos for example, they can do a lot to improve your site but can be problematic for blind or deaf individuals. Fortunately by adding subtitles and transcripts you can convey the important information in the video to people who may not be able to hear or see it.
Note that you don’t have to hold back from adding multimedia to your site because some might not enjoy the full experience, you simply have to try and see things from their perspective and provide supplemental material to fill in any gaps.
Reaching The Largest Audience Possible
The most important takeaway should be that simply thinking about the needs of your potential audience can open up a whole new world of opportunities. While you may not feel like you can justify taking some of the bigger steps towards making a more inclusive site you can still do a lot of good by making small and simple changes.
It’s also important to start improving your site as soon as possible. Creating a website is like building a house, you need to start with a solid foundation because it is difficult to go back later and try and fix the fundamentals after you’ve spent years building on top of the old structure.
Putting in the effort to write alt text for images and come up with an inclusive design doesn’t just help you reach people of all different ability levels, it also reinforces the crucial idea that every part of your site is important. When you take this approach with your website it will help you on every level.
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