Website Accessibility and Why It Matters

Website Accessibility Matters

Understanding accessibility is made easier when speaking with real users.

by Adam Watts

As a website developer, I'm always looking for ways to improve my coding practices for all audiences. One area that, until recently, I hadn't delved into is website accessibility. For reasons mainly SEO related, I've always included meta tags for images and links but hadn't considered the actual usability implications of what I was adding to the website. In fact, many developers are well versed in website accessibility - though they may not realize it.

How I Became Aware of Website Accessibility Requirements

I received a call one day from someone looking over my website after searching for website developers in Calgary. He wanted to ask me questions regarding accessibility features and why they aren't implemented in more websites. Being visually impaired, he uses a screen reader to render websites online and found that many websites were lacking attention to this demographic of user. We chatted about what makes websites useful for someone who can't visually use a page, and I realized that in my pursuit of "better" search engine rankings and standardized code, I'd created a website that was easy to use - whether you could see it or not. Over the course of some months I had the opportunity to speak with my new friend and learn about the difficulties he'd faced in navigating the internet and how things could and should be improved. It seems as though the web has gone in a less-accessible direction recently. Website owners aren't realizing that in going for a more cost-effective, Do-It-Yourself website option, you sacrifice accessibility - and those visitors along with it. Even many website designers and developers aren't taking disabled users into account when building custom websites. This ends up being bad for the internet in general, not to mention your search engine rankings.

Why Website Accessibility Should be a Focus for You

Everyone wants a great looking, fast website - but in doing so you may be neglecting a large number of users that may not be able to see your pages the way you do. Not only those users, but Google's (and other search engines) robots that crawl and rank your site depend on these user accessibility measures to help properly index your content. Improving your website's user accessibility will always result in a more robust experience, though may require the help of a developer to guide you through proper practices and techniques. I found it worthwhile to spend the time on making my website more user friendly. It isn't for everyone, and to get the most of your hard work, planning is essential.

Tips to a More Accessible Website

We should all work toward a more accessible internet - and some of the ways that you can do this are simpler than you think:
  • Create websites that are to the point and aren't adding content simply to help your ranking.
  • Give all images "title" tags and "alt" tags that are descriptive.
  • Give all links "title" tags that tell the user where it may take them.
  • Learn to code HTML rather than using a WYSIWYG editor (this will make adding these tags quicker and easier)

Want to Learn More?

The internet is all about the free exchange of information - so why not take advantage and learn a little about web standards for user accessibility?