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Accessibility 101: Four key guidelines for websites

Published on
September 7, 2022
Accessibility 101: Four key guidelines for websites
Founder & Creative Director at Mercury Jane Media, Jennifer Ross
Jennifer Ross
Founder & Full-Stack Designer, Mercury Jane Media
Founder & Creative Director at Mercury Jane Media, Jennifer Ross
Andrea Christopher
UI/UX Designer, Mercury Jane Media
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Websites are increasingly becoming a key part of people's everyday lives. We use them for everything from keeping in touch with loved ones to booking appointments and managing our finances.

With so much of our lives moving online, it's more important than ever that websites are accessible to everyone. Accessibility means that people with disabilities can use and understand a website. It also makes it easier for everyone to use, regardless of their level of tech-savviness.

There are many factors to consider when making a website accessible, but here are four key guidelines to get you started:

MacBook Pro screen showing a website that says "I design and develop experiences that make people's lives simple."

Use fonts and text effectively

When writing content for your website, use clear and concise language. Avoid jargon and acronyms where possible. If you do need to use them, make sure you explain what they mean. Say just enough to get your point across simply and effectively.  On your website, a single line of text should not exceed 75 characters. Any time that you will have a longer body of text on your website, ensure that it is left-aligned. This makes it much easier to follow and read.

MacBook Pro user looking at a website with heading and body text.

Heading hierarchy

Your website's content should be well-organized and easy to scan. One way to achieve this is to use a heading hierarchy. This means using headings and subheadings to break up your text and help readers understand the structure of your content.

The most important information should be at the top of the page and in the largest font. Accompanying details can be beneath in smaller text.  This makes it easy for readers to scan the page and find the information they need.

Graphic showing contrast ratios with various color combinations.

Color contrast

It's important to use a color scheme on your website that has good contrast. This means that there is a big difference between the colors of the text and the background. For example, black text on a white background has very high contrast.

Color contrast is important for two reasons. First, it makes your website easier to read for everyone. Second, it's especially important for people with vision impairments.

There are a few different ways to check the color contrast of your website. One option is to use an online tool like WebAIM's Color Contrast Checker. Another option is to download a color contrast plugin for your web browser. These plugins will highlight areas on a website that do not have enough color contrast.

Use alt text for images

Alt text is the text that appears in place of an image on a website. Alt text allows people with vision impairments to understand what is on the page. Additionally, it helps search engines index your website's content.

The most common use for adding alt text is to assist visitors to your website who may have difficulties reading text from a screen for a variety of reasons.

Screen readers used for accessibility purposes can read out the descriptions of images that have alt text assigned to them.

However, alt text can also be helpful when images aren't loading properly on a website. For example, if an image doesn't load properly, its file name or alt text will appear instead. If you owned a bookstore, would you rather have an improperly loaded image say The cover of 'Wonder' by R.J. Palacio" or "IMG_98875.jpg". Odds are, it will be way more helpful for a visitor to shop on the website if they are still able to have an idea of what the images are meant to be.

A woman and man discuss information on a MacBook Pro screen in front of them.

Conclusion

It's important to consider best practices when building a website to ensure optimal search engine optimization and accessibility. By following the guidelines outlined above, you can create a website that is easy to use and navigate for all visitors.

Book a discovery call with us today! We would be more than happy to chat with you about your website and how we can help you create a beautiful, functional, and accessible site.

How we make it easy

Getting a website that works shouldn't require dozens of meetings or months of back and forth. We'll ask the right questions from the get-go, so we understand exactly what you need and can deliver quickly.

1. Listen & Learn

Once we're ready to get started, we schedule a kickoff call to discuss your website and/or branding needs and learn as much as possible about your company. Together, we complete an initial outline of your website and brand strategy.

2. Design & Build

Using the outlines and notes from our kickoff call, we mock up initial designs and send them to you for feedback. After making any necessary revisions, we build your new site and start adding custom integrations to automate your workflow.

3. Launch

As we make final changes, we ensure your website & logos look great on all modern browsers and devices. We then provide you with personalized videos showing how to handle simple updates step-by-step. When all systems are go, we launch your site and wait for the rave reviews to start rolling in!

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