Designing an inclusive browsing experience
“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” – Tim Berners-Lee W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web.
We’ve all experienced the frustration of navigating a poorly designed website, but what if poor design made it impossible for you to access information online?
This is the problem that many people with physical and hidden disabilities face every day.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 16% of the world’s population (1 in 6 of us) experiences a significant disability.
Website accessibility is a vital part of user experience and should be considered at every stage of the web design process. At Create8, our team ensures that all websites are built to be accessible to everyone, regardless of ability, and according to international accessibility standards.
In this article, we will explain why website accessibility is so important, the standards and guidelines that govern website accessibility, and what you can do to ensure that your website is accessible and inclusive.
Why is website accessibility so important?
By complying with website accessibility guidelines and best practices, you ensure that the information on your website is accessible to as many people as possible.
This has numerous benefits for both you and the users visiting your website.
Inclusivity – Our daily lives have become intrinsically linked to the Internet, and website accessibility ensures that no one is excluded from the Web because of their disability.
Legal compliance – In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 clarifies that website owners must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure that their website is accessible to people with disabilities.
Corporate social responsibility – Following accessibility best practices is a primary aspect of meeting your corporate social responsibility.
Enhance user experience – Accessible websites tend to be more user-friendly and feature better navigation, readability, and overall experience, which benefits all users.
Reach a wider audience – It’s not just the user that benefits from a more accessible website; it also has plenty of advantages for business. Making your website accessible gives you a wider audience reach and can help to grow your customer base.
SEO benefits – Search engines love accessible websites. When you comply with website accessibility best practices, you inevitably also comply with some SEO best practices, which helps your website to rank higher in search results and increase its visibility.
Reputation – Demonstrating your commitment to accessibility showcases your social responsibility and ethical business practices, which can improve your brand’s reputation.
What are the WCAG accessibility standards?
If you’re ready to make your website accessible, it’s time to dive into the WCAG!
Website accessibility follows a specific set of standards that aim to make web content more useable and inclusive for people with different needs and preferences. These standards are used internationally and often referred to as the WCAG.
WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These are the international standards for website accessibility as developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
WCAG guidelines and success criteria
The WCAG standards have 13 guidelines which are set out under four principles.
The four principles, known as the ‘POUR principles’, are as follows:
All users must be able to perceive the information on the website using at least one of their senses. This can be achieved in various ways, including providing text alternatives, audio descriptions, sign language interpretation, and clear content presentation.
Users must be able to navigate and interact with the website using various inputs, including keyboard, mouse, speech, or touch. This can be achieved by making the website keyboard accessible, using a clear navigation structure, and avoiding time limits and flashing content.
The content on the website must be clear and easy to understand for all users. This can be achieved by making the web design consistent and predictable, ensuring text content is clear and straightforward to understand, and using appropriate typography and formatting.
Website content should be robust enough to work reliably on various devices and assistive technologies. Some ways that robustness can be achieved include allowing the presentation of the website content to be customised to suit the user’s needs, providing alternative text for images, captions for videos, and using headings to separate different sections.
The three levels of WCAG compliance: A, AA, and AAA
When assessing website accessibility, each of the 13 guidelines is tested against success criteria to determine the website’s level of compliance.
There are three different levels, WCAG A, WCAG AA, and WCAG AAA.
- Level A – The most basic level of accessibility. Web content that scores level A is accessible to some users with disabilities but still presents significant obstacles for others.
- Level AA – The intermediate level of accessibility. Level AA web content is accessible to most users with disabilities, but there are still some accessibility issues present.
- Level AAA – The highest level of accessibility. This web content is accessible to people with various disabilities across various devices and assistive technologies.
Tools and methods for checking website accessibility compliance
If you own a website, you are responsible for ensuring it complies with website accessibility guidelines.
If you’re not sure what level of compliance your website is currently achieving, then there are plenty of tools and methods to help you to determine this.
While automated tools can indicate a website’s level of compliance, they don’t pick up on everything, so we recommend always using manual testing methods and human analysis.
Popular automated WCAG testing tools include:
Humans carry out manual testing to identify accessibility issues that automated tools miss or cannot identify.
Manual testing can be time-consuming and is best carried out by an accessibility or web design expert. Some tests that should be carried out include:
- User experience (UX) review.
- Testing using assistive technologies
- Testing using different devices.
- Manual code review.
The W3C website offers extensive advice and guidance on WCAG testing and evaluating your website’s accessibility.
Best practices and tips for making a website more accessible
It’s only fair that everyone should have equal access to the information available online. As well as being a legal requirement, conforming with the WCAG guidelines and ensuring that your website is inclusive of everyone, regardless of disability, is ethically the right thing to do.
Ready to put the WCAG guidelines into practice?
We’ve compiled our own WCAG checklist, with ten top tips, recommendations, and best practices for transforming your website into a more user-friendly and accessible platform.
- Provide text alternatives – This could include audio recordings of text or the option for text to be read on braille devices.
- Provide text captions and transcripts – This could include adding alt text for images and text transcripts for videos and audio recordings.
- Ensure keyboard accessibility – Some people with disabilities find using a mouse difficult. You can help these people to access your website by making all website functionality accessible using a keyboard.
- Avoid content that flashes – Flashing content can harm people with photosensitivity and should be avoided altogether.
- Offer adaptable content – Users should be able to adapt the content on your website to cater to their different needs, preferences, and abilities when accessing web content.
- Use correct colour contrast – complying with minimum contrast ratios between background colours and text can make web content easier to read for people with visual impairments or colour vision deficiencies.
- Make navigation accessible and consistent – Navigation should be well-organised, structured, predictable, and simple to use.
- Make text content clear and simple to understand – Text content should be written and formatted in a clear and simple way.
- Perform regular testing with assistive technologies – Regular testing helps to pick up any issues with website accessibility so that they can be resolved swiftly.
- Provide an accessibility statement – Your accessibility statement should tell users how your website meets accessibility standards, how it has been tested for accessibility, and how users can contact you to report any issues with accessibility.
Once you can tick off all of the quick fixes above, your website will be well on its way to conforming with the WCAG guidelines.
Website accessibility FAQs
What is website accessibility, and why is it important?
Website accessibility promotes inclusivity by ensuring that web content is accessible to all, including those with disabilities. Websites must be accessible to provide equal access to information and compliance with legal regulations.
What are the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), and how are they related to website accessibility?
The WCAG are guidelines and best practices developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3). They are used as a comprehensive framework and criteria for developers, web designers, and content creators to create web content that is accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities.
What are the different levels of WCAG compliance, and what do they mean?
The three levels of WCAG compliance are Level A (basic), Level AA (intermediate), and Level AAA (advanced).
How can I check if my website is compliant with WCAG standards?
Business owners should check their website’s compliance with WCAG standards using a combination of different methods, including automated accessibility testing tools, professional manual evaluation, and user testing.
What are the best practices for making a website more accessible?
Best practices include providing users with both text content and alternatives to text content, ensuring keyboard accessibility, making navigation clear and consistent, making text content clear and simple to understand, and using the correct colour contrast.
For more detailed information, the WC3 website provides plenty of tips for designing and developing an accessible website, including tips for writing, designing, and developing for web accessibility.
Get help making your website accessible
At Create8, our team of website designers and developers put accessibility at the core of all design decisions, building websites that are inclusive and compliant with WCAG guidelines.