Writing Accessible Content for the Web
An article by Tablö Creative
Most of us know the importance of writing a content strategy tailored for search engines, but may not consider users with different abilities. In this 2-part series, we'll guide you through how to write great content for your website that takes both Search Engine Optimization and Accessibility into account. Some people operate and experience the web in different ways, but everyone deserves equal access to the same information. That's what accessibility is all about!
Who are we taking into consideration?
Persons who are visually impaired or blind, hard-of-hearing or Deaf, users who have cognitive disabilities or mobility impairments, the elderly, and non-native English speakers. This also affects folks with temporary or situational disabilities, like a sprained wrist, or dilated pupils after an eye exam.
When we focus consciously on these needs, you'll start to realize we are actually just creating websites that work better for everybody!
While visual styling like bolded text, font size, or colour can communicate hierarchy to a sighted user, others might miss those visual cues. Some people with visual impairments use an assistive technology called a screen reader to read the text of a web page. Using the appropriate headings within your website editor lets the user skim through larger articles of text. Adding headings also helps break up longer articles and makes it easier for busy readers to digest.
- According to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices, each web page should have only one Heading 1 to identify the main topic of the page.
- Avoid typing in all caps – some screen readers will read out text in all caps letter by letter. If you want a Heading to appear in all uppercase letters, type out the heading in regular case and request this style to the web developer who can implement this using code. (Pro-tip: if you’re provided with text that’s been typed in all caps, no need to re-type it out! Use a handy tool like convert case.)
- Should and clear and to the point.
- Start each page and subsection with the most important information. Don’t bury the lead.
- Break up large paragraphs with bullet points or numbered lists where appropriate. Lists are easier to skim then paragraphs.
- When abbreviations or acronyms are used in text, use the long form the first time an abbreviation or acronym is introduced on any given web page, and then use the short form moving forward. This must be done once on each web page – you cannot assume a visitor has seen it on another page before.
When creating a text link, be sure the link text describes its purpose and destination, and would make sense out of context. For instance, rather than writing: “Click here to link to read our annual report”, use something like: “Read our annual report”.Keep going...
When adding an image into a page in WordPress or any other content management system, you will have to upload the image from your computer to the media library. When you have an image in your library selected, look for a field called “Alt Text“. This will be read by a screen reader for those who can’t see the image. This also gets scraped by search engine bots to provide more information about the page content. Alt text should:
- Be short and succinct
- Not include the words “image of” or “photo of”. Words like “illustration of” or “diagram of” may be helpful to some users if it provides context, but the technology which provides assistance will already make it clear, this content is an image
- Include text in the image itself, like a logo
Captions are crucial for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and can also be helpful for non-native English speakers. They can also be indexed by search engines, allowing more potential viewers to find your content. Read more on YouTube’s guide to adding your own subtitles & closed captions to videos. You can make edits to automatic captioning function as needed.
A web accessibility audit is an expert evaluation of your website ensuring that it meets local legislative requirements for accessibility. A web accessibility audit report details:
- The overall conformance rating of the website with WCAG 2.0
- A prioritized list of issues to be addressed
- Solutions to remedy the issues
About Tablö Creative
Tablö Unconventional Creatives is a Toronto based full-service agency. We take a strategic and personalized approach to telling your brand’s story, offering a range of services from digital marketing, branding, content creation, web development and sustainability consultation. We’re all about using our creativity to solve your unique business challenges and reach your goals.