The Importance of Accessibility in Web Development

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The Importance of Accessibility in Web Development

Web accessibility is the process of designing and developing your website to be accessible for all users, including those with disabilities. This includes individuals with visual, auditory, motor and cognitive impairments and restrictions. The goal is to ensure that anyone, regardless of their physical or mental ability, can navigate, understand and interact with your web content effectively.

The concept of web accessibility has become an increasingly important aspect of web development in recent years, driven by a commitment to inclusivity and a growing awareness of the diverse needs of internet users. As accessibility transitions from a best practice to a standard, web developers hold the responsibility for creating a more inclusive and diverse online environment.

Accessibility Standards

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are an internationally recognised set of recommendations, created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), that aim to improve web accessibility.

The latest advancement, WCAG 2.2, builds upon the established guidelines of WCAG 2.1 and 2.0, introducing updated recommendations and requirements for web developers and designers to follow. These updates have legal implications, particularly for public sector bodies including central and local government organisations, as well as certain charities and non-governmental organisations. Given that individuals may not have a choice when using a public sector website or mobile app, ensuring accessibility for all is paramount.

Effective from October 2024, UK public sector organisations must ensure that their digital platforms adhere to WCAG 2.2 standards and publish an accessibility statement to reflect compliance.

While prioritising web accessibility may not be mandated by law in your sector, overlooking it can still expose your business to legal or financial consequences. To mitigate legal risks and prevent alienating users with disabilities, it’s essential to ensure that your website enables all individuals to access, navigate and consume your content effortlessly.

There are four principles that your web content should follow to meet the accessibility standards set by the WCAG:

  • Perceivable – All users should understand and be aware of the information presented on your website, regardless of their sensory abilities.
  • Operable – Users must be able to navigate and interact with all website functions effectively.
  • Understandable – Content on your website must be clear, concise and readable, allowing all users to engage and understand. This is not just limited to written content – the layout and imagery within your website must be perceivable for every user.
  • Robust – Your website must be compatible with different browsers, devices and assistive technologies to ensure reliable interpretation of content by user agents e.g. screen readers, voice recognition software and braille displays.

By following the WCAG guidelines, business owners, web developers and designers can help to create a better user experience (UX) for everyone.

What Can Businesses Do to Improve Their Websites for Better Accessibility?

Incorporating accessible design into your website doesn’t just benefit users with disabilities; it enhances the experience for all visitors. A staggering 88% of users are unlikely to revisit a site after a negative experience, highlighting the importance of providing a positive, equitable and responsive user interface. By prioritising accessibility, you not only broaden your customer base but also improve conversion rates while contributing to a more inclusive and diverse online environment.

If you’ve come to realise that your current website falls short of web accessibility standards, there’s no need to panic. The WCAG offers clear and actionable guidelines to help you bring your site up to speed and ensure it meets all the necessary criteria for accessibility:

Enhance Visual Clarity

  • Strong Colour Contrast – Inadequate contrast between text and background colours can make it challenging for people with visual impairments to read and understand information. Using colour combinations with a strong contrast improves readability and accessibility. Avoiding red-green colour combinations accommodates those with red-green colour blindness, while steering clear from excessive use of bright or neon colours prevents overwhelming and distracting users.
  • Sufficient White Space – Proper use of white space (or negative space) between text, buttons and interactive elements helps readers in perceiving and processing information. It also reduces visual clutter and provides a more comfortable reading experience. Additionally, clear separation between elements makes it easier for assistive technologies, such as screen readers, to interpret and relay the content accurately.
  • Avoid Blinking/Flashing Content – According to the W3C, content that blinks or flashes more than three times in one second can trigger seizures. The best practice is to avoid this, but if the content is necessary it’s imperative to provide visitors with a clear warning.
  • Readable Text Content – When creating content, the copy you use could make or break accessibility considerations. Writing should be clear and concise, avoiding technical jargon or regional slang to convey information effectively. Use appropriate headings, subheadings and break up long blocks of text to enhance readability.

Ensure Proper Navigation and Structure

  • Effective HTML Formatting – Structuring HTML files appropriately means that developers can maintain the intended information and structure, even if page styling is removed. Using headings, paragraphs, lists and other semantic tags correctly ensures that the content remains understandable and usable, even when styling is absent or disabled.
  • Keyboard Accessibility – Keyboard accessibility is essential for enabling users to navigate and interact with your website using only their keyboard, without relying on a mouse or touchpad. All interactive elements, such as buttons, links and form fields, should be easily accessible and operable using keyboard inputs alone. Users should be able to navigate through different elements using the tab key and the enter/return key should “click” the element in focus.
  • Intuitive Navigation – Providing a clear and consistent navigation system is essential for guiding users effectively through your website and helping them find the information they need. A clear page title, meaningful links, a keyboard focus indicator and logical placement of drop-down menus and buttons simplifies the understanding of your site’s structure and content pathways.

An older man using a smartphone, he is wearing headphones.

Provide Alternative Ways to Access Content

  • Text Alternatives – All non-text components on your website, such as images, videos and audio, must have appropriate text alternatives. Failing to do so can create significant frustration for users with visual impairments who rely on assistive technologies to navigate your site. Including image descriptions or alt text allows visually impaired users to understand the context and significance of digital elements. Alt text should be concise yet descriptive to effectively convey the purpose or content of the image.
  • Text-Based Video and Audio Alternatives – Offering alternatives for accessing audio and video content beyond listening or watching is crucial for individuals with disabilities or those who prefer alternative formats. Captions provide a text-based representation of dialogue and other audio information, enabling users with hearing limitations to understand the video content. Providing a full transcript of audio recordings allows users to access the information in text format, benefiting those who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as those who prefer reading or need to access content in a quiet environment.

Use Accessible Technology and Tools

  • Compatibility with Assistive Technologies – Assistive technologies, including screen readers, braille displays and voice recognition software, depend on the underlying structure and markup of a web page to translate its content into an accessible format for users with diverse needs. These tools interpret HTML elements such as headings, links and alternative text for images to convey content effectively. Thorough testing of your website is crucial to ensure compatibility and accessibility for users with disabilities. This involves conducting usability testing with various assistive technologies to identify and address any barriers or challenges users may encounter.
  • Responsive and Flexible Design – Implementing responsive design principles enables your website to seamlessly adapt its layout and content presentation according to the screen size and orientation of the user’s device. This not only ensures a consistent and user-friendly experience but also accommodates users with disabilities who may use different devices or screen sizes to access the web.

Why Does Accessibility Matter?

Prioritising accessibility on your website ensures a positive and memorable UX for all users, including those with disabilities or limitations.

Inaccessible web pages create unnecessary barriers for individuals with disabilities, limiting their access to information, products and resources. By embracing digital inclusivity, we can accommodate diverse physical and cognitive abilities, including visual impairments, cognitive disorders and learning difficulties.

Showing your commitment to accessibility demonstrates your respect and consideration for every individual who engages with your site — and in return, this investment will boost customer loyalty and advocacy for your business.

Additionally, accessible websites are better positioned to keep up with evolving technologies and user needs, ensuring long-term relevance and success. Investing in accessibility on your website is not only a strategic move for immediate success but it’s also crucial for ensuring future growth and adaptability.

Web developers hard at work

Creating an Accessible Website With Priority Pixels

At Priority Pixels, our team of expert web designers and developers create engaging websites with accessibility at the forefront of our design process.

Whether you’re striving to meet legal requirements or aiming to enhance your site’s accessibility, Priority Pixels can help. We understand the significance of inclusivity in today’s digital landscape and are committed to delivering websites that adhere to the highest standards of accessibility.

We take great pride in our partnerships with respected organisations like the East London NHS Foundation Trust, one of the UK’s leading specialist NHS providers. Our team of web developers are currently working closely with this NHS Foundation Trust to rebuild their website to comply with WCAG 2.2 standards.

We recognise the profound impact of website usability on market success, which is why we go above and beyond to ensure that every website we create delivers a seamless online experience for both our clients and their customers.

If you’d like to know more about our web development and web design services, or other services we offer, please don’t hesitate to contact us – we’d love to hear from you.

What we do

Priority Pixels is a digital marketing agency offering a full range of creative services designed to help our clients stand out from the crowd.

Our experienced team will work with you to drive your business forward online by creating accessible websites that are built to last, clever SEO, effective paid advertising campaigns that work and engaging social media.

By providing innovative digital experiences for your target audience, improving customer interactions and offering authentic engagement through market leading campaigns we can deliver the results your company needs.

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