An inclusive website starts with expert design and development. However, accessibility goes well beyond launch! While many standards are met in the initial build of your site, maintaining accessibility over time is in the hands of your content editors.
It’s important that your website is easy to update and that you and your staff have consistent guidelines to follow. We've put together a checklist of five ways to boost your website's accessibility and create content all your users can access.
1. Are your text links descriptive?
Wherever you add hyperlinks, avoid labelling them with generic text like "Click here". Instead, make sure that the linked text explains what the user will find when they click the link. A description like "See our staff directory" helps set expectations for where the user will go next and keeps navigation easy. As a bonus, descriptive links can help your website rank higher in search engine results!
2. Do your images have ALT text?
Alternative (ALT) text is the one-liner that shows up if an image doesn't load properly. This text helps screen readers and search engines identify what types of images are on a page. When you upload an image to your site, your content management system provides a field for adding ALT text. This quick step is so important for users with impaired eyesight, who access your website with the help of a screen reading tool. Typing “image” as the ALT text doesn't help— screen readers automatically identify images. Instead, create a short description like “Local historical museum" to give user context.
3. Are your images just images?
Images that have text embedded in them are so common— especially banner images on homepages. Best practice is to remove any images with text, because screen readers cannot scan and read words embedded in your images. Add important text as content on the page instead. By taking text out of your images, you also make the user experience much less frustrating for everyone looking at your site on a smartphone!
4. Are your page titles unique?
Titles that are distinct and descriptive (but not long and hard to read) help your users easily navigate the site. Unique page titles ensure better searchability for screen readers and search engines, too. These titles are signposts, giving context and setting expectations to help people avoid confusion and quickly find the information they need.
5. Do your page headers have a clear hierarchy?
For many users with screen readers, it's easiest to navigate a page by jumping from one heading to the next (instead of listening to a whole page word-for-word). Stick to a logical hierarchy so that headings relate to the page's content in an easy-to-anticipate way. Use the H1 tag just for page titles, followed by H2 and then H3. By keeping this hierarchy the same between pages, you make your site's structure crystal clear and any user can quickly find the information they need.
This checklist is designed for you to quickly boost your site's content accessibility. If you need a hand to develop complete, easy-to-follow accessibility guidelines for your team— or, if you want to find out how well your current site meets web accessibility standards— we are here to help.