At SilverServers, we provide a rare take on website design that focuses on putting the important technical aspects first. Instead of giving first priority to graphic design and visuals, we make sure sites are coded in the way that search engines like Google prefer to see. This not only gives our clients a firm base to start from for their Search Engine Optimization (SEO). By coding websites simply and properly, and by using HTML tags in the way they were designed to be used, our clients’ websites are able to be much more accessible to people with disabilities.
On October 7, 2019, the Supreme Court in the USA gave a victory to a blind man who sued Domino's Pizza over their site’s less-than-inclusive level of accessibility. Despite using screen reading software, which should make websites accessible to people with visual impairments and blindness, Guillermo Robles was unable to order food on the Domino’s website and mobile app. Guilllermo sued the pizza chain for this and won. Domino’s still intends to fight more in court, but no matter what conclusion that comes to, this case highlights an increasing problem: website accessibility is an important topic that many developers neglect in the development process.
Every year, the number of lawsuits against companies with website accessibility problems increases. Whether or not those cases go anywhere is not the point of our discussion here, but the fact that there are thousands of people so unable to engage in the economy that they need to sue should cause developers to look twice at their design practices. Accessibility can make or break a person’s ability to obtain services from a business.
The benefits of good website accessibility are significant. Let’s name a few:
-One of Google’s ranking factors is accessibility. So it affects your SEO in Search, Image Search, Video Search, and more.
-There are many people in the world with visual impairments. If they can access and use your site, they can purchase your services. Why not allow people with visual impairments to access and use your company’s services?
-People with various other disabilities may struggle to use your website due to flashing colours, auto-playing videos, bad text-to-background contrast, buttons that are too small, and so on.
-The topic of inclusion is important to people. Branding your company as inclusive – even online – may bring your business some goodwill.
Since Google cares about accessibility, it’s fairly easy to find their list of important visual and technical features they want to see on your domain. That list is long and mostly technical, but here are a few that are easy for anyone to see on your site.
Whenever there is an image on your webpage, Google and other search engines expect to see an “alt tag”. “Alt” can short for a few things, but typically it means “alternate text”. Since search engines are robots (very smart ones, but still just robots), they can’t actually “see” the images on your site. Alt tags tell search engines what the images are. They are also used by screen reading software to tell people with visual impairments what pictures are on the page. When alt tags are missing, Google can’t see the images, screen reading software can’t see the images, and ultimately an entire subset of the human race can’t see the images either.
Have you ever opened a website and thought it was hard to read, or hard to see the design? Google knows what colours go well on top of each other, and they decrease your site’s accessibility score if you put colours together that don’t contrast well. Luckily screen reading software is able to read the text even with bad contrast, but if you have a call to action button on your page that even people with good eyes can’t see well, then chances are it won’t be clicked often.
In the SEO industry, the topic of backlinks is discussed often. Having links without descriptive text, however, is both an accessibility issue and a missed opportunity. When a link simply says “Click here”, it doesn’t tell search engines or people anything about the page that is being linked to. For SEO having descriptive link text like “Learn more about the origin story of Luke Skywalker” tells search engines that the page being linked to will probably talk about Luke Skywalker. It gives context before the page is even seen. For people using screen readers, or people who struggle to slow down and read the surrounding text, descriptive link text allows the links to be better understood. People then know what they’re clicking on and if they actually want to “click here”.
The name attribute has a similar function for buttons as the alt tag has for images. It’s an attribute in the code that tells screen readers what the button is. If this tag doesn’t exist, screen readers will either say “button” or the text on the button itself (ex. “Submit”). We can all understand why a button should have text on it, but it can be helpful to people who can’t see the site and the robots indexing your site to have a bit more information. We recommend using the name attribute on buttons.
When you’re filling out a form, it’s helpful to know what each field is asking you for. Although this point may be obvious, it’s something that is missed more often than you might think. It’s worth checking your page’s forms to make sure labels exist and make sense!
Tab order helps in many cases – some are for convenience and others are for accessibility. On forms, a tab order lets you navigate through all of the different fields without using the mouse – you just have to hit tab to move to the next field. For accessibility, it also helps people who struggle to use a mouse find and click buttons, as well as helping people find buttons that may be unintentionally hidden due to bad design or bad background to foreground contrast.
Because of a technical focus for our SEO services, when we launch websites they are already set up well to be accessible for people with disabilities. We take care of all of these points plus the rest of Google’s long and technical list. Accessibility isn’t a one-time effort though, it must be reviewed as more pages, images, text, and buttons are added. We review pieces like alt tags on a regular basis because they help SEO – but good SEO lends itself to good accessibility.
Get a free website review from SilverServers today to see what your website’s accessibility score is.