When building a website, it’s common knowledge that prioritization is key. A mental list is usually mapped out, then rearranged, re-mapped, rearranged and so forth. What you’re (usually) left with is a hierarchy of design jargon, with acronyms such as: UI/UX, SEO, CRO and CTAs. But the acronym that’s often left out is: ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act. Creating an inclusive and accessible user experience for individuals with disabilities is crucial to web development, and should always veer towards the top of your priority list.
Although there are many things you can do to make your website more ADA compliant, here are five you can do right now:
1. Make sure every picture and video has alt attributes
Adding alt tags to every picture and video not only strengthens your SEO, it also gives users the ability to hear a description of your content, which is important for the visually impaired. So be descriptive with your alternative text, but be concise and avoid overly-descriptive alt tags — search engines will penalize your site if you begin packing them.
2. Is your website still readable when page styles are turned off?
For those that are visually impaired or sensitive to certain graphical elements, turning page styles off is a necessity. This usually leaves users with a bare template with imagery, links, and website copy. Take a peek at your website with styles turned off and make sure users can easily move through your webpage, and that your information architecture is still intact.
3. Add text transcripts to your videos
A techier way of saying “subtitles,” text transcripts help hearing impaired people read audible elements of your website. If your videos are housed in a video sharing service, such as YouTube or Vimeo, then you’re already equipped with the tools needed to easily add text transcripts to them. If not, there are many tools out there, such as Veed.io, that allows you to generate your own.
4. Make sure your error messaging is as clear as possible (and easy solutions are available)
When users encounter an error input, such as incorrect form submissions, be sure to be as descriptive about the problem as possible. Instead of simply displaying “incorrect” or “this field is required,” display the issue and offer solutions. Also, if a user with disabilities needs to use your website a little differently, make sure error inputs give them that alternative option.
5. Look at your website’s color contrast
It’s tempting to look to the flashiest design trends and forego readability to style, but don’t fall for it! Make sure the text throughout your website has a high contrast rate to its background. For almost all website owners, the most important information lies in the site copy. So why make it difficult for some users to read it?
These tips scratch the surface when it comes to increasing your website’s user experience and accessibility. And there are a host of tools out there that can give you an in-depth assessment of your website’s ADA compliance, alongside tutorials and solutions to any issue. Our online community should always be an inclusive space, and although the creative process is dynamic and ever-changing, the most beautiful websites effortlessly integrate aesthetics with usability.