What’s the most crucial aspect of building a new website? Of course, you have to ensure that your website is visually stunning. Also, it should have a simple hierarchy so that it’s easy for visitors to move to different sections and pages of your website.
Likewise, you need to fill it with original, valuable, and keyword-rich content to ensure that your website finds its footing in relevant search engine results. While most web designers and developers strive to make their websites eye-catching and engaging, they often overlook the critical aspect of web accessibility.
Understanding Web Accessibility
Here’s the thing – it isn’t enough to create a website that looks great and shows up in the topmost search engine results. You also have to ensure that your website is accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities and special needs.
In other words, you must ensure that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with your website, mobile applications, and other web-based tools. This is crucial considering that 61 million people in the U.S. live with sensory, cognitive, or mobility-related disabilities.
Also, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it legally mandatory for businesses to make their physical locations, as well as digital assets accessible to consumers with disabilities and special needs. Non-compliance with the ADA can result in lawsuits and demand letters, which, in turn, will damage your brand identity.
The growing number of web accessibility lawsuits against renowned brands, including Domino’s Pizza, Netflix, and Nike, highlight the need for designing ADA-compliant websites and apps. The key is to ensure that any user with sensory impairments, cognitive or learning disorders, and motor impairments can browse through your website and utilize all its features.
While the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has outlined the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, many web designers still fail to make the accessibility of their websites inclusive.
In the following sections, we’ll explore a few common web accessibility mistakes that you need to watch out for. Let’s get started.
1. Keyboard Inaccessibility
People with motor or visual impairments often prefer to use the keyboard for navigating and interacting with a website. However, complex site architecture can make it difficult to jump to certain sections of a website using the Tab or navigation keys.
Likewise, pop-up forms and notifications often don’t have keyboard-friendly exit options. This, in turn, results in a keyboard trap for users with disabilities. Also, many designers disable the default visual keyboard focus indicator on their websites for aesthetic reasons.
This makes it difficult for users with disabilities to understand precisely where they are on a web page. If your website doesn’t support keyboard-friendly navigation, you’re going to end up alienating a large fraction of internet users who are motor or vision impaired.
As a thumb-rule, make sure the keyboard focus indicator is always enabled. Also, try and navigate a page on your website using only the Tab key. It’ll give you an idea of the potential accessibility issues and keyboard traps users will face.
2. Flashing Elements and Striking Colors
Of course, you’d want to use fast-moving sliders, as well as bright and contrasting colors, to make your website awesome looking. While most users would be stunned by your website’s visual appeal, jarring colors, sliders, and carousels can trigger a seizure in people with neurological disorders, such as epilepsy.
That’s why it is essential to provide users with an option to control the color scheme and movement of various elements before they start browsing your website. In most cases, this involves modifying the source code of your website. Or you can use an AI-based web accessibility solution to automatically implement this.
For instance, accessiBe is an AI-powered SaaS that can not only rectify such designing errors but also take care of any other web accessibility issues present on your website. It adds a nifty accessibility interface to your website that lets visitors adjust various settings, including text size and color, based on their needs.
They can even select one of the ready-to-use profiles to implement accessibility inclusive settings that address a specific disability. For instance, users with epilepsy can enable the Seizure Safe Profile, which automatically mutes bright colors and pauses/stops flashing elements.
Enabling the autoplay feature for multimedia web elements, such as audio and video, might seem like a great way to grab eyeballs and boost engagement. However, a loud and abrupt sound from a video could stun or scare a vision-impaired visitor who’s browsing your website using a screen reader like Jaws. Worse still, it can render your website unsafe for people users who are prone to seizures.
That’s why it is always a good idea to disable the autoplay feature for all multimedia files on your website. Or you need to provide users with suitable controls to disable this feature and safely browse your website.
4. Missing or Vague Anchor Text
Adding hyperlinks to images and icons is one of the most common accessibility mistakes web designers make. Unfortunately, screen readers and other assistive technology can’t readily identify such links. This, in turn, will hinder the user experience for people with vision impairments.
Likewise, using ambiguous anchor text, such as “click here” or “read more”, doesn’t give any idea of the destination web page. This, in turn, can be a hassle for visitors using keyboard navigation and screen readers.
That’s why you must ensure that all hyperlinks on a website are accompanied by descriptive and easily understandable anchor text. Apart from making your website more accessible, it’ll also help search engine spiders understand the content of the web page.
5. Inaccessible Forms
Omitting form labels or adding them to the form field makes it difficult for screen readers to convey what a user is supposed to enter in a particular field. Also, it could be challenging for users with cognitive or learning disorders to input the correct information. Likewise, implementing timeouts for forms creates a challenge for motor-impaired users.
You should, therefore, make it a point to provide unique and relevant labels for each field in a form. In case of time-sensitive forms, ensure that users with disabilities get enough time to complete the form at a comfortable pace. Also, provide clear instructions and descriptive error messages highlighting how a user should fill the form.
What are some of the other web accessibility mistakes that designers must learn to avoid? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.