Any content generated for digital consumption needs to be accessible. This means thinking about all of the different types of audience and their differing abilities and needs to ensure your content is inclusive.
Although content accessibility has its complexities – some obvious, some less so – Dialogue can advise you on the best ways to navigate them and deliver accessible digital content that truly meets the needs of your audience.
But first, let’s look further at what accessible content means and why accessible content is so important.
What is accessible content and why does it matter?
First and foremost, making your content accessible is good practice for all but for some organisations it can be a legal requirement. Check out the government’s guide to understanding current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines UK (WCAG) criteria for the different types of organisations and explanation of both the minimum requirements and the A, AA and AAA ratings.
Helping those who are less fortunate or in a difficult place is always valuable. Providing easy access to information can be as much a moral obligation as it is an official or legal one. Any user experience is not supposed to be difficult, so inadequate design or giving offence with thoughtless phrasing needs to be avoided.
Although accessibility is often treated as a niche issue, it can become an immediate concern for anybody at a moment’s notice – more on that below. Preparing for this in advance can make everyone’s lives easier.
What are the basic principles of accessibility?
At the most basic level, accessibility is about respecting users and their varying needs. Not everyone can do everything with ease, but there are ways to take a different path and still get to the same place in the end. Accessible content builds that path instead of forcing someone to create it for themselves.
In some cases, this will be a matter of common sense. Someone who is hard of hearing, for example, may experience difficulty with the sound elements of a video. Adding captions or arranging an edit with a sign language interpreter to create accessible audio content will mean they can fully appreciate your content and play a part in your brand community too instead of being forced to miss out.
However, other cases may need greater awareness and deeper thought. For example, brash colours, complex patterns and rowdy effects can present a trying user experience for an individual with autism. In this case, we can provide advice on designing a calmer but still
effective user experience which avoids overwhelming people. More insight into autism and accessibility can be found in this article, Thinking Person’s Guide To Autism.
That said, accessibility and user requirements are both heavily dependent on context. Someone with perfect 20/20 vision can still find the glare of bright sunlight on a screen difficult, so improving a website’s legibility will help them in that situation just as much as it would help someone who is partially sighted all of the time.
Accessible content for beginners
With accessible digital content basic steps need to be undertaken to tackle potential problems before they arise. Let’s look at some.
At the most fundamental stage, inclusive writing and how content is structured can make a huge difference. Content that addresses all demographics and their needs is key – for example, even common phrases like ‘falling on deaf ears’ can inadvertently offend.
Presentation matters too so you need to design content and websites for an accessible user experience.
How to design accessible content can include breaking up huge blocks of text so there are brisker paragraphs or bullet points can be kinder for those who have difficulty concentrating.
Meanwhile, lighter fonts on darker backgrounds can be trying on the eyes. Instead, a straightforward font at a reasonable size (British government guidance advises size 12 at least) on a lighter background or even none at all will be much easier to follow. Building in opportunities for the user to select a custom size is especially important in the case of websites for governments, local authorities and charities, where access to content, forms and ways to make applications is essential for everybody.
Accessible content tips
Some steps for improving the accessibility of your content may call for more time, resources and expertise of course. We can provide advice on ways to apply these efficiently.
At the easier end of the scale, there are some steps that only take a moderate investment which can have a major return. When it comes to accessible video content means setting up captions for a video, which can be a great help for those who can’t hear or those who can but who are in circumstances where something visual-only would be more convenient – while travelling, for example.
At the other end of the scale, creating bespoke accessibility solutions can make a mark. Dialogue arranged a Braille translation of one of our titles so a gentleman who had lost his sight could enjoy finding out about an event he had loved in his younger years. Yes, it took more in terms of time, money and organisation, but the impact of the finished product was great indeed.
Accessible web design or UX?
There are also a number of technical steps to improve accessibility that can still have a great effect even if they may not be immediately obvious to the casual observer.
For individuals with visual impairment, they may use page or screen readers; software that converts text on a web page or social media feed to spoken words that can be heard instead of seen. Check out W3’s useful guide to screenreaders - but there are steps you can take to help make your content and channels better able to support this process.
To focus on social media for a moment, let’s talk about hashtags. If a hashtag is all in lower case (e.g. #accessibilityhelpspeople), a page reader would automatically attempt to treat it as a single word and the result may be confusing, gibberish or, worse, accidentally say something you didn’t mean. To help a page reader accurately communicate your intentions, simply write hashtags in title case (e.g. #AccessibilityHelpsPeople) allowing the reader to separate the words.
You can also design web pages for a more accessible user experience (or accessible UX) with techniques ranging from the simple to the complex. For example, if someone with a page reader attempts to listen to it while an autoplay video is also playing at the same time, the result can be frustrating. In this case, the obvious solution is to leave autoplay switched off.
Accessibility, alt text and SEO
You can improve your accessibility and your SEO ranking at the same time by making sure you have good alt text set up. Alt text means a picture can be described in meaningful detail to someone who can’t see it. Having good alt text in place is also exactly what you need to help improve your SEO ranking too, so your return on investment for the time and effort is definitely worthwhile. And as social media becomes more searchable, this is also an important consideration in the social space too to create accessible social content.
We can help you with any of your accessible content issues, take advantage of our FREE accessible digital content consultation here.
There is only really an upside when it comes to making your content accessible. It means more people experience as much of your content as possible.
The most important part of any content is not the creator but the user. If one reader, viewer or listener may need a little extra help to experience something than the next one would, this should not be thought of as imposing a burden on you but as creating an opportunity for them.
Achieving accessibility across your entire multi-channel content offering is possible, although it may not always be obvious or straightforward.
We can help you there, so talk to Dialogue today to find out how we can help you to help others.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines UK (WCAG)
Thinking Person’s Guide To Autism
We can help you with any of your accessible web content problems, take advantage of our FREE SEO content consultation here.
Liked this project? Share it?