Accessible web content: small changes make a big impact

As a designer, my main goal is to make the user can understand the message, which means visuals, structure, and content must work together. Small changes can have a positive impact for every user, including visitors with screen readers.

The just UXdesign.com article 6 tips for creating more accessible web content  highlights reasons with examples for improvement. Here’s a quick rundown:

Titles

It’s tempting to have cute  page titles and headings. But titles should describe the content on the page; subtitles can have can have the attention grabber. Clear titles not only help the user quickly figure out if this page has what they’re looking for, it helps make sure search engines know what’s in the site.

Break content into sections

Chunking just means breaking up the text so it’s easy to read. Consider someone trying to read on a phone screen in a poorly lit train car, being interrupted by announcements. Make it easy to skim and the user will be happier.

Descriptive links

“Click here” gives no hint of what’s there, and I always recommend this be descriptive. “Read more” will work if a headline or summary is also part of the link.

Sensory dependencies

This generally means making sure content is accessible for varying physical needs. Like making sure there is sufficient contrast for the color blind, which also means it’s easier to read in poor lighting. Keeping related items near each other and not referring to a specific location (like “see form to the right”) is good for non-visual users and also takes responsive design layout into account.

Alternatives for media

Some people don’t like or can’t play videos, so captions or transcripts are helpful. Slow internet is still a thing, and there are users who turn off images, so descriptive alt tags for images help them understand what is missing.

Don’t use images in text

My goodness, do people still do this? Text that is content should not be in an image—especially for navigation. CSS is powerful and can handle all sorts of interesting layouts. Having said that, emails are still a challenge so it’s a good idea to use a simple design that isn’t dependent on images to be read.