Today’s blog post on brand accessibility has been written by Rachel Mess from Rachel Mess Web Design. Rachel and myself met through a networking group for business women in the UK, and as a few of the only women running businesses based in Scotland, we quickly got on well with each other. Rachel has been developing her web design services, specialising in helping businesses become more accessible and inclusive. This article is a great introduction to brand accessibility, why it’s important, and the basics you need to get right.
Why is accessibility important?
The example I like to give is this: Imagine you had a brick and mortar shop where you needed customers to come through the door to make a purchase. It gets pretty good foot traffic, but then one day you notice someone in a wheelchair looking up at your shop, unable to enter.
Because (for this stellar example) your shop has multiple steps going up to it, and therefore a customer with a physical disability can’t enter.
Now, if you live in the UK, you’ll know this is actually illegal, and something we rarely see.
Online is different.
Because people with motor disabilities, blindness, sight impairments, severe dyslexia and other disabilities can come across your brand, but how good an experience are they getting?
According to last year’s research by WebAim, over 96% of homepages online had accessibility failures 😳. Boy oh boy that is not good.
We can do better!
Let’s dive into it.
How to get started with web accessibility
Whilst web accessibility as a whole has a lot of layers to it, research shows that if you get the basics down, you’re already making your brand a lot more inclusive than most.
The four main issues across the web are simple enough to tackle:
- Contrast Levels
- Alt Text on images
- Missing Form Labels
- Empty Links
Ensuring your brand, and your website doesn’t have these issues means:
- Your branding across the board is easier for everyone to recognise and understand
- Literally everyone will find your website easy to navigate and enjoyable to be on
- You’ll improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
- You’re basically showing everyone that you’re a decent company that cares about being inclusive 🙌
Accessibility Issues Explained
Number one - Contrast Levels
This is the biggest issue across the web when it comes to accessibility is low contrast.
We live in a world where it’s so easy to create our colour palettes and design our branding ourselves, which on one hand it’s great because it’s an easy way to save money when we start our businesses up.
However, it also means that for fully sighted people, we tend to just pick the colours we like the most, and don’t test the contrast levels. So what happens is we end up with websites and branding that people with poor sight can’t read.
The important thing to remember is that some of these people will be your ideal clients. They still have buying power, they still want your services, or they might work for a company that you could be a good match for.
Number two - Alt Tags
Alt tags are used to describe images to any users who rely on a screen reader. So depending on your business, it’s essential that you, or your web designer fills these out.
It’s essential because again, you wouldn’t want to lose business because you’re not describing your services or products to potential customers.
So if you sell physical products, describe them. If you provide any kind of service where you can show images of your brilliant work (like architects, designers, hair dressers, carpenters), describe them. If you’re a personal brand, and you want people to get an understanding of who you are, then consider adding a couple of alt tags to pictures of you, so someone using a screen reader can gauge your personality.
Number three - Missing Form Labels
You know how forms always used to have a label before each field that clearly said “name” or “email address” above the input field? But now you’ll see a lot of forms that just have the input field with a placeholder saying what you’re supposed to add?
Well, that’s not accessible because for assistive technologies to tell users what to do, they need a label. Otherwise a screen reader will just tell them “form field” and they won’t know what information you’re looking for.
Number four - Empty Links
This happens. It’s usually when your site’s been active for a while, maybe it’s had some updates and a page has been deleted, or the name’s been changed but there’s still a button directing people to the old link.
I recommend just testing your site every now and then, and making sure that all of your links are working as normal, and clearly tells users where the link is taking them.
Building an Accessible Brand: The Basics
Getting these four things right puts you in a way better position than your competitors. By making your brand, and your website more accessible you’re building a more inclusive space, boosting your chances of appearing in more search engine results, and raising the bar for how the web should work.
If you’re thinking that your brand needs an overhaul to become more accessible, then visit my website, and check out how I can help you at rachelmess.com.