It will surely have happened to you to be on a train/metro/bus and want to surf on a website to look for information. All you have at your disposal is your mobile phone, the sudden braking of the vehicle and your fingers. You can’t even count on earphones.
Enter the site and the text font is very small, the line-spacing almost doesn’t exist, but there is a video that provides you with the information you are looking for. Too bad you can’t listen to it and there are no subtitles. Journey’s end: you leave the site. Maybe you’ll come back to it when you get home or forget about it or go find the information elsewhere.
Think, then, that you also have some kind of visual, auditory, cognitive difficulty… Browsing the Internet would encounter continuous hitches of this type.
Accessibility, therefore, is not a secondary issue when it comes to websites and apps. Let’s see in more detail what are the main requirements to adapt your platform to the needs of all users.
First of all: what’s concretely the accessibility of a site?
A website is accessible when all those who land on it, regardless of the device they are using, have the same possibility to navigate in complete autonomy.
It should be noted that paragraph 1 bis of article 3 of the Law, introduced with Legislative Decree no. 76/2020, has recently established that «legal entities other than those referred to in paragraph 1, which offer services to the public through websites or mobile applications, with an average turnover, in the last three years of activity, exceeding five hundred million euros» must make their site accessible. How?
There are some criteria to be respected to make the site enter different “accessibility levels”:
- A: it’s the level of accessibility to start from, it involves a light review of the site
- AA: it’s the level to reach. It requires some effort, but it will ultimately allow the site to be accessible to a wider audience
- AAA: it’s the highest level of accessibility, but also the most difficult to reach. Not all sites can achieve triple A, because in some cases it requires structural changes to the core of the platform
These levels are defined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and are based on the respect of some principles: the site must be perceptible (users must be able to navigate using at least one sense); easy to use (users have to control the interface elements, through different tools: mouse, keyboard, voice commands…); have an intuitive navigation (you need to well develop the UX through intuitive design and support texts); compliant with the standards required by different browsers.
What exactly needs to be done?
Below you find some activities that can help you improve the level of accessibility of your site.
- all images and links must have a unique and descriptive ALT tag
- only audio/video content must also include a text version
- streaming content must start only after the user’s input
- the language of the site must be specified in the code
- all pages must have a title and a <title> tag
- texts must include a hierarchy (h1, h2, h3…)
- UX texts should be reviewed to verify that user navigation is simple and intuitive
- the text contained in the links must clearly describe the content of the landing page
- the compilation of any forms must be guided (e.g. in the case of a field filled in incorrectly, a message must appear explaining how to correct it)
- the colors used for texts on the site must be easily distinguishable on the page for optimal readability (i.e., the color contrast must have a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text )
- the user can always change the size of the text without affecting the layout
- the user can interact with all the interactive elements of the site through various supports
- the site can integrate reading support systems (e.g. highly legible fonts, audio elements for those unable to read…)
- a color switcher can be provided to allow optimal navigation even for those suffering from color blindness
These are just a few ideas to improve the level of accessibility on your site. There are tools dedicated to detecting problems to be solved in order to reach the desired level.
Make it easy!
Making your site accessible requires a certain commitment and programming skills that only a developer possesses. In terms of budget, the cost can vary depending on the interventions to be performed and any tools used to find out what the problems are on the site.
Given the effort required, however, the benefits in terms of reducing the bounce rate and lead generation are undoubtedly considerable. For now, having an accessible site is a plus and is only mandatory for companies that exceed a certain turnover. In the future, it could become mandatory for everyone… better to start with an advantage, right?