You’ve just taken control of your new website; whether you built it yourself or had it built, have you asked the one important question: Accessible websites – is your one of them?
What do I mean by accessible websites?
When planning your website I imagine you focus a lot on your message and the content hoping your visitors will enjoy or find it useful. Have you considered how the look and feel of your website will impact the visitor? While they may be impressed by your latest parallax technology and colour scheme, it is quite possible that you have forgotten that everyone is different. It doesn’t matter whether you are focusing on a particular segment of the market with specific needs you will have prospects of VERY different capabilities.
I created a website recently and, as per client instruction (not my choice) I used the Comic Sans font. For me that font should only be used to highlight a particular point, although italics, bold or underlining can have the same effect. I didn’t like the result but I was saved by a friend of the customer. She was a member of a charity that focuses on people who are partially sighted and informed my client that partially sighted people struggled to read Comic Sans. I immediately changed it all back to Verdana – and lo, the message became clear!
I’m not really being flippant but readability is essential to a successful website. Fonts with serifs, that little topping and tailing effect you see on many fonts, the most extreme of which is the courier font, can make reading a challenge. These, as well as most of the ‘handwriting’ fonts cause characters to wash into each other for many types of vision problems, thus making your website unusable for many. Even if your website’s primary demographic is the young, remember that not every bright-eyed young person has perfect vision. What if your demographic sector changes over time (and I hope it does as you should aim to retain your clients over the long term)? Human physical attributes change too, so it’s up to you to meet these changing requirements before they become critical to your business.
Most business websites, however, do not have the luxury of a specific, single age demographic and so have to realise their visitors come in all shapes and sizes, so no single profile can be pandered to. Website building environments such as WordPress or Wix can be a blessing and a curse.
Another problem with modern websites is the colours, graphics and images being used. When desktop publishing became available on the PC, companies began to do their own in-house graphic design for brochures, flyers and newsletters, giving the responsibility to administrators or secretarial staff. The availability of graphics and a great variety of fonts meant that the opportunity for visual abuse was rife. Unfortunately, the same is happening with websites.
Putting text over graphics or images is something that has to be done with care. If the image is too busy or too close to the colour of the text, it becomes difficult or nearly impossible to read. And guess what, the visitor takes their business elsewhere.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. They have been around for quite a while and have done some excellent work on colour combinations, etc. Well worth the read, the page on Inclusion discusses the approach to making your website work for a wide range of visitors.
By reading their suggestions and recommendations you will perhaps review your and other websites with new eyes. After all, you aren’t supposed to be marketing by exclusion but inclusion.
If you’d like to discuss these ideas or your website, I would be pleased to hear from you.