Accessibility is key to designing a website free from barriers. However, it is oftentimes challenging to accomplish. This article will share 8 practical tips for auditing your site’s accessibility in order to better serve your users. This article will share 8 practical tips for auditing your site’s accessibility in order to better serve your users.
Auditing your site’s accessibility is the first step to designing a website free of barriers. However, the complexity of accessibility guidelines could send any website owner running for the hills. Luckily, there are things you can do to simplify the audit process. Here are eight tips for auditing your site’s accessibility.
A recent accessibility report put together by Webaim.com states that “Across the one million home pages, 51,379,694 distinct accessibility errors were detected—an average of 51.4 errors per page.”
You can imagine how alarming this number is to the millions of people living with a disability worldwide. Surfing the web probably isn’t too appealing when websites aren’t made to accommodate your needs. Accessibility not only ensures a pleasant user experience for those living with a disability but also makes the user experience for all other users seamless and engaging.
Why test for accessibility?
Millions of websites out there don’t meet accessibility standards and are doing just fine. Or are they? Honestly, websites that neglect accessibility aren’t doing fine. They’re ignoring a massive pool of users and missing out on a whole lot of connections and sales because of it.
Accessibility audits are necessary because people should be able to access and use your site with ease, regardless of any disability they’re living with.
When you conduct an accessibility audit, you can determine the issues that affect how well someone can access and use your site. You can then resolve those issues one by one with the right tools and guidance based on what you’ve learned from the audit.
Ultimately, conducting an accessibility audit can help your organization make great strides. To name just a few of the benefits of an accessibility audit:
- Helping you reach more of your audience and retain customers better
- Differentiating your brand and business from competitor websites
- Assisting you in designing a website that boosts the user experience
- Making your site more visible on the web
- Protecting you from legal liability
WordPress Accessibility: How to create an accessible website (+ plugins)
Accessibility in WordPress is an important component of website building that is not discussed enough. But how accessible is the popular CMS actually? Why is accessibility so important? And how can you make your website accessible for everyone? We explain how to create an accessible website.
Now, as you dive into the actual audit, the first step is knowing the main accessibility guidelines. Know the main accessibility guidelines
The most important accessibility guidelines
To conduct a successful accessibility audit, you must first know what you’re auditing. Get to know Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), as these are the most current accessibility guidelines to date. These guidelines fall into five categories that determine if your site is:
- Perceivability. Can users perceive your site’s information and user interface components with ease?
- Operability. Are your navigation and user interface components operable?
- Comprehensibility. Are your information and user interfaces understandable?
- Robust. Is your content robust enough for a wide variety of users, including assistive technologies?
- Conformance. Is your site conforming to WCAG 2.1 requirements?
You want to give yourself ample time to learn and understand these guidelines as they can be a bit complex for someone that doesn’t work in the web accessibility field. Take your time working through each guideline. Then, write it down in a way that you can understand it so that when it’s time to audit your site, you know what you’re looking for and why it’s crucial to make your site more accessible for those living with a disability.
Next, create an audit checklist.
Create an audit checklist
After combing through WCAG 2.1, it’s time to create an audit checklist. In other words, what to look for on your site to determine if you’re meeting each accessibility guideline.
Make a list of essential elements to test and review for each category in WCAG 2.1. For instance, one of the success criteria for the perceivable category is non-text content. All of your non-text content must have a text alternative that serves the same purpose. non-text content must have a text alternative that serves the same purpose.
Therefore check all all non-text content on the page you’re auditing and see if it has a text alternative. This could mean having closed captions for your videos, alt text for your images, and ensuring your non-text content can be translated into braille, symbols, or more straightforward language.
Additionally, you must assess page templates versus each page.
Check templates for accessibility
Most websites contain hundreds of web pages. So, trying to audit each one would be nearly impossible. With that being said, many web pages are designed using a template.
This means that although the content of a website may be different, the structure and layout are the same because you are using a template. Consequently, the way someone navigates and interacts with the content on the site is also similar.
It’s much simpler to attack your site’s accessibility audit by auditing page templates instead of individual pages. Another tip for auditing your site’s accessibility is to start with an accessibility scan.
Start with an accessibility scan
It’s difficult to know where to start when auditing your site’s accessibility. There are so many guidelines to consider that a manual audit on its own can be incredibly time-consuming and confusing. However, an accessibility scan can help.
An accessibility scan can help you identify some of the most prominent issues users living with a disability may have when engaging with your site and give you suggestions on how to improve them.
Accessibility scanners are a productive starting point, but they’re just that, a starting point. Unfortunately, accessibility scans only cover about a quarter of potential accessibility issues. So, a thorough audit of your site’s accessibility requires both a scan for quick fixes and an actual person to go over the rest of the accessibility guidelines and necessary improvements.
In addition to an accessibility scan, you can use analytics to find accessibility gaps on your site.
Use tools to test accessibility
Data analytics tools for many things, including insight into day-to-day operations, customer preferences, growth opportunities, team productivity, and industry information.
Although analytics tools are not intended to provide assistance in fixing accessibility problems, they can provide a comprehensive insight into the gaps in the user experience. The hurdles that may be related to accessibility issues.
For example, let’s say users cannot find a critical page on your website. You may find that they’re using the navigation bar differently than you expected through data analytics. Ease of navigation is a huge part of accessibility. Changing up your navigation to accommodate how your users are engaging with it helps the user experience and improves your accessibility.
Data analytics tools can also help you find out more about your users and how they live, which can be extremely helpful when designing a website that supports all people in your target audience.
Check the accessibility of your website to give people with a disability the opportunity to test your website.
Let users test your website
It’s good practice to have users living with a disability test your site. You could test the site yourself, but if you are not affected by an impairment yourself, it can be difficult to conclude whether or not your site is helping or hurting those living with a disability.
Put together a group of test users living with various disabilities. Have them go through your site and see how easy it is to navigate and engage with it. Allow them to give you feedback on what’s working well and what isn’t. You can then make adjustments to your site based on what they share to improve user experience.
Lastly, if auditing your site’s accessibility just isn’t something you can do on your own, consider hiring an accessibility professional to conduct the audit.
Enlist the help of an accessibility professional
As stated above, website accessibility can get complicated. If you can not take the time to learn web accessibility inside and out, it’s best to enlist the help of an accessibility professional.
An accessibility professional knows exactly...
- what to look for when it comes to web accessibility,
- pinpoint specific issues with your site, and
- can also give you exact steps to remedy any accessibility issues.
With that being said, hiring an accessibility professional can be expensive. A comprehensive audit done by a professional can cost you upwards of $2500. So, make sure you have the funds for a third party for an audit before considering this option.
In the meantime, you can already use some tools like Google Lighthouse & Co. to test your website for accessibility. That way, you can get some guidance on what to fix right now rather than allowing those accessibility issues to pile up and further affect your users’ experience.
"*" indicates required fields
Conclusion on Web Accessibility Testing
Auditing your site’s accessibility is critical. Designing an accessible website ensures you’re accommodating the needs of users living with a disability while also providing an incredible user experience for the rest of your users. Use the tips above to audit your site’s accessibility and be a part of making the internet a space for people from all walks of life.