It's not enough to be beautiful. In website design as in real life, inner beauty counts at least as much. That's especially true when it comes to one of the core considerations you need to keep in mind as you build your website: accessibility.
To make your website accessible means making sure that it's easy to read and understand for every type of audience. One in four adults today have some type of disability, and between 15% and 20% live with a disability that negatively impacts their ability to consume web content. How does your website account for that portion of potential customers?
Think about it from your audience perspective: if you were blind, deaf, or could not use a mouse or trackpad, how would you navigate around the web? And, more importantly, how much preference would you give brands and organizations who understand and build towards your needs?
The answer to that question is why so many businesses are starting to consider web accessibility as one of their core digital goals. It includes building the design and code specifically to account for all potential members of your audience. That's extra work, but it's well worth it when you consider these 5 core benefits of accessible website design.
1. Increase Your Audience Reach
As mentioned above, persons with disability make up a significant part of the U.S. and global population. Building a website that is not accessible means losing out on that segment; they will not engage with your content simply because they can't. One UK survey, in fact, found that the nation's retailers lost more than $15 billion in a single year because people with disabilities could not shop on their website.
Accessible website design, on the other hand, opens up your potential target audience. The purchasing power of people with disabilities is estimated to be more than $220 billion annually. Paying attention to this market sentence is not just the right thing to do; it just makes sense from a business perspective.
2. Improve Your Search Engine Optimization
Google's core goal is improving relevance for its users. The equation for the search engine giant is simple: the better and more relevant the results, the more trusted the service will become. It's the equation on the back of which Google has become the biggest website in the world. It's also why Google now emphasizes accessibility on its products with a major investment in people and processes.
Naturally, that emphasis and priority spills over to how Google ranks websites, as well. We know that several accessibility options are also search ranking factors, including:
- Image ALT text
- Transcripts for videos
- Closed captioning
- Accessible navigation
- And more.
The overlap is clear. Accessibility and SEO have a number of shared goals, which means focusing on making your website more accessible also tends to raise your search engine optimization. Simply put, it's a win-win.
3. Gain a Competitive Edge
Succeeding in a competitive online environment is all about getting an edge. Offer services and present your content in ways that are different from your competitors, and you have a chance to stand out in the noise. Even indirectly, accessibility can help you accomplish that feat.
First, there's the increased audience reach mentioned above. But it goes beyond that. An accessible website is worth touting, through public relations efforts and explanations of why this effort aligns with your core mission. You can (rightfully) present yourself as caring about the social environment, including people with disabilities, building a powerful messaging platform in the process.
4. Increase Site Usability
Yes, accessible website design is largely focused on people with disabilities. They need to be able to read, view, and consume content in the same way, and just as successfully, as their peers. That doesn't mean, however, that the benefits of building your website in this way cannot spill over into other benefits.
First, accessibility often means cleaning up your code, eliminating bugs and decreasing load times in the process. It doesn't end there, though. Fully accessible websites don't require a mouse to navigate, making them easier to handle for all segments of your target audience. A cleaner navigation, image ALT text for slow-loading internet connections, and glossaries are helpful regardless of the audience. Focus on accessibility, and usability for your entire user base begins to rise.
5. Avoid Potential Discrimination Lawsuits
All of the above benefits focus largely on the positives of accessible web design. However, it's at least as important to discuss the potential downfalls of what happens when you don't take your online presence in this direction. We're speaking, of course, about potential discrimination lawsuits.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (commonly known as the ADA) requires businesses to provide accommodations for people with disabilities that allow them to be treated equally with their peers. Increasingly the provisions in that law are moving beyond the physical premise of a building into the online presence of a company like their website and social properties.
2018 saw more than 2,200 lawsuits related to web accessibility, almost triple the amount of the previous year. That number is continuing to rise. Small businesses and global corporations like Domino's are equally affected. Losing a lawsuit because your website is not accessible could devastate your budget.
The good news is that by building your website with ADA compliance in mind, these lawsuits are almost entirely preventable. You just have to know how to build your website the right way.
Are You Ready for More Accessible Website Design?
As we launch full speed ahead into 2020, accessibility is no longer truly optional. Any businesses wanting to both realize its growth potential and avoid significant legal liabilities has to embrace it as a core part of web design.
To get there, you might need a partner. Designing accessible websites is a complex process, and requires significant skill and expertise. You have to know both what is possible to achieve, and how you can achieve that in a way that helps all segments of your audience browse your site and convert to becoming customers.
We can help you achieve these goals. Our website design and development teams embrace accessibility as a core part of the process, and have helped other clients like you both ensure compliance and realize the above benefits. Let's talk about how we can help you achieve the same.
Whitney Parker Mitchell
Whitney is a highly sought-after B2B online marketing expert with more than 12 years of experience leading marketing and communications teams in a variety of organizations, including nonprofits, small businesses, tech startups, and large global corporations. She’s helped dozens of brands gain greater recognition for their causes and products in the digital world.