Accessibility is an important topic in Charleston web design. That may sound strange at first, since many of us think of accessibility in terms of physical handicaps that make it difficult to move around. True, a person in a wheelchair can navigate a website as easily as someone standing at a counter, but there are other accessibility topics that become very important online. The most common factor that demands attention from today’s website designers is visual impairment. Here are a few of the considerations and what modern web designers are doing to make their websites accessible to their visitors with visual impairment.
Degrees of Visual Impairment
Visual impairment, of course, is not an all-or-nothing condition. There are those who are completely blind, but there are also those who simply have trouble reading small or very complex fonts. The spectrum between those two extremes includes many people who may be interested in visiting your website and ultimately becoming a customer, and without too much extra effort during the design process, you can ensure that your website is accessible to all of them.
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Keep it Simple and Contrasting
If you want to get an idea of what individuals with mild visual impairment encounter online, simply step outside on a sunny day and try to use your cell phone to browse the Internet. You’ll quickly notice that in those bright conditions, the most accessible websites are the ones that use large, dark fonts on simple, light backgrounds. Complex fonts and backgrounds make it nearly impossible to decipher what’s going on!
In addition, you will find yourself looking for navigation tools in the areas on the page where they most often appear on other websites. When it is difficult to see what’s on the page, you will naturally begin at the top left, move to the right, and then scan down the page to find what you’re looking for. Understanding this standard can help you structure your website to make it easy for the visually impaired to find other pages and interactive elements.
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Keep Screen Readers in Mind
For Internet users whose visual impairment is serious enough to prevent them from seeing a screen at all, the typical accessibility tool is a screen reader. A screen reader essentially reads aloud the elements and content on a website, and the user then navigates the website using a keyboard or other specially designed device.
Screen readers do a good job of making sense of the content on a website, but it is possible for a website designer to inadvertently confuse them by making the site exceptionally complicated or by placing important elements like headings and call-to-action buttons in unusual places. What you may call “thinking outside the box” can easily place the content on your website outside the reach of your visually impaired visitors.
Reach Out to Accessibility Devices
Beyond making your website simple and conforming to the standards that a screen reader or other accessibility tool looks for, you can use certain HTML elements to actively reach out to those tools and tell them exactly what to communicate to visually impaired users. For example, a call-to-action button may display the words “Click here to continue,” but a visually impaired user needs more information than that in order to understand exactly what the button does. You can use special markup to instruct a screen reader to read a different piece of text aloud to the user—for instance, something like “Click here for the list of benefits you’ll receive.” This is a great and relatively easy way to show your visually impaired visitors that they are important to you and that you understand their needs.
With today’s focus on mobile devices for web browsing, simplicity and standardization are important across all web design in Charleston, SC. But for those that find it difficult or impossible to see a screen of any size, they are essential features of an accessible website. Give us a call or email us to talk about this and many other topics related to Charleston, SC web design.