Who are you and what is your target audience? The first question you need to ask yourself is to decipher whether you need your website to be accessible. It’s in best practice that you always try to aim for clear, consistent content as well as a clear user experience and journey but do you need to go that extra step?
Let’s start by explaining what we mean by an accessible website
In the simplest of terms, an accessible website is a website that can be accessed by everyone including those with disabilities. Whether this means they need to use a screen reading tool or require strong contrasting colours to differentiate content, your website should be easy to use for all users. There are numerous amount of ways to improve accessibility including giving all images a descriptive alternative text description and ensuring headings follow a semantic flow throughout the pages.
What are the levels of accessibility?
WCAG or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines was developed in cooperation with organisations across the globe in order to pinpoint a shared standard and resource of requirements needed on websites which would meet the needs of those required.
There are currently 2 different versions with a third waiting to be published:
WCAG 2.0 – Published in December 2008
WCAG 2.1 – Published June 2018
WCAG 2.2 – Scheduled to be published by June 2022
Each of these versions has 3 levels assigned to them. AAA, AA and A. So they would list as follows; 2.1 A, 2.1 AA, 2.1 AAA, and so on and so forth. AAA is the highest level of accessibility required whereas A is the lowest level. Websites such as the https://www.gov.uk/ will have the highest level of accessibility as it is required to be accessed by everyone whereas a small fashion business owner will not be required by law for their site to be accessible and therefore may opt for 2.1 A. In order to achieve level AAA you must ensure you conform to levels A and AA.
There are various tools that you can use to check how to improve your level of accessibility. Our favourite has to be accessiBe. It has a website tool which audits your website and gives you a score on each of the different sections such as Titles, menu’s and graphics and how you can address and improve certain features.
One of our favourite options when using accessibility through websites is to use a switcher! This means we get all the design freedom our clients want by having a button in the header to switch to the accessible version. You can see this live and in action on the Suffolk Firefighters website or the NHS clinically vulnerable Covid vaccines site, just a couple of the public sector websites we’ve worked on lately.
To summarise, you should absolutely aim for accessibility when building your website as the more people you can reach, the more potential users on your website and therefore more opportunities for conversions no matter what type of business you are. If you’re in the public sector then you should be expected to reach 2.1 AA as standard whereas businesses are advised to reach 2.1 AA if possible.