When the term “accessibility” comes to mind, one often thinks of parking for those with mobility issues, closed captioning for the hearing impaired, or visual attributes for those who have sight limitations. But with the Internet and websites, accessibility has branched off to include those with mobile handheld devices, smartphones, tablets, and even wearables. The norm was once desktop computers, which morphed into laptops and now smaller screens are taking over the marketplace.
Ensuring that the Internet and our valuable websites are being seen on all screen sizes and even visible on different mobile operating platforms for apps such as Android, iOS and Windows phone is obviously advantageous, but it can also boost user experience and overall satisfaction.
User experience, also known as UX, can mean the difference between a web visitor bouncing off a site just as quickly as they arrived or staying for a great deal of time and returning later. How can we use accessibility to give UX a boost?
Here are four ways to assist overall user experience with better accessibility:
Mobile First Mentality
Since over half of all adults have their smartphones within arm’s reach at all times, having a “mobile reach mentality” has become a no brainer. But how can we assure websites are easy on the eyes and accessible for those on the go?
Not only does Google offer a test for the mobile friendliness of any given web page, they also offer these tips on their developer site blog:
- Use text sizes that are readable without zooming
- Avoid software not commonly found on mobile devices such as Flash
- Size content to smaller screen sizes to avoid the need for scrolling horizontally
- Avoid placing links and buttons too close together
Help for the Truly Disabled
The AFB (American Foundation for the Blind) has a list of screen readers available for those who are blind or visually impaired that uses speech synthesizers or braille readers. Although there aren’t any laws or regulations that govern web accessibility for those who are disabled, we can still do our part to assist them in their web journey. For example, when embedding a video onto your website, ensure that there are captions available as these are becoming more commonplace nowadays.
Social Media: a Big Part of UX
According to Smashing Magazine author Paul Boag, social media is “firmly a part of the user’s experience” and does not occur on a single channel, like Facebook. Often their buttons and badges have become almost as recognizable as a stop sign or traffic signal for today’s Internet users. Beyond sharing, following, and placing links to social media prominently on our web pages, Paul also recommends these tips for better social access and success on these two popular platforms:
For those in the Twitterverse:
- Turn user names into links that roll over automatically.
- Tweet directly from your website.
- Embed tweets onto a website just like a YouTube video.
- Show hovercards that display user information with a mouse rollover.
Aboard Facebook, use these plugins:
- Their commenting system.
- A registration plug-in allowing users to sign in through their Facebook account.
- Live stream for sharing at events in real time.
- An activity feed to see what friends are doing on your website.
This term refers to the practice of using practical HTML code that clearly identifies content sections of a website, headers, footers, articles and navigation. This is not only better for the human user, it also helps guide assistive devices through the site. With better layout and sensible navigation, users will spend more time on your website and ultimately this will give better search rankings.
Better accessibility is not only the right thing to do for users, it will benefit you, your business and website in the future.
Nick Rojas is a business consultant and writer who lives in Los Angeles and Chicago. He has consulted small and medium-sized enterprises for over twenty years. He has contributed articles to Visual.ly, Entrepreneur, and TechCrunch. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas, or you can reach him at NickAndrewRojas@gmail.com.