The Silent Tree

 

Are you tired of people understanding what you say? Happy that your website confuses the hell out the minority of people capable of navigating its pages?

Great, carry on with your day.

For those of you still here, congratulations. You care about accessibility and understand why it matters. You realise that a web site no-one can use is the proverbial tree falling in the forest when nobody’s there.

 

No entry to the web

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is an important reminder of some basic facts. There are many people around the world who are unable to enjoy the huge benefits of the web due to bad design and poor copy. In the UK alone:

  • 14% of the population are registered as disabled
  • 9% have some form of colour blindness
  • 4% have a sight problem
  • 21% are aged 60 or over.

 

These are people who potentially cannot use your website. Moral issues aside, if you’re a business that means fewer sales. If you’re a charity or an educational institute that’s a lot of people who won’t be able to support your causes or sign up to your courses.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Some websites are so badly designed or poorly written that they are inaccessible to a much larger proportion of the population.

You might as well put a picture of a funny cat on your home page for more effective results.

 

Opening doors with words

The basics of accessible website design is something we’ll leave to our colleagues. As copywriters, we’d like to talk about the ways in which we can ensure your web pages are accessible to as many people as possible.

In essence it’s all about making things clear and simple and ensuring readers know what they’re reading and what they should do next. Practically speaking, here’s a few things you can do:

  1. Describe images, transcribe videos on your page or give them subtitles
  2. Use plain language and avoid jargon
  3. Use headings and subheadings with short paragraphs in between
  4. Write out abbreviations in full before turning them into acronyms
  5. Write informative, unique page titles so people know what they’re doing
  6. Give clear instructions wherever possible
  7. Make link text relevant. For example, don’t just write ‘click here’: say why people should click there.

 

Keep it simple

Above all, write simply to be accessible. Get rid of unnecessary words or phrases that don’t add anything to your message. Take this piece of nonsense for example:

If there are any points on which you require explanation or further particulars we shall be glad to furnish such additional details as may be required by telephone.

Could this be better written as:

If you have any questions, please phone.

It’s a rhetorical question of course. The second version is shorter, clearer and more likely to result in an action. It’s accessible.

How did version one come about? One of the problems is that we often fall in love with our own words and are reluctant to cut them down. Quite often, someone with authority has written the words and they’re seen as set in stone as if sent from God. Don’t make waves and use them if you want. Alternatively, recognise them as gobbledegook and do everyone a favour by suggesting something better.

For us at AmazeRealise, Global Accessibility Awareness Day isn’t just a one-off cause, or ‘the right thing to do’. It’s the only thing to do when you’re communicating on the web.

Keep it short. Keep it clear. Keep it simple. Keep it accessible.

 

 
Ted McDermott