NDEAM Accessibility Series - Part 3: Website Simplicity
We’ve covered the importance of descriptive alt text and links that allow users to understand where they are being redirected in previous blog posts about the most common accessibility challenges for people who use screen readers. In this blog post, we are going to go over a very basic yet fundamental tenant of digital accessibility: simplicity.
We all understand the experience of having to clean our rooms, closets, junk drawers, cars or other spaces that we use or occupy. Even if you know where everything is, the clutter and mess can make it hard for others to navigate the space or area. The same is true of websites and the user experience. The more complicated the website build, the more likely users will be to find it hard to navigate and move around.
When websites are designed to be overly complicated, many users, particularly those who use screen readers, will just give up and abandon the site in search of a simpler, easier to navigate experience. However, it isn’t only the design of a website that dictates how complicated it will be for a user.
Wording and language also play a big role in the comprehension of a webpage. The most digitally accessible site is still not inclusive or usable if the words on it are full of jargon and language that is not understandable for the general public. Consider stripping your website of overly technical verbiage and writing all the content in simple, direct language.
On a different note, consider keeping the organization of your site simple. Use real headings, as opposed to just stylizing fonts to look like headings. Using real headings, like those built into most word processing software, helps to convey meaning and structure since a screen reader will start by reading aloud the headings and moving down hierarchically. 95% of screen reader navigation is performed based on headings. So making headings distinct, logical, and simple is critical for accessibility. For more information such as this, check out this WEBAIM survey about screen reader statistics.
Maintaining a consistent focus on a webpage is critically important as well. Try not to use images or other elements that take the focus away from what the user is doing. For example, if a screen reader user is reading a piece of text and the comes across a link, do not design the website to automatically open that link and start playing a video. This can be startling, distracting, and overwhelming. Instead, allow the user to stay focused on the text and then revisit the link by giving the user the power to move forward with reading the text and then come back to the video when they are ready.
Don't hide content- If you're going to show off your company in a video or other multimedia format. Don't hide content under i-frames. These i-frames while convenient for holding content. Are inconvenient for screen reader users. Showing up for them as just empty elements that say "clickable." Not giving any meaning. The solution is to add a title to the i-frame.
As we’ve learned in the last few weeks, usability and accessibility go hand in hand. There are many challenges that people who use screen readers face regularly which can be easily addressed through web layout, design, language and alt text. Making such changes will make your site more welcoming, inviting, and inclusive for all.