Are you looking to attract more visitors and retain happier users of your website? If so, then read on! By conforming with a number of accessibility criteria you can not only optimize the accessibility of your website, but also ensure good usability and increased visibility in search engines (SEO).
Allow me to give you some examples:
1. Use Headings
The accessibility guidelines prescribe the use of headings (H1, H2… H6) to divide web page content into logical sections, this will also help your ranking in search engines. Visually impaired users can get an overview of a web page and its sections by using the headings that a screen reader brings out. The search engines do the same.
2. Remember alternative descriptions with images
Additionally, the search engines prefer images that have good alternative descriptions. Having these alternative descriptions also helps visually impaired users of screen readers. A blind person cannot see an image and for this reason they need an alternative explanation giving the function of the image. A search engine is also 'blind' and cannot see an image but it can read an alternative text.
3. Write meaningful link text
A number of criteria for accessibility cover the subject of writing sensible link texts and not just link texts reading 'click here', 'read more' etc. This also helps search engines. If you write a text that says something meaningful about the link destination, both assistive technologies and search engines can make good use of it.
4. Help with input
When users are to fill out form fields on a web page an accessibility requirement is that you let the user know what is to be filled out, what is mandatory to fill out and at the same time provide help for users who make errors in their entry by giving them tips for correction. This of course helps with the overall usability of your website.
5. Remember validation
When the accessibility guidelines require that your web pages conform with the current standards for web content, for instance html 4.01 or xhtml 1.0, adhering to this guideline also helps assistive technologies to interpret your content. It helps to ensure platform independence with the effect of having your web pages work and look presentable in different browsers.
6. Enhance user journey
Having an uncluttered and homogeneous website with consistent navigation helps all users. At the same time it is a good idea to give users more than one way of finding web pages such as having a search function, a site map or an index on the website. These are defined accessibility requirements but it is also best practice for the user experience in general.
These points are just a few of the areas where ensuring web accessibility optimizes your website in other areas at the same time. So before you abandon accessibility guidelines thinking they're a hassle, not important, or just for 'a few disabled users' think about the added bonus / side benefits that make your investment valuable for both you and your web users.