Digital Artisans is Sheridan PubFactory’s lead design partner. In this three-part blog post series, Tracey shares valuable insights into maximizing discoverability and accessibility when creating your digital content platform.
Part 2: Accessibility Improves Experience
Website accessibility is not a new topic. In fact, it’s been a factor since 2010 when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) published standards that digital technology and information must be accessible to all people. At that point, most companies did not think that responsibility for website accessibility applied to them, or that they were required to address it unless they were receiving federal funds/grants. Additionally, the general perception was that creating accessible websites was more costly and entailed a lengthier process to implement. Not surprisingly, the ROI to include accessibility as part of the web design process was not considered valuable enough to be a default priority.
Oh, how times have changed. 2018 has seen a massive shift in understanding the importance of accessibility—not only from a legal standpoint, but also in terms of the ROI it delivers to publishers via increased discoverability and improved usability.
Three reasons to make your site ADA compliant:
- SEO – increase traffic: The truth is, accessible sites benefit all users and improve search engine optimization (SEO). SEO has a direct and real impact on website traffic. Screen readers present web page information to those who have difficulties reading visually from a screen. Improved accessibility to readers improves access to search engines. Screen readers navigate websites in much the same way a search engine crawler does. Optimum navigation relies on properly tagged headlines and metatagging, and clear provision of supplemental content to enrich and ensure accessibility, e.g. video transcripts.
- Website usability – convert more people: As mentioned in Part 1, careful planning and placement of elements like “download/buy” buttons, tools, and ads helps to drive higher user conversions. The design of these elements, e.g. font size, line length, and color contrast are critical to both accessibility and usability. High impact design elements to include in your platform include:
- Font size – minimum text size on large monitors should be 14px (0.875rem), ideally 16px -18px (1rem – 1.125rem). Keep in mind that all fonts vary in size and need to be tested. For example, Times New Roman is a much smaller font than Georgia, although both are serif fonts.
- Font type – Historically, serif type font was most used because in printed publications it provided optimal readability. The opposite is true online. For small bodies of content online, it is best to use sans serif type and leave the use of serif type fonts to larger headlines.
TIP: Arial, Helvetica and Google’s Open Sans are favored for their optimized readability and for their multi-language support.
- Line length – 75 characters maximum is recommended for the best readability. This is true for both large and small screens, and holds for all devices. However, when setting presentation parameters for large screens, you should maintain the white space (often referred to as margin) on either side of your content.
WARNING: Don’t expand your text lines from end to end if you have exceeded the 75-character threshold!
- Color contrast – Ensure proper text color contrast on foreground and background colors pass established accessibility requirements using WebAIM Color Contrast Checker. You’ll see how Dunkin Donuts implemented a Color Contrast Switch to resolve their branded orange contrast issues.
- Legal action: Every organization should be knowledgeable about the 2018 US Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations on web accessibility and take the necessary steps to make their website platforms accessible. There have been several high profile legal cases in which organizations were penalized for non-compliance with accessibility requirements – including Bank of America, Harvard University, NBA, Target, and many others (see a partial list).