Developing and maintaining a positive user experience plays a critical role in customer retention for small business websites. Today’s consumers expect every business website to be easy to navigate, user-friendly and meet their needs effectively.
After all, web usability guarantees the quality of a web visitor’s experience while interacting with your web pages. Surveys revealed that a visitor would stay on a web page for roughly 10 to 20 seconds before deciding to stay or leave.
More often than not, prospects leave a website because of its poor design, subpar language and unorganized content, slow load times, poor engagement, and lack of technologies to accommodate different types of audiences, particularly people with disabilities.
One of the most popular laws that highlight the process of providing people with disabilities the same opportunities as anyone else is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. This law requires businesses that serve the public to ensure that their environment accommodates people with disabilities of various kinds.
As the internet becomes commonplace for doing business, the government now requires business websites and mobile applications to achieve ADA compliance. In other words, organizational sites should be accessible to individuals who have disabilities that affect their vision, hearing, or physical capacities.
While there are specific rules characterizing website accessibility, this does not let businesses off the hook immediately as they must still provide an accessible online presence that accommodates users with disabilities. Businesses that fail to create an ADA-compliant website could potentially lead to financial liabilities, lawsuits, damage to brand reputation, and loss of customers.
Beyond the regulatory consequences, organizations could also lose out a significant amount of revenue, counting that people with disabilities make up 15 percent of the general population. A Los Angeles Times report revealed that ADA lawsuits filed in state and federal courts had targeted websites of popular retailers like Winn-Dixie Stores, Domino’s Pizza, and Hulu because of its lack of accommodation to individuals with disabilities.
More often than not, lawsuits are a result of a lack of clear rules on website accessibility. However, ADA uses the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as a baseline to determine whether a website is compliant.
There are multiple levels of compliance, depending on your organization and the needs of your site users. Among these include the following.
- A – regulations with which an organization must follow
- AA – rules with which an organization should comply
- AAA – rules with which you may fulfill.
The most significant difference between all the levels is color contrast, with each level having a higher contrast minimum for each text. Being able to determine what level your company should try to achieve is essential in avoiding potential fines and lawsuits.
At present, the most commonly used level for most businesses is the medium-level compliance or AA. A website is required to adhere to ADA regulations if they meet one of the following requirements:
- State or local government
- Government-funded business organization
- A private organization with 15 or more full-time employees
- Businesses with a physical location that exists to serve the public, which includes shopping malls, bars, restaurants, hotels, shops, stores, doctor’s and dentist’s offices, and theaters.
ADA website compliance can be relatively subjective and open to interpretation. WCAG also recognizes that it is not within the realm of possibility to develop a website that is 100 percent accessible, which is why it does not endorse level AAA conformance to be required as a general policy.
Essential Steps to ADA Compliance
Nevertheless, there are essential steps an organization can take during their journey to ADA compliance for the website. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when creating website compliance with ADA.
1. Limit the Use of Color to Enhancement
Color should only be used for enhancements and not in the sole way of conveying any kind of information. This is because there are individuals with visual problems who won’t be able to distinguish the colors accurately.
Moreover, all the content on the website should have adequate color contrast. There are a plethora of tools available that can help you with that, particularly those in WebAIM and WCAG websites.
Alternatively, you can use hex codes for the colors to verify whether or not it is accessible for these individuals. In most cases, the standard text has a font size of 16 and a higher contrast ration while the larger version requires less contrast but has a bold text size of 18 or 24.
2. Combine Video and Images with Text
Make sure to attach images and videos to any text to make it more appealing to the eyes of people with disabilities. Ideally, each image should have meaningful and concise alt text which is used in the HTML code to characterize the model.
Website creators can this at the back end of their site for each image through their content management system. This makes it easier for a screen reader to read the alt text to visually impaired users.
Interestingly, this process also improves your search engine optimization strategy as it makes it easier for web crawlers to read your website. Ensuring the video and audio content has captioning and transcription for accessibility purposes can be beneficial for SEO purposes as well.
What is more, web creators should also include a button to pause or stop any animation or video as some users may be susceptible to seizures. Other than that, it is also important to use actual text and avoid having any document as an image since it could not be accessed or read by devices like a screen reader.
3. Make Sure That Forms Have Inline Messaging and Labels
In most cases, people access websites using a screen reader which will read the entire site; thus, it is vital to make instructions clear and concise. With regards to forms, web creators should pull helper text out above the field as a label so that screen readers can detect and read it.
Website owners should also consider developing error messaging and their form of the validation process. These forms are a crucial way for users to connect with your organization, so making sure they are easy to understand and use is essential.
Inline error messages are beneficial as well as inform the user on whether they have missed a field or filled something out incorrectly. Usually, the message displays within the form and notes the error, as well as the steps needed to fix it.
4. Use Correct Markup and Support Keyboard Navigation
Use headings appropriately and consider how you want the user to scan through it. These are essential notes for the website developer as it can provide them with an appropriate markup to make sure everything is organized.
Supporting keyboard navigation and enabling users to scan your entire site using a tab key is paramount since some may not be able to use a mouse. This indicates that each navigational item requires a reliable indicator that emphasizes each element so you can determine where you are on the page as customers scan through it.
Furthermore, web developers should also establish states that communicate their actions and purpose. Hover states are essential to inform the user that you can click on an element and click states verify that the move was taken.
5. Leverage and Highlight Comprehensive Calls to Action
Another best practice for ADA website compliance is to be descriptive with hyperlinks or any buttons to make it clear what the next step is upon cleaning. Make sure to use more intentionality with descriptions rather than leaving them open-ended.
While highlighting hyperlinks may seem old-fashioned, it keeps design elements to a familiar structure, which is incredibly helpful when it comes to ensuring website compliance with ADA. In short, web designers should avoid thinking outside the box when it comes to navigational items or links to prevent confusion.
6. Conduct User Testing
Creating an intuitive website that accommodates people with disabilities takes time. This is why website owners must perform usability testing and evaluate the site through user feedback and trial and error.
In general, user testing involves having people with disabilities test, review, and inspect your website for inaccessibility. The users will provide feedback that you can use to implement changes and make your website even more accessible.
Performing user tests show an authentic commitment towards accessibility and go beyond the technical WCAG standards to address other aspects of accessibility. This also gives you an idea of users with disabilities interact and engage with your website products and adjust to provide a value-added service.
Benefits of ADA-Compliant Websites
ADA compliance fosters an equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities and brings a truckload of benefits for business website owners. Here are specific advantages that an organization can get when achieving ADA compliance through RSI Security.
1. It Increases Your Target Audience
Businesses that are not ADA-compliant are missing out on thousands of potential buyers who cannot access it because of their disabilities. In the United States (US) alone, there are roughly 40 million individuals with some sort of disability.
Although many of these individuals might show interest in your offerings, they might not be able to make a purchase or contact you once they get to your website. By tapping into these markets, organizations can broaden their reach and increase their ability to sell services and products to more customers.
Moreover, it also diversifies your customer base, which can fuel business expansion and optimize your growth rate. This, in turn, leads to a massive uptick in sales that can also boost the bottom line of your business.
2. It Enhances Your SEO Strategy
Organic search is arguably a significant component of the website performance of every business. It is also a critical part of the buyer funnel and ultimately getting users to complete engagement or conversion.
By complying with ADA standards, organizations can establish a strong foundation for a website with a practical and clean user experience that is easily discoverable in search engines. A key element of WCAG is accessibility to screen readers, which helps crawl your website pages similarly to search engines.
If the website meets the WCAG standards, it is more than likely that it can appeal to search engines, screen readers, and users alike, thus, ultimately enhancing your SEO endeavors. This is why website owners need to put a great deal of work on alternative image text, Meta tagging, and video transcripts to open up new demographics for your company.
It is worth noting that organizations with inaccessible websites make it harder for people with disabilities to use their services, purchase their products, interact with their content, and engage with their brands.
3. It Bolsters Your Reputation
The reputation of your business impacts the relationships with your target audience and niche markets. By adhering to ADA standards, organizations can facilitate growth in their most valuable relationships and create a ripple effect across their whole network.
The fact that you went the extra mile to ensuring everyone was included will set you apart from the cutthroat business environment. Through these efforts, organizations can expect an increase in traffic to their sites, which is essential in increasing sales and giving the company a substantial and significant revenue stream.
Above all else, ADA compliance signifies better overall website usability as consumers can easily find the content they want without scrolling through several pop-ups. The social media presence of your company may experience some improvements as well, especially if the visitor decides to share a favorable review.
Web accessibility is continuously evolving to help web developers establish sites that are more inviting and friendly to users with disabilities. Switching and building an ADA-compliant website will not only put the business at the forefront of a regulated environment but also help expand their offerings and generate a higher return on investments.
Start your journey towards ADA website compliance by speaking to an expert at RSI Security today. The website professional will subsequently check and scrutinize your website before providing you with a comprehensive quote to get started.