Web Accessibility as a Key to Your Web Solution’s Success
Did you know that about 10% of people worldwide have to endure different kinds of disabilities throughout their lives? These people cannot make regular consumers as the rest does, they require a special approach. In particular, this goes for digital consumerism. Let’s talk about achieving the highest level of accessibility in your web solutions through proper tools.
World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) & Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an organization responsible for developing and establishing international technological standards for web-based solutions (HTML, CSS, etc.). With these standards at hand, mutual compatibility between products from various software providers can be achieved while the Internet access can be made simpler, more accessible, and intuitive.
There is also another major term related to web accessibility - WCAG. This is a solution designed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) - a group of experts that offers tools and tech for accessible Internet browsing, describes specifications for the optimization of web app navigation and design. In particular, these specifications are subdivided by three priority levels:
- A (the lowest level - ‘may comply)
- AA (the medium level - ‘should comply)
- AAA (the highest level - ‘must comply)
Note that the A category requirements aren’t necessary. On the other hand, correspondence with it boosts your web solution’s conversion rates, which is a straightforward way to becoming competitive in the market.
WCAG Compliance: How it was before?
Back when WCAG was only recently introduced, developers tried to correspond with 14 recommendations, each of which included several subpoints (we won’t be highlighting the whole thing here, only the primary recommendations):
- Let users access the website’s audio and visual content in alternative ways;
- Employ several shades;
- Don’t neglect the markup and style tables;
- Implement the multilanguage product version if you know that your TA is distributed throughout the countries;
- Pay attention to the proper table representation;
- Test out the view of pages where advanced tech trends are integrated;
- Allow users to manage the inflow of time-based content;
- Provide direct access to all existing interface elements;
- Go by the device-agnosticism rules;
- Balance visual and logical content representation;
- Don’t forget to check the set of tools and info provided on the official W3C website;
- Don’t forget about user tips;
- Create intuitive navigation;
- Don’t create ambiguously defined management elements.
In order to be WCAG compliant, each point’s AAA-level requirements were necessary to be met.
Nonetheless, these standards are pretty outdated right now. They were gradually replaced by another collection of requirements - Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, which was introduced in 2008. Here, policies are more precisely described and are characterized by less of an attachment to certain technologies.
The format of issuing requirements was changed. Now, they are grouped by four levels of accessibility:
- perceptibility. Users should get the ability to choose the most personally fitting way of perceiving content. In particular, non-text content should have tags or subtitles, which, in turn, can be written in an enlarged type or in a simplified language (symbols). Users also should be able to get an alternative way to perceive the visual time-based content (for instance, if a video doesn’t load, users should at least see some static image in the player). Last but not least, users shouldn’t have difficulties with delineating the major context in voluminous blocks of text;
- manageability. Users should be provided with the optimal conditions for perceiving content within a limited timeframe and in terms of being disabled to some or other extent. For that, provide an ability to interact with your web resource through keyboard and offer additional elements that would facilitate navigation further (i.e., the search bar);
- apprehensibility. Everything’s pretty clear here: all content must be easily perceived. It also should be delivered in the proper logical sequence and follow common patterns of user behavior on the web;
- stability. Obviously, the provided solution must be stable and work for users no matter what browsers, operating systems, storage devices they use.
In such a way, it’s become much more difficult to comply with WCAG 2.0. Development companies started involving related experts to help them achieve the desired results in the shortest terms.
How to Provide Web Accessibility in Frontend Development
Now, let’s take a look at a set of practical tips on achieving full compliance with the above-mentioned guidelines and get a WCAG certification.
For starters - subdivide your web content by 4 groups, according to the organs of perception
A human uses two major perceptions to view web content: sight and hearing. Such aspects as onboarding and the number of required actions to reach the goal play an important role here, too. Set the following three global objectives to provide the maximum level of compliance for your website:
- provide intuitive for users UI that behaves as expected so that even people with sight problems can easily understand information and UI operation;
- ensure compatibility of your content with user agents and assistive technologies. Make sure that your markup is valid, and your controls can be used by mouse users, keyboard-only users or even screenreader users;
- help users to navigate, find the content needed, and determine where they are by using UI controls, meaningful text labels, headings and paragraphs, and the <label> elements.
Work on your printed content & color schemes thoroughly
The next thing you’ll need to do is make sure that your web app design is easily perceived by people with sight disabilities. And it’s not only about the users unable to distinct tiny elements, but think also about those unable to define colors and shades.
To achieve that, you can boost the contrast between background shades and target objects (e.g., text), choose the most optimal font type, settle with the most comfortable indentations, etc. It would also be good to attach text hints to color indicators and delineate some separate functional elements with contrasting borders. Moreover, it is highly recommended to leave the CSS outline around the elements. It helps to stand out the element in focus.
Don’t be afraid to add more new functional elements
Don’t forget to define the clickable elements of your website with some boosting signals - they can be highlighted, underlined or accentuated. This goes, above all, for links leading to other web pages.
Additionally, we’d recommend separating these elements from the rest of the text stuff with bigger indents and, perhaps, with the maximum contrasting saturation.
One thing you shouldn't do for sure is stack these elements on top of each other (i.e., don’t put them too close). This will certainly cause perception challenges for users with astigmatism.
Adapt content to voice search
Considering the fact that voice capabilities have come to hold the leading positions in all sorts of UI trending features lists, it’s only obvious that your WCAG-compliant website should have this feature.
That’s why we’d recommend starting with exploring some voice search APIs - interpreters that would translate voice commands into printed words.
Next, you’ll need to thoroughly work on alt-tags, which are responsible for loading up the required content in search engines upon input of themed requests. Thus, without proper image titles, search bots will find it quite difficult to go around all the visual objects presented on the pages of your web resource (even if you use some good screenreaders, they can’t always do their work perfectly, even if they are based on the artificial intelligence).
Don’t forget about users that cannot use the mouse
Have you ever tried managing the web interface with a broken arm, without using the mouse? No? We, personally, say that it is quite cumbersome and cannot be done in most resources.
Your goal is to provide access to at least the major navigation panels through keyboard only. As such, you will create optimal conditions for viewing your site for people with motor dysfunctions and locomotor system issues.
The simplest way to see how well your interface is adapted to such users is to test out the functionality on your own, by unplugging the mouse and trying to implement some target actions.
Go by the device-agnosticism principles
Independently of the device a user employs to launch your resource or web app, they must be able to access the whole spectrum of capabilities.
Wouldn’t you agree that, oftentimes, mobile versions of websites have such small fonts that even people with sharp sight are challenged when trying to figure them out (especially, when you go by the shaky, stuffed bus and try to read on your smartphone)?
Top-5 Frontend Web Accessibility Tools
Below, we take a brief look at the top five tools to help you provide utter accessibility in your web solution.
- Axe. Axe is an open-source library for testing the accessibility of web products, which is easily integrated with other third-party testing solutions. This one will help you automate all the operations related to the analysis of frontend accessibility and, in such a way, isolate the end product from typical mistakes that contradict the needs of users with disabilities.
- NoCoffee. NoCoffee is a freeware solution provided as a Chrome extension. Integrating it with your browser, you’ll be able to figure out the main issues of poor-sighted users and provide an optimal UX design for them.
- ATBar. This one’s a whole package of tools accessible through any browser. These tools help to optimize text content, enable navigation through voice, adjust pages scaling, and optimize color schemes for poor-sighted and colorblind people.
- CheckMyColours. Yet another useful tool for people with poor sight and disabled color perception. It’s noticeable that this one is based on W3C algorithms, which means that it is a great helper in achieving WCAG compliance.
- WAVE. WAVE, available in the form of an extension for Chrome and Firefox browsers will provide you with a thorough understanding of the existing web accessibility issues in your resource. This, in turn, can help you promptly enhance the visual presentation of your web resource without involving any third-party experts.
How to Check a Web App for WCAG Compliance?
In order to understand whether your solution complies with the WCAG policies, usually, website owners involve experts from outside of the development company, who conduct an independent frontend analysis.
As a more affordable option, you can focus on complying with WCAG during the initial stages of your project development (obviously, this would be pretty cost-efficient than in the case of customizing and adjusting the existing solution). This can be done with the help of the tools described above.
Web Accessibility Guidelines: How to Follow Them Most Efficiently?
As you can see, the development of accessible web solutions requires web designers to possess a special level of qualification. That’s why turning to specialized, established companies that have at least one WCAG developer in their staff would, probably, be the most reasonable decision for you. Contact our managers and we’ll discuss the details of a future product. We’re always glad to help and cooperate!