Over the past decade, accessibility and inclusivity have become a priority in web design. However, there’s still a long way to go in both areas. In fact, most screen reader users interviewed for a WebAIM study believe there has been no change or less web accessibility in recent years.
If you’ve decided to make greater strides toward accessibility and inclusivity at your business or nonprofit, your strategic tech improvements must reflect these values. Designing an accessible, inclusive website makes your online content usable and relatable to everyone, resulting in a larger pool of prospective supporters or customers.
Let’s review four essential tips to keep in mind when redesigning your website to be more accessible and inclusive:
- Research your audience.
- Prioritize representation.
- Follow accessibility guidelines.
- Simplify your content.
The best association, business, and nonprofit websites strive to create a positive user experience for all visitors. Doing the same for your website will result in greater support and engagement from your audience members.
1. Research your audience.
When you understand your audience on a deeper level, you can design a website that specifically appeals to their needs and interests. Learning more about your audience members starts with thorough research.
You can use different resources for research depending on the audience you’re trying to reach. For example, you might work with your organization’s HR department to gather employee data if you’re creating a recruitment website to reach potential new employees. Or, you might use past event data to help build an event-focused microsite.
In general, here are a few key resources for learning more about your audience:
- Your CRM. Your CRM includes information about your audience members’ demographics, employment status, educational backgrounds, and more. Leveraging this platform can help you understand your audience’s general age range and background.
- Audience surveys. Surveys you send before or after events, after supporters donate, or after customers make a purchase can reveal insights about audience members’ motivations and interests. For example, you can use a donor survey to learn more about donors’ backgrounds and why they support your cause.
- Website behavior trends. Using a tool like HotJar, you can research website user behaviors and analytics. This tool lets you see how visitors interact with each page and use website surveys to gather additional user feedback. This can also help you understand whether your website visitors are facing accessibility issues on your site that you haven’t accounted for yet.
With this research in your pocket, you can create website content that resonates with your unique audience. Specifically, you can improve your website’s representation and demonstrate empathy for your audience.
2. Prioritize representation.
Using your audience research, you can understand the diverse and varying backgrounds, perspectives, and identities of your supporters, members, or customers. Then, you can design your website to represent the diversity of your audience.
Kanopi defines an inclusive content strategy as “presenting your digital content in such a way as it is able to reach and speak to (not talk at) the largest audience, regardless of what makes us different.” Incorporate representation in digital content, such as:
- Photos and videos: Ensure your visual content reflects the diversity of your audience members’ ages, races, abilities, sexual orientations, and so on. Having trouble finding good images? Here’s a list of stock sites with images that bridge the gap.
- Testimonials: Ensure your customer or constituent testimonials cover the wide range of your audience members’ life experiences. For example, let’s say your nonprofit works with community members to build affordable homes. Your testimonials should include interviews with all types of individuals in your community, including families, single people, older people, same-sex couples, people with disabilities, and so on.
- Blog posts: The topics you cover in your blog posts should be relatable to different segments of your audience. Ensure your blog posts don’t just cover one audience type or one aspect of your organization. You should vary your content to ensure you’re meeting the needs of all audience members.
When audience members see themselves represented in your web content, they’ll be much more inclined to learn more about your organization. This creates a welcoming space for more potential new employees, members, customers, or supporters.
3. Follow accessibility guidelines.
When it comes to web accessibility, there’s both bad and good news. The bad news is that 97% of home pages for the top 1 million websites have accessibility issues. Common errors include low color contrast, missing alt text, and empty links and buttons.
The good news is that you can easily improve your website’s accessibility by following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines are the international standard for creating web content that’s accessible to all, including people with disabilities.
According to the WCAG, you should design your website with the following elements to improve accessibility:
- Alt text for images
- Captions for videos
- Sufficient color contrast (4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text)
- Simple navigation
- Keyboard navigability
As you redesign your website to be more accessible and inclusive, pay special attention to your digital graphic design. Make sure the colors you use have sufficient contrast, your fonts are large and easily readable, and your content is clearly organized with hierarchical headings and subsections.
4. Simplify your content.
Not everyone in your audience will have attended higher education or understand the complexities involved with your organization’s mission or cause. Making your website accessible and inclusive also means using language that’s easy for everyone to understand.
Promote accessible language by taking these steps:
- Avoid jargon or obscure industry terms. Use commonly-recognized terms rather than jargon. Double the Donation’s web design guide also recommends using infographics to explain essential concepts rather than complex written descriptions. Also, spell out acronyms that aren’t well-known.
- Write at an accessible grade level. Use the Flesch-Kincaid readability test to assess the readability of your writing. Then, you can use the score, along with other editing tools like the Hemingway Editor, to make changes that improve your content’s readability.
- Break up long pieces of content with shorter paragraphs and subsections. Breaking up long text blocks, such as blog posts, makes them much easier to read and more engaging for site visitors. It’s especially effective to break up text with photos, videos, and other visual elements.
Simplifying your language and making your content more engaging will not only provide an easier reading experience—it can also increase the time your visitors spend on each page, boosting your website’s engagement rates.
Whether you’re redesigning your nonprofit’s website, online store, or association member portal, accessibility and inclusivity should be at the forefront of your plans. Prioritizing these values helps you create a more empathetic online strategy that appeals to a wider audience, spreading your message more effectively.