According to WHO, roughly 15% of the global population live with a disability. Add to that the short-sighted (hello), the elderly, the tired, and the busy. If you don’t cater for their needs, you’re losing a huge portion of your audience.
Good news is, creating accessible content is easy. Plus, substantial crossover with SEO best practice means you’ll likely boost your ranking along the way. To keep it simple, all accessible content shares one common trait: clarity.
Clarity is a tough cookie to crack. You’ll probably start out with something that reads like a Haynes instruction manual – but keep buffing away and you’ll soon find words that shine. Trust us. Your readers (and Google) will thank you.
Here are five ways to make your content more accessible:
Edit the heck out of your content
Once there was a fishmonger. He had a big sign over his shop that said Fresh fish for sale here.
One day an editor walked by the shop and said: ‘You know, the word “here” really isn’t necessary in your sign. The sign itself signifies that the fish is for sale “here”.’
So, the fishmonger changed the sign to say Fresh fish for sale.
Then the editor thought a little longer and said: ‘In fact, you don’t need “for sale” either. The sign is over a shop – it’s obvious that the fish is for sale.’
So the fishmonger changed the sign to say Fresh fish.
Then the editor thought a little longer and said: ‘Do you sell any rotten fish?’
So the fishmonger changed the sign to say Fish.
Then the editor thought a little longer and said: ‘But everyone can already smell that a mile off!’
Moral: Cut unnecessary words, especially adverbs
They do nothing but add clutter to your message. Next time you’re creating new content, try testing it on the Hemingway Editor. There’s nothing wrong with adding some flair here and there – but know where it is and why it’s there.
Vary sentence length. It helps keep the reader engaged. If you add a short hook before a longer sentence, it’s more likely they’ll read to the end.
Your title and headings are everything
The reason is twofold. Firstly, readers (and algorithms) skim for the information they need. Confusing signposts are enough to get them bouncing off the page. Secondly, they help people listening via screen reader to keep track of what’s happening.
Never underestimate the power of clear signposting. In 1969, a psychiatrist released a book called Beyond the Birds and the Bees. Its success was limited, and the publisher suggested a rerelease with a new title. The resulting Everything you always wanted to know about sex* (*but were afraid to ask) became a number one bestseller in 51 countries.
Guide your readers, and they will follow. But get their attention first.
Formatting (use it)
Gone are the days when formatting was limited by stamps on a printing press. We can now embrace a huge variety of ways to visualise our messages. Three things in particular stand out:
Font and size
A common but all too easily forgotten problem. Don’t leave your readers squinting at the screen. Instead, these guidelines will ensure your content is easily readable on all screen types:
Arial or similar fonts are best
Always use a minimum size of 12pt
16pt is generally ideal
Clarity, clarity, clarity. As above, it allows the reader to skim chunky information.
Voice assistants are common for people who have difficulty using standard technology. Be sure to include common voice triggers in your text.
Instead of the best beaches near London try where are the best beaches near London?
Optimise images and video
Remember, there’s a high chance that your audience is hard of sight or hearing. Optimising media with visual and audio aids gives them the same quality of experience that the reader receives.
Image ALT text
If I ask you to visualise an “Image accompanying text on accessible content”, what do you see? There’s no end to the answers I might receive.
If, instead, I asked you to visualise a “Mother and son walking along a beach into the sunset”, the answers would be much more uniform.
Use ALT text not just for keywords, but descriptive information on the image.
Avoid text on images
Screen readers can’t translate it. If you have an infographic or similar visual on your site, you might think about transcribing the information into an accompanying blog post, or explaining the information in an image caption.
Provide video transcripts
Video can be problematic for those with trouble seeing or hearing. Transcribe the content into an accompanying blog post, and provide captions on the video itself.
Test your content
Once you’ve put all of these tips into practice, it’s time to test the accessibility of your content.
Check it on mobile and web – is the font size big enough on different screens?
Use a screen reader and close your eyes – is the content easy to follow without the words on the screen, or are the sentences too long or complicated? Do the image descriptions follow on smoothly from the text?
You might want to rewrite it in a more natural speaking tone. Try recording yourself speaking the information, then transcribing that onto the page.
Check keyboard shortcuts – these are crucial for people who are unable to use a mouse. To do this, simply try to operate the content using only your keyboard – primarily the tab and arrow keys. If it doesn’t work properly, go back and check your formatting.