If your business is new to compliance with accessibility standards, or hasn’t tackled a larger website project before, then you may be wondering what a roadmap for accessible web design looks like.
Much of this depends on your business website, what sort of capabilities it needs to have, and if it has been updated in the past. Let’s take a closer look at what this process involves, where you begin when working with an experienced agency, and how to ensure that accessibility issues don’t trouble you again.
Start with an Audit of Your Current Situation
If your business has a previous website that you need to optimize, it’s best to start with a full audit that will run a number of tests on your website content and show where it poses problems for those with disabilities.
There are a number of automated accessibility testing services to use for this process: The best of them make sure to test for important issues like:
- Required compliance under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and similar legislation.
- Running websites through screen reader systems to see how they perform for those with visual impairments
- Testing for keyboard accessibility for those who cannot use cursors, etc.
- Checking for proper HTML tags and coding for accessibility.
Automated tools can only do so much, so this is also the stage where your business talks with an expert about your accessibility goals, ensuring that your site avoids liability issues, and any particular problems that the testing may not have caught. This provides invaluable data that can be used to create a plan.
If you do not have a website, auditing tools aren’t as necessary, but it’s important to consider all the accessibility requirements your site will have. This will make it easy to incorporate the right kind of accessibility from the ground up and provide a template for future growth as well.
Decide How to Proceed with the Website Changes
After testing and consultation is completed, your business likely has a list of design issues to redo to meet accessibility compliance. This is where working with an experienced agency can be very useful. There are many ways to break down these changes, but common options include:
- Providing your website to an agency and allowing them to make changes. Developers experienced in accessibility design will be able to quickly pinpoint issues and correct them. This often involves discussion about certain changes to the website layout and appearance, but allows the business to stay largely hands-off and focused on its own competencies. This is also a good option if you want as little website downtime as possible.
- Splitting the work between third-party developers and your own team. This is an option if your business wants to divide tasks between small changes that your team can handle, and larger development projects that are best tackled by a firm with experience.
- Handling all changes in-house. Here, the business team handles all website changes according to their own timetable. This allows for flexibility, but it generally requires that the team includes experienced web developers and IT professionals to be successful.
Meeting Deadlines for Scheduled Changes
With the plan laid out, now it’s time to get to work! A good plan will have project milestones for accomplishing optimization. Developers will work to meet these milestones according to the scheduled deadlines. It’s common for there to be a little leeway with these milestones to make room for the unexpected. Anything from additional website layout changes to unexpected events like COVID-19 can affect deadlines, so it’s best to be prepared.
Clear an Additional Audit
After all project milestones have been completed, your business should have a fully functioning website that includes all required accessibility features. The next step is to run it through testing again and make sure it passes all compliance tests. This final stage of testing is important because it double-checks that all changes have had the intended effect and that there are no basic errors in coding or other issues that may have happened unnoticed.
This is also an excellent time to examine the mobile version of your website and make sure that it is functioning correctly and that all accessibility features are functioning correctly on it as well. The WCAG and similar guidelines have specific advice for what mobile sites need to be able to do.
Develop a Guide for Future Website Updates
A website isn’t a static creation – good websites are constantly updating with new content, more information, and important changes as a business grows. That means that a vital part of accessibility optimization is creating a guide for future content creation or incorporating accessibility-friendly steps into your current content guides. This allows your current team and future employees to always know how to create content that complies with accessibility standards. Common steps include:
- Making sure that any new images have proper Alt Text descriptions.
- Adding new text to a webpage in a way that can be easily read by a screen reader.
- Creating any new web forms or buttons with the proper tags for screen reader to use, or using an accessible alternative like ARIA descriptions, etc.
- Making sure that all language and terms used are both clear and consistent.
- Avoiding problematic content types like tables (which are very difficult for screen readers to interpret).
Create a Framework for Accessibility Across Online Content
Your website is not the only place your brand is distributing content online. A good accessibility guide should also be applied to the other digital content your team is creating. That includes images, text, and CTAs used in social media or email. Content teams should understand that these best practices need to be used whenever they are delivering online content.
Looking for Help with Your Accessibility Plans?
Blue Atlas Marketing has experienced professionals skilled in re-designing or building websites that meet all accessibility standards. Let us know what sort of project you have in mind, and we can discuss a roadmap to getting those important changes completed – and improving your website at the same time.