According to the World Health Organization, about 1.3 billion people live with some form of vision impairment. It used to be that the visually impaired couldn’t enjoy their online screen experiences, but with the progressions in technology, they can now navigate online with ease. There are ways to format your content that will make it both accessible to the visually impaired as well as readable for web crawlers.
Structure headings with proper tags
Screen readers do not understand changes in the size or weight of text, so if you are making text larger or bolder for a heading, that will not translate for nonvisual readers. A screen reader discerns heading text from other text by reading the heading tags applied to the content. Headings help structure content for nonvisual readers and help the skim through the content more efficiently, allowing them to find what they are looking for easily.
Heading best practices
- Each page should have one H1 tag clearly describing the content of the page.
- The content should be organized using additional heading tags, H2, H3, H4 and so on. There are 6 heading tags available.
Optimize and create friendly URLs
A URL is often the first thing that search engines such as Google or your customers see when it comes to your website.
Creating URLs using target keywords that properly describe what is on the webpage not only helps search engines and screen readers but also makes it much easier for anyone to navigate your website. They are the foundation for creating an effective internal structure.
URL best practices
- Use your keywords.
- Structure URLs with a logical flow from domain to the category to sub-category to the product.
- Avoid including ever preposition and conjunction from the title.
- Avoid dynamic URL strings.
Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink. Links provide many benefits for content such as additional information, sources etc. Using generic anchor text such as “learn more” or “click here” may seem like the practical answer, but these are not ideal for the visually impaired.
Anchor text best practices
- Use descriptive link text. Provide more context as to where the link will bring you or what content the link will provide.
- Specify if the link will bring the user off the current site or even off the web in general. Add “Word DOC” or “PDF” if the link will open up a document.
Optimize image titles and file names
Similarly to URLs, it’s important to be descriptive and include keywords when naming images and files.
Use alt text
Alternative text (alt text) provides a text alternative to non-text content, such as images, graphics and the like. If an image fails to load, the alt text will display in its place. When a screen reader encounters images on the web, it reads the alt text provided aloud, allowing the image to be understood by a visually impaired user. Search engines also index alt text and consider it a factor when determining search engine ratings. The more info the better, as web crawlers and screen readers can’t analyze images, they can only understand text.
Alt text best practices
- Write accurate descriptions of the content and function of the image.
- Keep it short and simple with no more than a few words unless otherwise necessary.
- Avoid repeating information that is already included in the surrounding text.
Do not use the phrases “image of” or “graphic of”.
- If an image is only text, that text can serve as the alt text.
- If the image is a link to something else, include that in the alt text.
Include image descriptions
An image description is different than the alt text and allows for more detail. The alt text provides the important information, while the image description provides more detail regarding what the image depicts. Screen readers can be set to read aloud both alt text and image descriptions to help the visually impaired better understand the content online.
Use schema markup data
Schema Markup data is used by Google, Bing, etc. to provide better search results. This provides additional context to the search engines to improve the knowledge pane which can be read aloud as the featured snippet.