W3C accessibility: the benefits for your business
Having a website seems an obvious choice for any business today. And localising it into different languages can be an easy way for a company to enter a new market. However, making your website available in the language of your target audience is not the only factor to consider. According to Firstscribe, over 99% of websites have web accessibility problems. In this post, you will learn what Web Accessibility is, why you should not overlook it and how to achieve it.
These days, it seems highly unlikely that anyone would think twice about how to answer the question “Do I really need a website for my business?”: the final response would definitely be “Yes”. When it comes to actually creating a website, there are a number of different strategies that companies may follow. Some of them have in-house developers to take care of the task, some rely on free web content platforms, while others choose to work with specialists offering professional services. With the help of an LSP, it is then possible to get the website ready for launch, and to maximise the potential business from visitors and leads in different languages. Having a multilingual website seems an obvious choice if you wish to expand internationally, and getting it localised into different languages can be extremely useful for launching in a foreign market, provided the work is carried out by professionals with proven experience on a number of levels. Making your website available in different languages is indeed a great step, but having your website accessible to all visitors, regardless of the language, is essential too.
The expression “web accessibility” is used to refer to enabling all users to access any web service or content, in a way that removes any kind of barrier between the website and its potential users. According to the principles of web accessibility, if websites are created following specific guidelines, and are correctly designed and developed, they should provide equal access to any user, who will be able to take advantage of the information and functionalities provided.
What is W3C?
The World Wide Web Consortium, also known as W3C, defines itself on the w3.org website as a community whose mission is to make the most of the huge potential of the World Wide Web. The W3C employs full-time staff, who work with members of the organisation and contribution from the public to make the W3C possible. They work in a way similar to a standardisation committee, adhering to the principles of “Web for all” and “Web on everything”. The W3C accessibility or Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is their commitment to the continuous improvement of web accessibility – making web content of any kind accessible for any type of user, including people with disabilities and those who experience greater difficulties using the web.
The results of the WAI work on W3C accessibility are contained in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a series of rules and recommendations summarising the web accessibility standards to be followed in order to create a website accessible for all users. The organisation has even created a W3C validator, which can be used to verify whether a website complies with the W3C standards, and what can be done to make it fully accessible by any user. These guidelines, known as WCAG, or WCAG 2.0 in their latest version, published in 2008, are recommended as a web accessibility standard by two of the main CMS providers: WordPress, the open source content management system based on MySQL and PHP, and Hubspot, which combines a CMS with web analytics and marketing tools that help the implementation of inbound marketing strategies.
So, what are the main WCAG guidelines, and what are the factors to consider when creating a fully functional website which is also accessible by anyone? Let’s have a look at the recommendations of the W3C consortium!
#1 – Perceivable. According to this principle, any type of web content should be created or organised so that it can be presented to users in a way they can perceive it. Not all content on a website is written text. Let’s consider visually impaired users, for example. They generally use screen readers: all the non-textual content of a website should therefore have a text alternative in order to be fully accessible. If we add a text alternative, which provides a description of a non-text file, to images, videos, icons and buttons, people with impaired vision will have a better experience and will be more able to understand content thanks to the added context. In technical terms, this is very simple to do by adding what is called an “alt attribute” to non-text content, as explained by Yoast. This enhances web accessibility for users with disabilities, although “alt attribute” text also appears when an image is not fully loaded and it is very important for the SEO optimisation of a website. When coding, one of the main recommendations is to use descriptive text and to use coding devices that skip portions of the page that are repeated.
#2 – Operable. This second point focuses on the operability of user interface elements and navigation. Users should be able to navigate the website via a keyboard or other similar device. This does not mean that websites should discourage use of a mouse or other input options, but rather that website development should incorporate the option of keyboard operation in order to be accessible to keyboard users.
#3 – Entendible. This third recommendation taken from the WCAG refers to the fact that, in order to be accessible by anyone, the information provided by a website and its navigation should be immediately understandable. Texts should be legible from a visual point of view. There should be sufficient contrast between the text colour and background colour to allow this, and the text should also make sense. The words and sentences used on a website have to be recognisable as the language of their users and also need to reflect human language.
If you are not familiar with foreign languages, it is advisable to seek out an LSP that specialises in website localisation and SEO, as they will be better placed to assist with this particular aspect of web accessibility: a well-translated and accessible website can help you gain visitors and rank highly in the search results of most search engines.
#4 – Robust. According to this fourth guideline, content has to be robust enough that it can be interpreted by multiple user agents – and here the stress is on assistive technologies. Your online content has to follow specific rules in order to be detectable by technologies designed for users with disabilities. For example, the WCAG recommendations cite the need for elements to have complete start and end tags and not to contain duplicate attributes.
If you still have any doubts about making your website accessible, the W3C committee has identified four benefits of properly addressing web accessibility. According to the W3C committee, if you have an accessible website, you can:
- Drive innovation. If you follow the web accessibility principles when designing your products and services, you can avoid issues.
- Enhance your brand. A commitment to web accessibility paves the way to brand recognition and a larger audience.
- Extend market reach. According to figures published by the W3C, the global market of users with disabilities is around 1 billion people, which translates into spending power of more than $6 trillion.
- Minimise legal risk. Today, many countries have regulations governing digital accessibility, with which you may have to comply.
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