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Web accessibility tips

Making your website accessible is an important issue for all website owners and has many benefits. Enhancing your website's accessibility will result in it being easier to index by search engines. This increases its position in search results. It also improves your site's usability for people with disabilities, and is easier to navigate using different Web browsers and devices such as mobile phones.

The following tips will help you create a website that is more accessible:

Maximum page depth

The term "page depth" refers to how many links a visitor needs to click before they can reach any page within your site from its home page. It is recommended that webpages do not exceed a page depth of 3 pages. As well as improving your site's accessibility, this will bring several additional benefits:

  • It is easier to develop a hierarchical navigational structure for your site.
  • Combined with a good navigational structure, your website will look neat and well organised.
  • It will be easier and faster for visitors to find content on your site because they need to navigate through less pages before they reach the information they are looking for.
  • People are likely to remain on your site longer, since finding information will be faster and easier.
  • Search engines sometimes determine a webpage's importance based upon its page depth: the smaller the page depth, the more important a webpage is considered to be, and the higher it is likely to appear on search results.

Site maps

A site map is a page on your site that lists every webpage of your site. Site maps are often organised hierarchically based on headings and sub-headings. If a visitor is having difficulty looking for a particular webpage, they can consult the site map.

Search engines can also locate webpages throughout your site more easily if you use a site map.

Location information

If you have a large website, add location information to the top of each page that tells visitors where they are located on your site in relation to other categories and sub-categories.

For example, the .mobi domain name information and registration page on Multimedia Australia's website (at http://www.mmaus.com/services/domains/mobi/ ) contains the following location information situated just above the page's heading:

Home - Our Services - Domain names - .mobi Domain Names

Not only does this tell visitors where they are located on the site, but they can also click each heading to return back to a previous category.

Use alternative text

Using alternative text gives a description of an image in case the image does not load or the visitor is unable to see it.

If you are coding HTML for your website, alternative text can be set using the alt= HTML tag attribute. If you are using a visual website editor, most have an alternative text feature on the Insert Image window, including Multimedia Australia's BestAddress HTML Editor, the Aurora Web Editor and Hixus Koala Edit.

If your site contains a video, include a description of its content near the link that opens the video. Also consider adding format and file size information about the video. This way, visitors can determine whether the device they are using to access your website supports the format.

Text contained in images cannot be read by screen reading software, which is often used by people with impaired vision. Images are therefore not well suited for a site's navigational features.

Descriptive link text

Create descriptive hyperlinks. Avoid hyperlinks that contain the text "click here". Instead, refer to the title or content of the webpage that the link points to. This will also help improve the webpage's search engine rank.

Colours and background images

It is advisable that colours used on your site have adequate contrast so that text stands out from the background. For example, purple text against a red background is difficult to read, while black text against a white background is easy to read.

If your website uses background images as well as background colours, it is recommended that a colour is selected in such a way that text can still be read even if the background image does not load. Sometimes Web designers set white text against a dark background image, but then forget to also change the overall webpage colour so that it is also dark. This means that if the background does not load, the white text is displayed against a white background and therefore becomes invisible.

Websites optimised for mobile phones

The article 'Websites for mobile devices' on WebsiteBytes.com contains a good overview of creating websites suitable for mobile devices as well as an overview of the newly released .mobi domain names.

The tips above are just some of the factors you can take into consideration when designing a website that is accessible. If you want more information, there are many websites on the Internet that contain further information on this topic.

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