Sanna Kramsi - Blog A peek into my life

How to create more accessible content - avoid common accessibility mistakes

March 17, 2024 | Accessibility

There are a lot of ways to improve the accessibility of content on websites.

Use headings to provide structure, not visual features

Some people tend to use headings which look the nicest in their opinion. I understand aiming for a visual look and feel. But you should use heading levels to define the page structure. Skipped heading levels and illogical heading structures can be confusing. Assistive technologies use the heading levels to define the structure for the users.

If you feel like the heading-level styles aren't working well on your website, there are options. Talk with the designer or developer to get those styles changed to something that you think works better visually for the content. But never sacrifice the proper page structure. The same principles work for both websites and documents. In both the structure is important and the heading visual styles can be altered if needed.

It's also important that your headings are descriptive. The user should be able to tell what the content below is about by looking at the headings.

I have also written about the importance of headings some time ago.

Always use clear and descriptive link texts

While on the WCAG AA level, it is enough to provide link texts with enough clarity in the context they are in, I do recommend always providing good link texts. Read more, click here and the likes are never descriptive enough in my opinion. At least I recommend providing a bit more information to assistive technology users via ARIA properties.

Pay extra attention to page content quality

Use clear and concise language. Make sure to have the most important content at the beginning. Even though we all think our content is all important, the reality is that not all users will read all of it. By adding the most important bits to the beginning, it will be more likely that information gets read.

I have written more about writing accessible website text content on my accessibility website.

Don't over-format your text

There are a lot of formatting options available to you on most content editors. While those might be tempting, avoid using them too much. Many types of formatting can reduce the readability of your content. Underlining regular text might confuse your users because underlined text is usually a link. Italicizing text can make words more difficult to separate from one another. All capital letters make letters harder to recognize.

Flattening text on both sides makes it less readable because the spacings between the words will not be the same. Also, centered text is more challenging to read, especially if the text is on the longer side. So avoid both flattening and centering the main content text.

And if you feel the need to add a different color to some part of the text, there are a few of things to remember. First, don't use the same color as is used in the links (assuming there is a color difference there). Second, remember to make sure there is enough contrast between the color and the background. And last but not least, don't use only color to convey meaning.

Alternative texts exist for a reason

Assistive technology users are provided with the alternative text of an image. They don't get anything else from the image. If there is a problem with an image, the alternative text is visible in the place of the image. So it doesn't exist only for assistive technology users.

Decorative images

If you leave the alternative text of an image empty, you tell screen readers that they can skip the image. This is a good way to reduce the cognitive load for assistive technology users.

Sometimes it is hard to know when an image is decorative and when it might provide something for a user. And that is ok. Do your best and always try to give a good alternative text for an image. The user can skip ahead if they don't want to hear the alternative text. It's better to provide a good alternative for a decorative image than to provide a bad one or mark a meaningful image as decorative.

I have written more about this on my accessibility website. Check out the page about image accessibility if you'd like to read more about the topic. I have also written a blog post about image alternative texts.

Where to learn more?

There are a lot of good resources online. My accessibility site has a lot of information I've gathered over the years. I aim to provide a single place where you can find as much information as you can (and need). If you have any content requests, you can, for example, send me a message on LinkedIn. I will do my very best to create new content for you.

I wrote recently about the same topics on Exove's blog. Reach a wider audience by making your text content more accessible. If accessibility interests you on a larger scale, make sure to follow the company blog as well. We also had a webinar in Finnish on this topic. If you are interested in watching the recording, make sure to head to the download page.

And of course last but not least I do write about accessibility to this blog as well.