According to the 2016 US Census, over 12% of Americans have a disability. Worldwide, that figure is 15%. It’s clear that a large segment of our population needs an accommodation to enjoy equal access to public spaces. Although your building might have wheelchair ramps and elevators, are you 100% accessible to people with disabilities?
With more and more business happening online, your website also needs to be accessible to everyone. That’s why you need to follow website accessibility standards, which make your website readable for everyone across the world, no matter their needs.
People with disabilities experience your site differently. If you’re a person without disabilities, you might not consider UX for people with vision impairments or hearing loss. Fortunately, you can follow the principles of accessible design to build an inclusive, equal experience for all customers.
Accessible web design isn’t just the right thing to do: it has other benefits to your business, like boosting SEO. Learn how ADA compliance benefits your website SEO and 3 tips to do ADA websites right.
How ADA compliance benefits SEO
First, it’s important to understand what the ADA is and how it affects your website. The ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act, was created in 1990 to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities.
In 2010, the Department of Justice updated the ADA to include web design standards for accessibility. Namely, the ADA said people with disabilities need equal access to all public spaces, including online spaces. In fact, businesses are actually at risk of a lawsuit if they aren’t using ADA-friendly design. Domino’s Pizza recently lost a Supreme Court case over this.
Most business owners don’t understand that they need an ADA compliant website. When they fail to build for accessibility, it’s usually an honest oversight. But this is a huge inconvenience for users with disabilities, who can’t navigate your website at all.
It’s important to understand that ADA compliance is both the right thing to do and that you can face penalties for overlooking ADA compliance.
With that said, the best practices for an accessible website fall right in line with SEO best practices for web design.
Accessible websites make a handful of small changes to their site’s back-end for disabled users. But most, if not all, of these changes are also beneficial for SEO. For example, visually-impaired people use screen readers to “see” your website. Screen readers work similarly to search engine bots, pulling back-end data and reading it aloud to the user. In this way, ADA compliance helps both users and search engines better understand your website
ADA benefits SEO because it gives users a better experience, simplifies your site, and boosts understanding. The result is improved SEO and, eventually, a boost to your revenue.
3 tips to design an ADA-compliant site
It’s one thing to know that accessibility is important, but implementation is another beast entirely. Fortunately, ADA-compliant web design is easy to implement when you have an experienced SEO and web design team at your side. Follow these 3 tips to boost your site’s accessibility and SEO at the same time.
Simplify the navigation
Nobody wants to sift through a complex navigation, especially if they have a disability. Keep your website’s navigation clean and simple. Create a clear sitemap that follows a logical progression. This helps both users and search engines understand your site layout.
Search engines like clear navigation because they can crawl your site more quickly. They can see where to find information and how you organize your site. Disabled users like clean navigation, too, because they often need to rely on your sitemap to find content. The cleaner it is, the better their browsing experience.
Use title tags
Are you paying attention to your page titles? This is important metadata that both search engines and users with disabilities rely on to understand your site. The title tag is the first snippet of information that displays in the SERP. Users won’t see the title tag once they click through to your page, but they do rely on it to see if your site is a good fit before they click through.
In other words, the better your title tag, the better your click-through rate. And the better your click-through rate, the more likely it is that your SEO rank will increase. Users with disabilities also like accurate title tags. If they’re using a screen reader, they rely on your title tag to see if your website will answer their query.
Use image alt text
Are you filling out the alt text for every image on your site? Remember, search engine bots can’t “see” images. They rely on you to add text on the back-end that describes the images. That means Google needs you to tell it how to index your photos.
Image alt text is an easy SEO win, but you have to write it correctly. Don’t use spammy, keyword-laden language to get ahead. Disabled users also rely on your image alt text to see what’s in an image. If you write something like “red shoes,” that doesn’t tell the user very much. Instead, a better alt text description would be, “Man laces up his red shoes that he bought through ABC shoes.” You can still sneak keywords in here, but the priority should be descriptive, helpful text.
The bottom line
When you optimize for accessibility, you’re killing two birds with one stone. ADA-compliant web design gives all users a better, equal experience. It’s also great for boosting your search engine rankings over the long term. At the end of the day, you should always optimize for users with disabilities. Search engines will reward you for improving UX.
Not sure how to implement these changes on your own site? Don’t sweat it. Get in touch with Logical Media Group now. We’ll schedule a free brainstorming call with our team of SEO pros to overhaul your site.