How Web Accessibility is Changing Our Approach to Digital Marketing

How Web Accessibility is Changing Our Approach to Digital Marketing

Marketing is an integral part of any business. Not only does it connect customers to brands in the most memorable way possible, but it also gives brands the opportunity to build stronger relationships and promote social change.

Marketing is certainly not what it used to be either. What the average customer once valued has changed over the last few decades. 

But of the many things that have become important to customers, social change and responsibility has made the top of the list – it’s now expected.  

Inclusivity is a hot topic, particularly now that there’s a much greater awareness of just how many people are living with disabilities, many of whom are underrepresented and ignored. 

This is where accessible marketing comes into play.

Accessible Marketing Explained

There are countless tactics and strategies that marketers can use to reach existing and potential customers, but at the heart of it all, marketing all comes down to one thing – communication. 

Marketers need to find the best ways to communicate with all customers, which means taking a number of factors into consideration, ability being one of them.

Accessible marketing means ensuring as many people as possible are able to understand your messaging. Consumers living with disabilities are not always able to understand a message as easily as the next person.

Take a video campaign for example. 

For someone with a hearing disability, a video campaign without captions would be almost meaningless or at least be interpreted incorrectly. The result? A lost sale and lifetime customer. 

Accessible marketing also means ensuring each of your digital assets is, in fact, accessible to as many people as possible. In short, are they able to perform critical tasks and engage in the same way that all consumers would?

In a nutshell, accessible marketing is the art of providing a more inclusive experience for all.

What This Means for Marketers Going Forward

ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, lawsuits are rising at an alarming rate. 

Businesses and marketers can no longer afford to make accessible marketing a side project. Accessibility needs to be an essential consideration during any strategizing, planning, website development, and campaign creation processes.

In terms of which assets and content you should be concerned about, the answer is everything. Anything you are putting out there that a new or existing customer may interact with should be accessible – from tweets to blog posts on a website. 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has determined that online content falls under the ADA, as do websites, which is why they’ve been one of the biggest drivers of digital accessibility lawsuits.  

Basically, before you publish anything online, whether it’s a new video campaign or a basic PDF form on a website, it needs to be tested against accessibility standards.

Before we get into some best practices, let’s take a quick look at how accessibility marketing can improve marketing reports and business bottom lines.

  • A better user experience = more loyal customers. By factoring inclusivity into everything you do, you’re automatically providing users with a better experience. And when a user has a better experience, they’re far more likely to stay loyal to your brand and recommend it to others.
  • A better user experience = enhanced SEO. Google is another big fan of a great user experience. A user that lingers longer on a website and content that receives high levels of engagement are both indicators of popularity and relevance. The result is better SEO rankings, even more traffic, and an enhanced brand reputation. 
  • A better user experience = more sales. And the most obvious benefit of promoting inclusivity is that customers are far more likely to buy from you and keep buying from you. 

Accessible Marketing Best Practices: How to Initiate Change

The first step in making accessible marketing an integral part of your processes as a marketer is to familiarize yourself with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which was created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). 

All global disability acts that include digital accessibility guidelines are based on WCAG regulations and requirements.

WCAG is made up of four main principles that need to be applied to all websites, content, and marketing material:

  • Perceivable. Customers need to be able to perceive information being presented to them with at least one of their senses.
  • Operable. Customers must be able to operate an interface, regardless of ability.
  • Understandable. Any information presented to a customer must be understandable. 
  • Robust. Lastly, any digital assets and content must be robust enough to be interpreted by a variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. 

Next, let’s move on to the best practices that marketers can follow to create a more inclusive experience for all customers.

Find a Good Web Accessibility Testing Tool

The best way to find out whether your website meets the latest WCAG requirements is to find a good web accessibility testing tool such as AccessibilityChecker. Tools such as this automatically scan your website and produce a report that outlines any web accessibility issues you need to address.

Add Alternate Text Where Possible

Alternate text, or alt tags, give images more meaning. This way, visually impaired users who rely on technology such as screen readers are able to better understand your images as well as your content. 

Along with adding alt tags to the images on your site, you should also add alternate text to your social media images where possible – many of today’s social media platforms allow for this. 

Just make sure that the text is meaningful. In other words, it should describe your image in detail and relate back to your content where relevant. 

Be Mindful with Emojis

When a screen reader reads a social media post, it also translates any emojis that are used, so be mindful about what you use and how many you use. Repeating an emoji will also result in that emoji being read out multiple times – something else to keep in mind.

Make Use of Captions

Not only are captions a must if you’re producing video content, but they’re a must on social media posts too. For example, if you’re planning to post an Instagram story, making use of the caption functionality will ensure you’re reaching a wider audience.

For video campaigns and content, it also helps to use audio descriptions where necessary. Audio descriptions help describe any actions, scenes, and additional information. 

Give Users Enough Time to Interact

For marketers producing time-sensitive content, it’s essential to give users enough waiting and viewing time. Examples of this type of content include surveys, pop-ups, and shopping cart functionality. 

Use the Correct Color Contrast Ratios

Color blindness affects millions of consumers globally, which is why using the correct color contrast ratios is so important and defined by ADA color compliance. Text and images as well as images of text should have a contrast ratio of at least 4:5:1, except for large text, which requires a ratio of at least 3:1. 

Consider Assistive Technology

Screen readers, text-to-speech systems, and screen magnifiers are just some examples of the assistive technology a customer might use to engage with your website and content. Some users may even require that your site be completely navigable by keyboard.

For this reason, it’s critical to test your website, content, and any other marketing material in conjunction with assistive technology to ensure compliance and inclusivity. 

Implement the Necessary Analytics Tags

Analytics is a great complement to digital accessibility and makes it easier to include accessibility features when designing and building a new website or app. ARIA, or Accessible Rich Internet Application, labels describe HTML elements to screen readers. It’s basically another version of an alt tag.  

When screen readers scan these tags, they are able to relay a message to the user, confirming the selection they are about to make. An image that functions as a button is a prime example of such an element.

In Closing

Marketing has always been an area that’s evolved at a rapid pace and accessible marketing is one of the biggest changes of our time.

Making the decision to make web accessibility an integral part of your marketing processes will avoid any unnecessary non-compliance issues in the future, while also ensuring you create a brand that values and promotes social change and inclusivity.