• Blogging, Copywriting

    How Small Businesses Can Write Accessible Content

    office desk with plant and yellow mug

    Is your content and copy accessible?

    Is it created with the user experience, the human experience, in mind?

    Accessible content means that it is created so all humans can easily understand what is being shared. It’s created so everyone, not only a select group, can read, see, or hear what your content is conveying. When content isn’t accessible, this gives way for loss in business revenue and growth because you’re completely overlooking an entire subset of your audience that requires something different.

    Here are some practical and straight-forward tips to take, making your content and copy more accessible for more people.

    Is accessible web content the norm?

    With the surge of online work, social media, and digital marketing businesses popping up all over the world, accessible web content, in our opinion has not been the norm. Yes, there are websites who have accessible content in mind, for example, the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) who focuses on

    “strategies, standards, and resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities”.

    Taken from the WAI website linked above

    But this is a relatively “new” concept for other business owners who are creating content without being conscious of their demographic or who their content could be excluding. Although there are no laws regarding accessible content, it’s always best to have an accessibility plan to avoid any legal actions.

    Why accessibility matters

    Accessibility is how easy it is for people with disabilities to interact with your content, service, or product. This can include hearing disabilities, sight disabilities, or others that hinder how a person understands and uses platforms and interfaces. The best way to think about this is… how easy is it to use your website? The easier it is, the more accessible it can be for others.

    Website accessibility is important for business and personal reasons. On the business side, creating a more accessible website can lead to reaching more of your audience, making it easier for people to purchase from you, and so on. On a personal side, it is taking the initiative to being more conscious about people’s needs and that others may have disabilities that hinder how they understand certain information. Plus, it’s the nice thing to do (if you have a conscience and are a great person).

    What counts as accessible content?

    We’ve always said that not all content is created equally and we’re going to stand behind this phrase!

    Not all content is created equally, and not all content is accessible.

    It’s important to know that users (humans) who have certain disabilities use “assistive technology” to help them better interact and consume digital content, either on a website, blog post, video, etc. It’s important to note the difference between HOW people consume content and the MANNER in which they consume.

    HOW people consume content will change depending on if they have disabilities.

    THE MANNER in which they consume doesn’t change. People with disabilities will still skim an article, they still want to be guided with their content, and they know when content is good or just plain lousy. Below are ways to create accessible content for your website.

    hands typing on a white keyboard

    Headers and subheadings

    Use headers and subheadings. This not only breaks up large chunks of texts, it also makes it easier for people to skim an article and understand the flow of information. They’re more likely to skim an article to find the areas that interest them most or skim the entire article to pick out key points without reading further. Headers and subheadings are also a great way to guide readers to important topics or call-to-actions.

    We believe in writing copy that is full of personality and using your brand voice and tone – but don’t get carried away. Although you may think it’s best to create a “catchy” or “witty” headline, sometimes what this does is confuse the reader instead of guiding them where you want next.

    For example – avoid saying:

    View our notebook for more all our thoughts and musings” – this is extremely vague and doesn’t tell the reader where they’ll be lead to when clicking on this link.

    Instead, write “Find more information and tips on the blog“, which is clear and explains exactly where the reader will be lead to once they click and how content will be organized.

    Writing alternative text for images

    Also known as ALT text, alternative text is a short description of the image to explain to users what the image is. Screen readers use ALT text to describe an image that either doesn’t load or to users who aren’t able to clearly identify what the image is. ALT text should, more often than not, be included for any important photos.

    If an image is purely used for aesthetic purposes and to look “pretty”, it isn’t necessary to include ALT text for the photo. The best advice we can give on ALT texts are…

    If the photo is a key part to making a point or adding value to your content, include ALT text. If it is only there for aesthetic purposes, you don’t need to include it.

    How to write accessible ALT text:

    When writing ALT text for your images, you don’t need to write “image of…” and then start your description. The screen reader will have already communicated that there is an image included in the text. Write your ALT texts to describe exactly what is in the photo and being as descriptive as possible.

    If you are including a graph or table, list out key points to summarize the image. You don’t need to describe the photo as “an upside down triangle with key points like…“. That is not helpful for the user when the screen reader reads out the description aloud. Make sure to always write in descriptive and complete sentences… it isn’t helpful when an image reads: SEO graph Google ranking.

    An example of ALT text for the photo below could be:

    Coffee mug on a flat surface with flowers surrounding

    Picture of teacup with flowers

    Call-to-action buttons & hyperlinks

    Ah, as copywriters we see a lot of different call-to-action (CTA) buttons and hyperlinks in website copy, articles, and content in general! Generally, we see people forget the CTA button entirely or add in a hyperlink or button that is unclear. A quick test to make sure you never forget a CTA button and make sure it’s clear is:

    1. Is there an action for someone to take after reading the content?
    2. Does the reader know what the button will lead to?
    3. If they “didn’t” realize it was a button, is it clear that the CTA button is actionable?

    KEY RULE FOR CTA BUTTONS & HYPERLINKS: Don’t get cutesy with CTA buttons or hyperlinks. Always make sure that they link to what you’re telling your audience it will.

    Avoid using hyperlink text or CTA buttons that read…

    • Click here!
    • Oh, yes!
    • I want that!
    • Learn more

    Those types of texts are vague and unclear. Many times, people won’t have any idea what they’re clicking on which will decrease click rates and can potentially lower your conversions. Instead, try to be as clear as possible with hyperlinks and buttons to guide the reader and inform them of what to do next. Examples of this can be…

    Example of a clear call to action button reading: "Want to bring in the attention your business deserves? Let's talk!" The button reads: Book a Free Chat with Me
    Example of a clear CTA from The Quirky Pineapple Studio

    If a blind user is using a screen reader, they’ll know exactly which button to click next to take them to the action they want.

    Remove jargon and fancy words, use plain language

    The Quirky Pineapple Studio attracts an international audience, with different backgrounds, cultures, upbringings, and languages. Although we create most of our content in English, we understand that many of our audience members do NOT speak English as their first language and may have varying levels of literacy.

    If your audience is the same, it’s important to use plain language and avoid technical jargon, fancy words, colloquialisms, and “expressions”. Using plain language can easily share your message and main point in a clear and concise way, without roundabout explanations, that could confuse readers.

    Plain language includes:

    • Simple sentence structures
    • Common words
    • Conversational tone

    Using contrast for the text and background

    Imagine looking at an image with text overlay and you have NO idea what you’re reading because your eyes are straining to make out the words.

    THAT is unaccessible.

    Many times this is caused by light text over a background image or color that has light areas or is too close to the text color. When text images are created like this, our eyes strain to read what is written. This type of content is unaccessible to users who have sight impairment or are color blind.

    How can you fix the problem? Make sure text overlaid on backgrounds are highly contrasted. If YOU the writer have to squint to read the image, it’s a sign you should probably change it.

    Be conscious of gendered language

    Gendered language is when you create content reading:

    • “Treat your wife to a romantic dinner!”
    • “Select your gender – man / woman”
    • “Surprise the man in your life with…”

    Gendered language alienates audience members who either don’t opt into stereotypical gender roles or are in same-sex relationships. What if they don’t conform to either gender roles listed, what if they feel sensitive around gender labels, and what if you’re being insensitive?

    Accessible content also means creating INCLUSIVE content. We should not be making any type of assumptions on our audience’s gender (no matter what analytics say… which btw, they’re not up to date with gender inclusion) and sexual orientation. You can easily write content that isn’t gendered by thinking to yourself how pronouns can be replaced or if it’s necessary to include gender in your marketing material.

    Always provide transcriptions or captions for audio

    One of the easiest ways to create accessibility on your website is to provide transcripts or captions for any audio/video content you have. This doesn’t necessarily add to SEO, but it can be extremely helpful for users who are hearing impaired and aren’t able to truly enjoy your content without needing to read it, as well.

    Some video hosting platforms have auto-generated captions which make it much easier for you, the creator. We do advise that you go in and double-check any auto-generated captions because sometimes they can confuse words, have misspellings, or completely miss what your sentence was. Always double-check or opt for outsourcing video captions when you can!

    Need help with video editing? We recommend our friend, Estrella, of La Chispa Studio! She’s helped us edit video content and provide all the information we need to create great videos!

    Biggest takeaways and action steps

    Creating accessible content and copy for your website doesn’t need to be difficult. Remember, the key to accessibility is how EASY it is for your users, with any type of disability, to interact and understand what you are sharing. If you’re creating more accessible content, you’re able to create an inclusive community that is conscious of the needs of its audience members. By showing that human side of your brand – you can connect back with your community on a human level!

    How to get started with accessible content right now:

    • Audit your content to see where you use gendered language
    • Review your photos with text, are they clear? Do you need to squint to read what’s on the image?
    • Review your photos for ALT text descriptions. Are they clear and concise, describing the purpose of the photo?
    • Understand that you are creating content and copy for HUMANS, not just for Google or search engines.
    • Don’t assume your readers can see perfectly or hear perfectly. They may be color blind, hearing impaired, etc.
    • Not all content is created equally and not all content is accessible. Make it as EASY as possible to consume and understand your content!

    Conclusion

    If you’re ready to create a more human-centered website, start by making it accessible and thinking about your audience and readers.

    Accessibility and inclusivity is one giant step we can take to make the online world more enjoyable for everyone!

    What’s one way you plan on making your content and copy more accessible? Let’s hear it in the comments!

    *Want to work with us on re-writing your website copy or an accessible content strategy? Let’s talk about it! Schedule a free Strategy Session to discuss how it’d look like to work together!


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