A good online presence plays a key role in attracting new clients and customers to your business. The problem is that unless you have an accessible website, you’ll lose out on chances to convert a sizable portion of potential customers.
Website accessibility makes it possible for people with various disabilities to shop, research, and do whatever else people do online. Unfortunately, a 2019 study of the top one million web pages showed that 97.8 percent of home pages were non-compliant with the Web Accessibility Initiative’s web content accessibility guidelines. Without certain implementations, these noncompliant websites can be as useful to people with disabilities as screen doors on a submarine – and it’s important to make sure yours isn’t one of them. Here are three critical reasons to make your website accessible.
Website Accessibility is a Legal Necessity
Accessibility compliance is no longer optional. In the U.S., it’s a mandatory requirement listed in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and companies that fail to comply pay the price. Netflix agreed to add descriptions to visually describe audio in its movies and shows following a lawsuit from the National Association of the Deaf. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Guillermo Robles, a blind man, when he sued Domino’s after he was unable to order pizza from the company’s website or mobile app despite using screen reading software. Domino’s argued that its website and mobile app shouldn’t count as places of public accommodation under the ADA, but the Supreme Court denied that claim. This isn't a "new" trend, either. Way back in 2008, ADA noncompliance cost Target $6 million in a class-action lawsuit with the National Federation of the Blind.
While the aforementioned companies are bigger than your average bear, that doesn’t mean the law only applies to massive corporations. According to accessibility law resource Seyfarth, plaintiffs filed at least 814 federal lawsuits about allegedly inaccessible websites in 2017 alone. That number rose to 10,206 in the first 11 months of 2019, an increase of over 1,153 percent from 2017 to 2019. Accessibility noncompliance isn’t a matter of if it’ll hurt your company, it’s when.
Website Accessibility Benefits Your Business
Making your online presence more accessible does more than just get the law off your back, it’s also good for business. By ignoring accessibility standards, you’re missing out on a large portion of an audience – 61 million people and counting in just the U.S. That’s a lot of potential customers or clients you can lose if your site or app isn’t built to accommodate those users. Fortunately, an accessible website can help your business in a couple of ways.
It doesn’t chase away disabled users
Want to inspire disabled users to give you their money? Make your site accessible. According to the U.K.’s 2016 Click Away Pound Report, 71 percent of disabled users with access needs click away from a website when they experience difficulty accessing it. The same study showed that these lost users had an estimated spending power of £11.75 billion, which then equated to roughly $15 billion. If that seems like a lot, research indicates that these users would spend more money if a website was more accessible. The study found that over 80 percent of customers would spend their money on websites that had fewer barriers for them, not necessarily on websites that had a cheaper product or service.
Adding accessibility improvements does not change anything for your current customers who do not have disabilities, but they can and will attract new customers to improve traffic and conversions. By improving your online accessibility, you’re showing people that you value their business. In turn, they’ll be more likely to give you that aforementioned gift – their money.
It benefits your SEO
Improving accessibility isn’t just good for humans, it’s good for search engines as well. Writing clean, accessible, and easy-to-follow code makes it easier for search engines robots to crawl the site. When the code is well-structured, search engines treat your website much better because they’re able to gather more information. In fact, many of the same factors Google uses to judge your site just so happen to be methods that can make your site more accessible. These include:
- Adding meta descriptions and page titles
- Using descriptive alt texts for your images
- Utilizing the correct header tags
- Following color contrast rules for improved readability
- Ensuring content is machine readable
- Providing descriptive link text
Accessibility can increase traffic, decrease bounce rates, and improve sales from a community of people that are often overlooked. The better your SEO is, the more users you gain on your site. The more users you gain, the more conversions you receive. When it comes to the bottom line, embracing accessibility really has no downside.
Website Accessibility Affects More People Than You Know
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 26 percent of the U.S. population – about 61 million adults – live with some form of disability. Disabilities can come in many forms and need to be treated with the same level and consideration as any other consumer. We often forget that there are many different types of disabilities. Sometimes they’re temporary, like an employee who broke her arm and still needs to shop online. Other times, they’re permanent, like a blind user who is just trying to figure out a store’s hours online.
It’s also important to remember that accessibility extends beyond just those with diagnosed disabilities. From 2009 to 2014, mobile screen reader usage went from 12 to 82 percent, and not just because of people with visual impairments. Whether it’s someone with dyslexia or an older individual who has trouble staring at displays, screen readers are becoming increasingly important. For years, designers and developers have focused on making websites responsive and providing a good user experience on mobile devices. Making sites and apps machine readable is a part of that now.
Embrace Website Accessibility
Accessibility has several benefits, including reducing legal risks, strengthening your reputation as a brand or business, improving your SEO, and bettering your user experience. People with disabilities are a notable part of that potential consumer base with more than $544 billion in disposable spending power. Implementing changes to make your website more accessible will only increase your popularity within a community of people that are oftentimes ignored – especially by your competition.
Aside from the financial benefits of website accessibility, it's also the right thing to do. With a few changes that will just so happen to help your business, you can make life a little less difficult for a large segment of the world’s population. With website accessibility, everyone wins.
Are you ready to make your website more accessible or need a new website altogether? As a full-service digital agency, Aztek's team of web designers and developers have the expertise to help you build fast-loading, quality websites with your entire audience in mind. Contact us today to talk to our team about your web design and development needs.