As more and more users gain access to the web it becomes increasingly important to ensure that your website is accessible to all, not just a few. Just as businesses must comply with the American Disabilities Act to ensure proper access to customers with disabilities, businesses should do all they can to make their websites accessible to all users regardless of the means in which they access the site.

And of course not all accessibility issues involve meeting the needs of the disabled. What must be considered is the growing number of users that now access websites through non-traditional means, whether it be mobile phones or with images turned off. These users can still be your target audience and ensuring your site can be used through alternate avenues is essential to capturing that audience.

Doctype declaration

The doctype allows you to declare what version of HTML your site uses. This is helpful to the browser rendering the site so it knows how best to interpret the information presented. Each page of your site should specify doctype and language encoding. If you are unfamiliar with the doctype declaration, you can read about it at

Page defaults

Use your Cascading style sheets (CSS) to set all the default colors, font sizes, and text alignment of the site. Different browsers use their own defaults for any of these and failure to set them to your preference may cause your site to look quite different than intended in different browsers.

Resizable fonts

Site should use relative, rather than absolute, font sizing. Relative sizing allows visitors to resize the font to their preference. You lose some control over how the page appears but better to lose a little control than to lose the visitor all together because the font is too difficult to read.

Bulleted lists

When using bulleted lists be sure to use the proper list markup, (UL, OL and DL) and (LI, DT, DD). While you can insert bullets with code or using an asterisk, using the proper markup is the best way to ensure that it renders properly across multiple platforms.

Alternate image text

All visual images on a page (not those used for page formatting) should contain alternate text describing the image. This ensures that the image is properly described for text readers and those surfing with images turned off.

CSS-less browsing

Many devices don't use CSS when rendering a web page. Make sure that your site can be viewed and browsed satisfactorily when CSS is turned off.
These are just a few quick accessibility issues that should be adhered to. While most users are still using traditional browsers, mobile phones are becoming more widely used for web surfing. Designing your site with accessibility in mind assures that it scales properly for different browsers, mobile phones, screen readers, etc. By doing this you'll capture more of your target audience.

April 8, 2008

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


When I visited this page to read about website accessibility issues, I found it ironic that one of the first things presented to me was a Visual Studio debug dialog stating the page has a runtime error...

Line 270
Error: 'commenter_name' is undefined

A few seconds after closing this dialog, another pops up...

Line 34
Error: 'document.getElemetByID' is null or not an object

In fact, after trawling over a number of the site’s pages, it quickly became apparent that many of them have similar errors.

With Visual Studio installed, I am frequently bombarded by debug dialogs from websites whose developers did not go that extra yard to iron out easily correctable bugs. Of course, if a website visitor does not have Visual Studio installed (or a similar debugging application) certain bugs like the ones described are likely to be transparent. However, the page is bugged nonetheless and how this affects its performance, operation and appearance is hard to tell.

The bugs I have documented above are by no means the worst I have experienced – after all, they do not prevent me from using the site and are just annoyances. One website I use (that will remain nameless) has far more serious problems. Almost every link I go to click pops a debug dialog! As a result the majority of pages on the site are completely inaccessible to me.

Again, I would like to reiterate that many of the bugs I experience on many websites are unlikely to impact the everyday user. However, before you say to yourself “who cares if a handful of software developers see the odd bug on my website”, you should consider how these bugs could be affecting other processes behind the scenes. Do they affect your website’s performance? Is your shopping cart being calculated properly? Is the correct information being displayed? Is your website secure?

Remember, where there is one bug, there are likely to be more!

I for one would rather see an image without an ALT tag that a horrible debug dialog smacking me in the face every time I visit a web page!

Maybe an article on website testing and debugging wouldn't go amiss on this website. That would make me happy!

Hi Mark,

Great comment. Thank you.

Just to clarify, the writers have nothing to do with the design or programming of the site so please keep that in mind when bumping in to any irony. :-)

I, on the other hand, am ultimately responsible for the design and programming of the site so it's my fault.

.....if a website visitor does not have Visual Studio installed (or a similar debugging application) certain bugs like the ones described are likely to be transparent.

This is the problem that I have, I don't see the bugs unless they create havoc in my firefox or ie browser.

My writing HTML in a text editor skills are stuck in a 90s time warp so we now have to rely on outside developers for more and more of the web site work.

So, out of ignorance, I don't even realize these bugs exist unless, as I mentioned, they cause a browser explosion.

All of this to say I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know the bugs exist and for telling me about Visual Studio. I've never heard of it before but I'm going to check it out. Then as I learn about problems I can document them and submit them to the developers to be fixed.

So, thank you Mark for the info that will make the site better for our visitors!

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Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > 6 Quick and Easy Accessibility Issues That Make Your Visitors Happy