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.
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 W3.org.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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