Last week we began our three part series on user accessibility by discussing the Design and Construction of your site. The primary takeaway is that you are very likely to be extremely dependent upon your vendor to help you make great decisions that give you the best blend of aesthetics and user accessibility. There are a lot of great folks out there. Find someone you TRUST, someone who has exhibited the subject matter expertise to do the job. Today our focus shifts to an area in which you, as the owner of the website, can have a great deal of control - the content that goes onto your site.
In case you missed last weeks article, check it out here.
Conforming Content Strategy
Developing and maintaining your website’s content in a way that conforms to the recommended guidelines is a continual process. When it comes to best practices for keeping your website within the proposed standards there are several key components that you will want to abide by. ALT tags, page titles, open header tags, and PDF conversion are among the top findings that can be completed from within your content management system.
An ALT attribute is the description that a screen reader recites when the user is viewing your webpage. This could be as simple as the magnifying glass next to your search bar, the Facebook logo in your footer or your main banner image. How you describe that image is going to let the user know what they are viewing and whether they can visually see it or not.
Take a look at the example below for an image/pdf alt attribute:
<img src=”images/mypuppydog.jpg” alt=”this is an image of my goldendoodle” />
<a href=”files/ourloanapplication.pdf” title=”personal loan application”>Download our Personal Loan Application</a>
ALT attributes need to be applied to all assets that you utilize within your website. Assets include images, PDFs, click here buttons, and all other documents. If these items are in the footer or header they can have a global ALT attribute that will apply on all pages. For items within your content you will need to add those in the source code of your website.
Unique Page Titles
Another area we often encounter when we scan for conformance is in regard to duplicate sections and unique page titles. Within financial institution sites there are often business and personal sections for loans, credit cards, and accounts. We frequently see these pages with the same names and the URLs look something like www.mywebsite.com/personal/creditcards and www.mywebsite.com/business/creditcards.
In this case since the URLs end the same, the pages both have the same title. This is an issue that we have to fix within the page properties to have unique titles. You can simply rename the pages personalcreditcards / pcreditcards and businesscreditcards / bcreditcards then the page titles will conform.
When editing content, we typically see where users press enter to add spaces between sections in the body and unfortunately this can create empty head tags in the actual source code, <h1></h1>. A head tag can be h1-h6. To fix or avoid these errors you will want to use paragraph tags, <p> </p>. This can also occur when a user utilizes the very tempting copy and paste method of inserting content. We discourage this because it causes errors within the content that must be corrected to keep the content in conformance.
With respect to PDFs, I have found that converting your PDFs to HTML pages within your website or converting your PDF forms to HTML forms could be a beneficial change moving forward and an easier way to manage conforming to the guidelines. Creating PDFs to conform to current ADA guidelines is possible, but it can be time consuming and also must be completed by the FI rather than by your web vendor. By converting them to HTML pages, this might be a larger cost upfront but after a PDF is changed into an HTML page you can easily update content, manage ALT attributes and have a live URL to send to customers. In cases where the PDF cannot be made into HTML, Adobe has some information that might be helpful here https://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/using/create-verify-pdf-accessibility.html
Sticking to these best practices when revising your website will help keep your site up to par with the guidelines and will soon become second nature. If you get discouraged when having to complete these extra steps, remember that your extra effort is benefiting another individual wanting to enjoy your website!