Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

keyboard with handicap button

It’s hard to believe, but the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be turning 30 years old next year. First introduced in 1990, the ADA has had a huge impact on the ways that American businesses think about accessibility for products, services, locations, and employment opportunities.

But when it comes to web content, accessibility is still a big question mark. Until recently, many businesses have resisted making ADA compliant websites. Others have sought to make their websites more accessible. Yet when they’ve looked for standards or guidelines on ADA compliance for websites, they’ve found vague or contradictory information.

As we’ll discuss below, there’s a reason so many brands are confused about ADA compliance for web content. But even with this confusion, there are good reasons to make your content as accessible as possible.

The Importance of Accessible Web Content

Over the past 5 years, consumers have launched several suits against brands for non-ADA-compliant websites. That’s led a number of businesses to prioritize accessibility when building web content.

But until recently, many brands resisted making their web content more accessible. To some, it seemed like too much work. To others, the costs involved didn’t seem worth the returns. And these attitudes still persist among many businesses today.

But if you’re already updating the design and/or content of your website, creating accessible web content isn’t especially time- or cost-intensive. And there are a number of smart reasons — like the 3 listed below — for making your website more accessible.

1. It Reflects on Your Core Values. The core values of your business aren’t defined by what you say they are — they’re defined by how you put them into action. In making your website more accessible, you’re taking an actionable step toward a more just and equitable world.

2. It’s Smart Business. Making your content as accessible as possible to the widest range of users as possible is simply smart business. If your content is difficult to access for certain users, you’re needlessly narrowing the market for your products or services.

3. It Minimizes Legal Vulnerabilities. If your website isn’t accessible, you could be vulnerable to lawsuits under the ADA. As a brand, addressing these lawsuits is expensive, and they can do serious damage to your public image. (Unfortunately, as we’ll see in a moment, this is an area without a lot of clarity…)

What the ADA Says About Web Content

Let’s say you want to make your website ADA compliant. If so, you’ll immediately run into a roadblock: nobody can agree on what that means.

The ADA was originally written in 1990, before the world wide web was publicly accessible. Over the past decade, some lawmakers have attempted to amend the ADA to include digital technologies, but without success.

Because of this, there’s widespread disagreement over which parts of the ADA apply to websites and which websites — if any — are bound by the ADA.

In some lawsuits, judges have ruled that the ADA doesn’t apply to any online content. But other courts have penalized websites for failing to adhere to ADA standards. In 2017, for example, the Winn-Dixie supermarket chain was found to have violated the ADA by operating a website that failed to meet accessibility standards for the visually impaired.

This puts brands in a tricky situation. Many of them want to create accessible and ADA compliant web content. But the ADA itself doesn’t tell them what that means. Because of this, they need to look elsewhere for accessibility standards.

W3’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Given the lack of clarity regarding the ADA and web content, how should brands approach the question of accessibility? The best place to start is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3).

The WCAG contains a detailed list of guidelines and best practices for accessibility, particularly for users with disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. By instituting WCAG practices on your website, you can make your content more accessible and reduce the chances of non-compliance with the ADA.

To meet WCAG standards, web content must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

P – Perceivable

Under WCAG standards, all users should be able to perceive the information on your page, as well as the components used to navigate your site.

To be considered perceivable, web content must:

  • Provide text-based alternatives to non-text content, such as descriptions of images
  • Provide alternatives to time-based media, such as captions for audio content
  • Adapt to new modes of presentation without losing key information
  • Contain text, audio, and video that is easily followed and distinguished from other content

O – Operable

WCAG standards also include guidelines for ease of operability, ensuring that all users can operate interface components and navigate your website.

To be considered operable, web content must:

  • Be usable and navigable solely through a keyboard interface
  • Make it easier for users to navigate without a keyboard interface
  • Provide users with sufficient time to use, read, and navigate your website
  • Not include content that is known to induce seizures or physical reactions
  • Offer tools to help users navigate your site and find content

U – Understandable

The standards in the WCAG also include guidelines meant to ensure that users can read, understand, and use your site as intended.

To be considered understandable, web content must:

  • Include text content that does not require an advanced reading level
  • Ensure that content can be parsed by assistive devices, such as screen readers
  • Appear and behave in a predictable and consistent way
  • Help users avoid and correct mistakes when inputting information

R – Robust

The final section of the WCAG standards is intended to make web content compatible with as many user agents as possible, including assistive devices and apps.

To be considered robust, web content must:

  • Be compatible with current devices and assistive technologies
  • Be structured in a manner that optimizes compatibility with future user agents

Learn more about how Qiigo can help ensure your website is ADA Compliant.

Contact us today!

Master Your Website Strategy Like A Pro

Building your business, website personality, or marketing a new product can be wildly exciting. But it takes patience, planning, resources, a lot of effort, even more time, and let’s face it a little bit of luck!

 

Unfortunately, you won’t have an unlimited amount of time or money to establish your online presence, but what experience tells us is that there are a few guidelines you should consider following to help you to get through this tangled “web” of minutia and create a successful web presence.

 

Begin with Choosing Your Audience and Setting Your Goals

Any successful project starts with set of goals to achieve. Before beginning a web design project, think about what objectives you want to achieve. Are you looking to drive sales, build brand awareness, sell more franchise locations? What are your goals and how can your website help you achieve them?

 

Once you have a set of objectives, it’s time to start preparing your story. And creating the story your website will tell starts with determining your target audience. While everyone likes a good story, your target must trust the story you’re telling is true. Your users need an emotional and credible connection to ensure them you and your product or service are what you say they are or they won’t be back!

 

Don’t forget – as your company and website grows and your audience matures, so should your goals.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different, But Make It Easy

Different is good, but your website must be intuitive and easy to use. When focusing on your user’s experience use a little creativity to increase the stickiness of the site. Keep them interested by creating stories around your products and services and don’t forget about using videos, social media venues, and affiliates to keep them engaged.

 

A Few Tips

  • No one likes blaring music or flashing neon graphics when opening a website
  • Keep the site structure easy to navigate. Don’t layer links. No one wants to have to keep clicking to find the information they are looking for
  • Optimize for both mobile and desktop users
  • Page load speeds matter
  • Your phone number should be easy to find, bold and optimized for click to call

 

Website Tools for SEO, Analytics, and Optimizing Your Landing Page

Your goals can help you to decide which tools work best for you, while providing the most bang for your buck.Having said that, it’s important to keep SEO in mind when you’re working on website design.

 

Be sure you understand the basics of how search engines work, the technical aspects of SEO, and how analytics can help you to keep up-to-date with your changing audience. Website tools are not “set and forget” types of tools. You must be vigilant to address your audience’s changing needs or hire someone to help you stay on top of them.

 

Working the Website and Working the Crowd

If you land on a website and it’s not working immediately, what do you do? Most people leave within the first few seconds.

 

Be sure someone from your organization has been designated to regularly check the overall look of your website, each link, button, interface, etc. to ensure your user experience is the very best, every time. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Your website should also be feedback friendly. As consumers we want to be heard, so do your users. Your product and website should incorporate their suggestions for changes and improvements, listen and recognize the silent, but strong voices of social media pundits and influencers, they have a lot to say.

 

One Last Thought. . .

Just like you need more than a hammer to build a house, building a website takes a lot of tools. There’s no magic design or tool to make your website and product a success, it’s a combination of a variety of components. Take the time to explore your options, understand the tools and resources available to you, listen to your audience, and make changes. Rinse, repeat.

 

 

Website Design with SEO in Mind: What You Need to Know

Most business owners know that search engine optimization (SEO) is important to the health of their website, but many don’t realize that SEO needs to be an integral part of website design from the get-go, not something that’s added as an afterthought.

 

Why? At its core, an SEO-friendly website will allow search engines to easily read pages across your site. The easier it is for a search engine to “crawl” and understand your site content, the better your website’s rankings in the search engine result pages.

 

But building a website that’s SEO-friendly and accurately represents your business and services takes careful planning, and can be complicated for businesses that have a difficult time documenting exactly what they do. So first things first.

 

If your website hasn’t been created around a digital marketing plan with a clear value proposition and business model, revisit that before anything else. If that’s all good, let’s continue.

 

Creating an SEO-Friendly Website

So how do you ensure that you cover all your SEO bases during website design, or redesign?

 

Here’s what you need to know about creating an SEO-friendly website:

 

Cover the Fundamentals:

  • Hosting – If your site is slow, your visitors will be unhappy and leave your page in the blink of an eye. Make sure your hosting follows these basic rules: be where your audience is, be fast, and be platform-specific when needed.
  • Domains – Your domain should make sense and relate to what you do, and all variations and subdomains should point at your main site.
  • CMS – The content management system (CMS) can greatly influence your success. With that in mind, choose the CMS that’s right for your needs, not the one a web company prefers.

 

Make Crawling Easy for Search Engines:

  • Indexation – Search engines need to read content to understand your site. For this reason, the primary content of your site should remain text-based, not images, flash, or video. Images, PDFs, videos, and content are also important and can be a great source of traffic for your site, but they need to be indexable.
  • Link structure – To index content beyond the homepage, you’ll need internal links that search engines can crawl. Tools like XML sitemaps, search engine directives, and your primary navigation can all help search engines discover new pages and crawl your site.

 

Structure Your Site So It’s Easy To Understand:

  • Categories, subcategories, and pages – These should be organized in a way that makes sense to users and search engines, with a clear and direct path. For most websites, a 3 to 4 level approach, where content can be easily reached within 3 to 4 clicks, works best.
  • URLs – Much like categories, subcategories, and pages, URLs can give further context to the information available. Follow a naming convention that makes it easy for users and search engines to understand.
  • Navigation – Equally important, navigation works with the structure, the URLs, and other components to help explain what each page is about. It can be easy to get wrong, and should be carefully considered before building your site. Great navigation will be easy for users to understand, and require little thinking on their part. Ensure your navigation is aa easy and natural as possible to prevent user frustration and confusion.

 

Bottom line? If your website is designed with SEO in mind, users and search engines will be able to quickly navigate and understand what your site is about, leading to happy users and better Google rankings.

 

 

Why Your Website Needs SSL Certification

You may have heard of SSL certificates, but do you know why they’re so important in 2018?

Before we discuss the benefits of SSL certification, let’s understand what it is. SSL is an acronym for Secure Sockets Layer. SSL certificates provide a secure connection between a customer’s browser and your server, ensuring that confidential information is protected along the way from online theft.

Here are 5 reasons why SSL certification is important for your website:

 

 

  1. It stops information theft.
    SSL technology creates a secure connection between web servers and browsers by encrypting data as it passes through, making it readable only by the party it’s intended for. This protects sensitive personal data, such as passwords and credit card numbers, from being intercepted and stolen on the way to your website.
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  3. It gives people visiting your site a sense of security.
    An SSL certificate shows visitors that you value their security and that your website is a safe to browse, interact with, and shop from. And it’s very easy for users to see if your website is SSL secure by looking at the URL structure of your website. If it starts with “http”, it is not secure. If it starts with “https”, it is secure. With online identity theft on the rise, people are paying attention and seeking out secure sites, making information security more important than ever.
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  5. It’s a necessity for online payments.
    The Payment Card Industry (PCI) requires that any website accepting payments with an encryption of at least 128-bit is required to have an SSL certificate.
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  7. SSL certification can boost your Google ranking.
    Google uses HTTPS as a ranking signal. Although Google refers to it as a “very lightweight signal”, it still gives an advantage to websites that have implemented HTTPS, and every little bit helps with Google rankings. As more and more websites switch over to SSL certification, having a secure HTTPS connection will become essential for improving your Google ranking.
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  9. Google has made it mandatory in 2018.
    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, on January 1, 2018, Google starting flagging websites that don’t have SSL certification. With this change, if a user tries to visit a site without SSL certification, a ‘Not Secure’ message will appear. With security paramount for website users, a ‘not secure’ message will prompt users to leave immediately, a potential disaster for awebsite.

 

Richard Zion, Qiigo’s SEO Manager, explains, “Adding an SSL certificate and switching to https demonstrates to users that you take the security of your site seriously.”
 

In today’s world where security breaches happen so regularly, these steps help to build confidence with your customers. SSL certification can boost your Google ranking, keep sensitive data secure, and give your customers a sense of security on your website. If you don’t have an SSL certificate on your website yet, 2018 is the year to get it done.