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A World Wide Web for All: Making happy experiences accessible

Imagine the feeling you get when you discover something new and exciting. Immediately, my first instinct is to share whatever it is. Maybe it’s my Millennial showing, but what brings me some of the greatest delight in the world is sharing and enjoying something I love with someone I love. This applies to any experience. Whether it be soaking in the magic of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with a fellow fan or sharing the dazzling animations and intricacies of a newly found website with a friend, it’s always better done with (at least) two. My burning desire to see someone else enjoy what I enjoy could perhaps be attributed to the fact that I’m an ENFP, but I believe every person craves this shared happiness ⁠— no matter your introverted or extroverted tendencies. Without a doubt, my favorite part of any experience has always been the exciting validation of mutual joy rather than my own singular joy.

All in all, I truly believe happiness is best shared.

This is where accessibility comes in. It doesn’t begin and end at physical entrances and exits, but the need for accessibility through cyberspace has grown exponentially and parallel to the rapid growth of our internet. In today’s fast-paced, modern world, it’s no longer a mere suggestion or “nice to have” — it’s required (and I mean this legally too). Before getting into the nitty gritty details and legalities of web accessibility, I want to first explain why it’s important. As referenced earlier, I believe that if we cannot share an experience than the value of that experience has diminished.

So is your website truly marvelous if not all can relish in its marvel?

Accommodating to different disabilities communicates more than just accessibility. It shows that you’re thoughtful, inclusive, and willing to put in all the extra time and effort needed to ensure a universally joyous experience. These traits are essential for building a strong foundation and establishing yourself as a company that cares. In the long run, fortifying your brand with these fundamental values and details will prove worth it ten fold. Not to mention, it will save you a lot of money and headaches from potential lawsuits. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act is being interpreted to include websites as “places of public accommodation”. Websites with major inaccessible components can be seen as discriminatory against persons with disabilities, in violation of Title III of the ADA, so it’s important to understand the gravity of these legalities and make these vital changes ASAP.

Now it’s time to work some magic.

You can use these illustrations and summaries to get started auditing your own website for accessibility, but feel free to check out the full, detailed list of Web Accessibility Standards here. I’ll use our Black Magic website to illustrate some factors of accessibility that you’ll need to consider when creating or modifying your website. You’ll want both your designer and developer to be mindful of these details, so make sure they read this too!

Here’s a quick barebones look at the list itself, and I’ll highlight the major and personally applicable ones in summaries below.

Website Presentation:

  • Descriptive text
  • Nested Headings
  • Color alone does not convey meaning
  • Clear forms
  • Uniform labels
  • Clean code

This section is all about the overall appearance of your website. Think of it as your final runthrough before presentation day. Did you proof everything for errors? Exterminate all bugs and 404 pages because broken links not only make your important content inaccessible but it communicates unprofessionalism and poor attention to detail. Besides clearing your site for details like coherent descriptive text and straightforward forms, it’s also essential to account for the comprehensibility of your overall message. Avoid a questionable modern art moment and making viewers guess what you’re saying through artistic colors and patterns by ensuring an alternative means for communication. Full-proofing your website through all of these extra steps will ensure the smoothest presentation possible, so at the very least you won’t have to worry about any technical difficulties getting in the way of acquiring new customers.

Website Appearance:

  • Zoom text
  • Color contrast ratio
  • Distinctive links
  • Consistent layout and navigation

Have you ever been immediately turned off from a website by a mere 5-second glance (or more accurately, cringe) at the color scheme? Imagine reading Comic Sans orange text on a green background — our eyes hurt just thinking about it too. Dig at the meme-abley dated font aside, people make both subtle and dramatically poor color choices all the time. Accessible.org states that all text must have a color contrast ratio of 4.5:1 against its background. Not only is this a positive choice in terms of aesthetics, but it’s key to guaranteeing all text will be legible and as a result, more likely read.

Refer to The Black Book as a key example of our own color consideration. Taking into account that this would be the blog portion of our website and therefore extremely text-heavy, we added an option to read blog posts over a dark or light background. I personally find consuming copious amounts of text to be more palatable over a light background, but we got you covered no matter your preference.

Content Alternatives:

  • Descriptive alt text
  • No images of text
  • Text transcripts
  • Closed captioning
  • Table data
  • Extraneous documents

Sometimes you don’t want just simple text throughout your entire website. You want to stand out, so you hire a graphic designer to add major sparkle and pizzaz to the text on your site. Poof! Now your text pops with stunning graphics and PNGs. That’s all fine and fun until someone’s screen reader completely misses all of that significant content because you put all your text in images or forgot to provide the crucial descriptive alt text. It’s great to spiff up the visual experience of your site, but be sure not to disregard the auditory ones in the process.

Here on our About page, we have an awesome tarot card slider that more uniquely tells the story of our philosophy. To avoid losing this valuable content for our disabled users, we created two components for this section. The text side of each card remains true text rather than an image of text (contrary to how it appears), and for the graphic side of each card, we added all the appropriate descriptive alt texts. This ensures the flow and functionality of this neat slider concept without sacrificing the integrity of the communicated message.

User Control:

  • No automatic pop-ups
  • No automatic video or audio
  • No unexpected changes
  • Pause updating/refreshing content
  • Adjust time limits
  • Important submissions

Bombarding people with a million pop-ups never did anyone good. Avoid looking Spam-tastic and overwhelming your audience with sudden and unexpected changes by doing away with automatic video and audio. People like to be in control of their own web experiences as much as possible, so don’t forcibly push your content on viewers (no matter how awesome it is). Say goodbye to autoplay, and let users discover the incredible ins and outs of your sites themselves. It’s part of the fun!

Not to spoil the surprise, but we added a special, personal touch to the Team section of our About page. Users get to interact with our team through an iMessage conversation, but notice how these text conversations don’t play unless you prompt them to. This allows you, the user, total control. Just click around to enjoy a fun and unique way to get to know our team!

Website Usability:

  • Keyboard only
  • Focus indicator
  • Skip navigation
  • Search function
  • Sitemap
  • Language

When every website is trying to outshine the next through flashy video and animations, navigating the World Wide Web can be intimidating. Sometimes links aren’t clear and finding your way around a page can be difficult. It can be even harder if you struggle with a disability and using your mouse isn’t exactly easy. This is why you need to make your website fully functional via keyboard. If your website is unexplorable, it doesn’t matter how magnificent it is. It’s so important to accommodate for users who can only browse using their keyboard because if it’s not a choice for them, it shouldn’t be one for you. No one should feel excluded from your magical web experience.

Our website is fully keyboard functional, so everyone can experience the charm and enchantment of Black Magic no matter what device they’re using.

Web accessibility is non-negotiable because inaccessible beautiful websites are nothing but a waste of beauty. Imagine what it feels like to be excluded from a friend’s birthday party or left out of an inside joke. It’s a thousand times worse when it’s not your choice. Do away with creating cyber FOMO, and start making changes that improve your website’s accessibility today.

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Making the internet a happier place™
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