Why accessibility is important in content management

Accessibility is more important than ever. Within the framework of our own research and development process, we have recognised what is often still neglected in marketing and communication today.

How do we arrive at such a statement? How do we recognise what is relevant and what can you improve in this context?

How we keep our finger on the pulse …

Since the middle of 2018, regular internal “R&D meetings” have taken place at YOUNITY. “R&D” stands for Research & Development, which is mainly known from the departments of the same name in large companies that strive for their own innovations. At YOUNITY, there is no “research and development” as such. However, our R&D meetings have various objectives – mainly, they offer a platform to mutually deal with technological questions in the team that go beyond daily business. This not only broadens our horizons, but also motivates us to always analyse state-of-the-art technologies for our customers. Because those who know us know that we always have our finger on the pulse of technology. But that’s not always easy – focusing on the right current and future trends takes a lot of time and a certain thirst for knowledge. During the R&Ds, we observe various developments and look at them together as a team. From blockchain, software version management, robotic process automation and web technologies to abstract areas such as quantum computers, we have already dealt with a wide range of topics and held workshops. In this way, we keep a wide variety of technologies on the radar and decide together what to use, observe, try out or delve into.

However, our meetings and workshops also aim to refresh certain areas that can sometimes unfortunately be somewhat forgotten by clients and service providers in our environment. This can concern cybersecurity, for example, but also other very important topics such as accessibility. The latter was the focus of the R&D meeting a fortnight ago.

What is Accessibility?

We have noticed that the terms usability and accessibility are often confused. Let’s clarify this for a moment:

  • Usability refers to user-friendliness, or rather usability. The term describes the usability of systems, devices, etc. The easier and faster users achieve their personal goals, the more usable a product is.
  • Accessibility describes how offerings can be used without restriction by all users, regardless of their limitations or technical capabilities. Accessibility is often abbreviated to “A11y” in the developer community.

So we looked at what needs to be considered, especially in digital channels such as websites, in order to include as few barriers as possible. Barriers that play a role for a wide range of people with various disabilities.

Affected people … and search engines!

When you talk about accessibility, you should think as broadly as possible, because accessibility should be an integral part of projects and taken into account in every (internet) strategy. Internet services provided by the Swiss state and federal companies must by law be accessible to people with disabilities without any aggravating conditions. You should also consider what limitations, for example, the website visitors might have. This certainly includes visual impairments or blindness, but the list is (unfortunately) much longer. When planning and developing a website or other digital output, always think about possible limitations and barriers. The following non-exhaustive list can help you:

  • Visual impairment and colour blindness
  • Age-related restrictions
  • Motor disorders, spasticity
  • Use of screen readers or other supporting software and hardware (Braille line, pointer, etc.)
  • Deafness
  • cognitive disabilities
  • Lack of language skills
  • Lack of interaction/navigation skills
  • Lighting conditions, infrastructure (loading times), etc.
  • mobile devices
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Gross motor skills
  • and many more…

Everyone benefits from accessibility! Because complying with and optimising accessibility has positive effects on search engines (SEO), mobile users, senior citizens, inexperienced users and many more. For these reasons, we recommend taking accessibility seriously and complying with it as far as possible.

Simple techniques and ways to reduce barriers

In the case of websites, a great deal can be achieved with a few simple means. Many barriers can be removed, for example, by the editorial team and by people with channel and content responsibility. Below are a few examples of what can be considered when creating content for digital channels:

  • Content structure (headings, text lengths, outline …)
  • Writing style (simple understandable language, choice of (foreign) words …)
  • Compliance with title hierarchies (correct reproduction of the content structure, sequences …)
  • Correct use of elements (lists, tables, mark-ups …)
  • Descriptions, subtitles and transcripts (images/tables, videos, audio, links …)

Furthermore, the development and UX/UI side should consider topics such as:

  • Avoiding workarounds such as text on image, tables for layout purposes
  • Positioning of elements
  • Consideration of principles of dialogue design such as controllability, fault tolerance, conformity to expectations, etc.
  • Use of tools, e.g. WCAG checkers, checklists, etc.

Learnings

  • Accessibility means: Usable for all. Technology is more powerful when it can be used by everyone. Keep this in mind in your omni-channel communication!
  • Adhering to basic rules in content management also favours mobile users, the hearing and visually impaired, senior citizens, inexperienced users, people with motor or cognitive disabilities, etc.
  • Accessibility is also SEO!
  • Accessibility does not only apply to web pages. PDFs, audio, video, etc. are also affected. This is especially important when multiple channels (omni-channel communication) need to be considered.
  • Different stakeholders can play their part. For example, designers (font sizes, contrasts, …), editors (simple language, title hierarchies, …) and developers (use of WAI-ARIA, avoidance of annoying JavaScript, …).
  • By law (since 1 January 2004), internet services provided by the Swiss state (Confederation, cantons, municipalities and companies close to the Confederation/administration) must be accessible to people with disabilities without any aggravating conditions.
  • Accessibility should be taken into account in requirements management so that the requirements can be fulfilled.

Further links

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