web accessibility and site design tools

image via istockphoto@1270220360

The initial design and launch of your website and online business is going to be one of the most exciting times for your new brand. During this time you will plan out the colors of your site, creating a logo design and also coming up with the different types of site content you will create for your audience.

However, another important aspect of your site, is going to be it’s accessibility for users, and how they engage with the content of your site. This is especially true if you are going to have a business or service that provides users with a way to order products or services through your site.

With all of this in mind, today we are going to highlight some of the most important things you need to be aware of when designing and launching your site for the first time. We’ll also be covering some of the best tools and solutions to help you through the optimization and site experience process.

These key elements include web accessibility guidelines, responsive usage across all platforms and knowing how to maximize the focus on your site content and call to actions while limiting distractions. By focusing your efforts on these key areas, your site visitors will always have the best experience possible.

web devices options

Web Accessibility

For most site owners, the idea of web accessibility is making sure your site is accessible and able to be used by all audiences. When looking at your site and seeing that it’s online and fully functional, one might think it’s web accessible and fully compliant.

This would be true for the average site visitor, but what most site owners don’t realize is that there is a massive audience out there with existing disabilities and limitations that can lead them to not being able to fully experience your site or the services offered. For example, would your site be easily accessible by someone with ADHD, or someone with limited vision, or could possibly be set into a seizure should flashing banner ads appear on the screen?

Even more than just a good business practice and making sure your site is compliant to all users, it’s also a law and regulation to have such measures in place. Two regulations in reference to web accessibility that are getting a lot of attention lately, are The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

When it comes to making sure your site is ADA and WCAG compliant, one of the best solutions out there is accessiBe. This solution has the ability to display an Accessibility Application on your site, making its content, colors, brightness and more, all fully customizable to the special needs of your audience.

Along with the guidelines issued by ADA and WCAG, accessiBe also has a free accessibility tool called aCe that allows site owners to run a free report on their site.

ace homepage
After submitting your site URL, aCe will then provide the site owner with any necessary recommendations to become fully compliant. These changes can be made manually through the use of a custom web designer and programmer, or by simply using accessiBe and “Set and Forget” (SmallBizTrends).

Responsive

Outside of the necessary web accessibility guidelines in place, there are other guidelines that you will need to follow as well — this time they are coming right from the top at Google.

With Google’s job being to provide the best search results and user experience to every visitor using their search results, they also need to make sure they are responsive across all devices as well. And this is especially true with more people accessing the internet through mobile devices and tablets.

For sites that are not mobile-responsive, Google may not only push down the rankings for that individual site, they might remove them from appearing on the first, second or even the third page.

To back up these statements even further, Google has provided a free mobile-friendly site checker tool to make sure your site is compliant. And if it’s not, there are several free WordPress plugins, themes and applications that can help with this process.

mobile friendly testing tools

User Engagement

The last component in the web accessibility and site design process, is to make sure that your site and content flow in a manner where they compliment each other. After all, if you have an end goal for what users should do when they get to your site, and you are distracting them with poor navigation or flashy banner ads, you’re ultimately shooting yourself in the foot.

A good tool to help with such optimization of site content and user engagement is CrazyEgg. Through the use of their heatmap solutions, site owners can see what visitors are doing while on their site and see where they click and if they are focusing on your main content and call to actions.

heatmap visitorsIf they aren’t, this means you will need to put some time and effort into your site design and split testing different layouts. This can also be tracked through CrazyEgg, as it was created to help site owners fully understand their audience while on their site.

And one last takeaway from this section, is to remember that ‘less is more’. Take a look at some of the most popular sites on the internet today like DrudgeReport, CraigsList and Google. They all have extremely simple site designs that focus solely on the content and user experience.

When this is done correctly, there is almost no way to mess up a positive user engagement and experience while on your site.

How to Build a Business Around Your Audience

Website accessibility and site design are two of the most important components of any website. Even if a site has the best quality content ever written, but the usability and site structure is horrible… then all is lost when it comes to the end user and their experience while on your site.

As an online website or business owner, one must always remember that the visitors to your site are real people and not just another number in your analytics report.

Cater to the needs of your audience and always provide them with the best on-site experience possible, and they will remember you for it, and likely come back again and again.