Web writers should know how to check if their content is accessible, especially if they’re editing or updating content they didn’t create. It’s not a difficult skill to learn, and a few simple tools will help. In this article, I discuss evaluating content against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.
Web writers must provide a text alternative for informative or functional images they use in their content. But what should you do when the image also needs a caption? Three methods are commonly used, but none is ideal. In this article I’ll explain why and suggest an alternative.
If you want to write better web content, here’s an A-Z that should help. It covers attributes of quality content and issues you should be aware of as a web writer.
A CMS can create problems for your content if you let it generate file names or text alternatives for images. This article discusses system behaviour to watch out for.
I’m often asked about the differences between writing for the web and writing for print. Writers are aware that they need to take a different approach, and most understand they’re writing for an audience that may be scan-reading and task-focused. They know they need to be more concise, and take care with content layout. But they have a sense that there’s more they need to know.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 requires consistent labelling of the functional parts of web pages. If identical functions have different labels on different pages,you may make your site confusing or harder for people to learn to use—particularly people with cognitive impairments. Here are some of the issues web writers need to be aware of.
In some languages, words or characters may have different meanings depending on their pronunciation. In English, heteronyms are an example. For instance, ‘content’ could be a reference to the way someone is feeling, or to the words on this page.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 suggest we write content that requires reading skills no more advanced than lower secondary education level (7 to 9 years of education). This article discussed measuring reading level and writing content that is easier to read.
We use abbreviations because they save time when talking and writing. However, some abbreviations are not widely used and may confuse users if you include them in your web content. This article discusses why you should avoid using abbreviations, and what to write instead.
People with certain cognitive, language or learning disabilities may find it hard to understand your content if you use unusual words or use words in unusual ways. Jargon and idioms are the two examples of this type of language. Avoiding jargon and idioms will make your content more accessible—and not just to people with disabilities.
If you use foreign language words or phrases in your content, you should identify them by using the appropriate language attribute in the markup for your page. This will ensure that screen readers use the right pronunciation rules for the language and web browsers display the characters for the language properly. This is particularly important if the language uses a different alphabet or is read from right to left.
Use headings to organise the sections or topics within an article or document. Headings break content into more manageable chunks, making a page or topic easier to understand. You can use visual elements (boxes, lines and so on) to complement headings, but you cannot rely on them as they will not be accessible to all users.
Write descriptive headings, sub-headings and labels for content. This will help users understand what your content is about, decide if it is relevant and go directly to the information they are looking for. Descriptive headings and labels are important for people with disabilities. People who read slowly or have problems with short-term memory will benefit from well-labelled chunks of content, rather than having to take in the entire page or article. Vision impaired users of screen reading software will be able to skip to and read each heading to get the gist of the content. Those using screen magnifiers will also be able to get a quicker overview.
Write links that clearly describe their purpose or content. Meaningful links make content more usable. They usually stand out on a web page (as they’re a different colour and underlined), so anyone who can see the page can scan it and identify the linked content. Search engine optimisation experts tell us that meaningful links can improve search ranking, making content easier for users to find. Meaningful links are vital for making content more accessible to people with disabilities.
Descriptive page titles help users find content, decide quickly if it is relevant, orient themselves when they have multiple pages or tabs open, and re-find content using their browser favorites or bookmarks and history. Many web pages have poor page titles. PDF, Word and PowerPoint documents usually fare worst, with many having no title.