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Why should your website be more accessible?

braille message on laptop

‘make websites accessible’ in braille

Why wouldn’t we want to make our website accessible to all sorts of people, including people with limited abilities (such as visually or hearing impaired people)?

I read yesterday that a court case in the USA is showing that many sites are not easily accessible to the disabled (visually impaired people on this specific case) and may actually be breaking the law by excluding accessibility considerations. Legal aspects of accessibility I know nothing about, but morally and from a business perspective, I know an accessible site is a good aim.

Why make your site accessible?

Well, why not really?

The obvious answer is that the more accessible your site is, the more people can visit it and so you increase your sales or influence by having a bigger audience. Making it accessible also builds trust and credibility for you and your brand.

Also obvious is that you are welcoming all people and being a decent human being to not make life harder for certain groups.

Would you build a cafe and not have a ramp for wheelchairs/prams or refuse to describe your menu to someone who couldn’t read it? Of course not, so why not do the same with a website?

Computers can do many things these days, so don’t assume a blind person can’t read websites so doesn’t go online. There are tools that read webpages to the blind. There are anti-spam tools that rely on audio for those who can’t read the captcha images. Text on websites can be expanded to be seen by those with limited vision.

And so on.

For someone who finds it difficult to hold a book or turn pages of a magazine, how much easier is it to move a mouse and read on a screen? Or use a verbal command to flick between webpages?

Just like a computer reading a webpage is easier than getting someone to read to you if you have limited vision.

Or a website offering written transcripts of speeches and presentations enabling the deaf to know what’s going on.

Or being able to search for a website that offers an understandable version of something for anyone with intellectual disabilities.

We can make life easier for peopleopen doors to welcome the disabled

The internet has opened so many doors for us as a society.

As website owners/managers, we can open those doors further by making our websites accessible to the disabled.

I have long added alt tags to images, for example, so a visually impaired person can be told what the image is about.

There are other things that are easily done that I wasn’t aware of. Now I am aware, I will start implementing them.

My next post will list some of the ways we can make our sites more accessible.

But what do you do on your website(s) to make it W3C compatible and accessible? Why do you make it accessible, even to a small extent?

Develop a simple internet marketing strategy

Last week, I participated in a webinar by Gihan Perera, author of Fast, flat and free: how the internet has changed your business.

There were two things from the webinar that I wanted to share (as well as all the  tips I tweeted during the webinar!) – the first being the basic aspects of an internet marketing strategy:

  1. create
    in other words, get a website and get online! Be it a static one page site, a blog or a fully interactive site with hundreds of pages, until you have a site it’s hard to market online
  2. generate
    write some content – preferably good content and lots of it. Put content onto your website and/or blog plus in a newsletter, webinars, podcasts and on sites like YouTube, Pinterest and Slideshare
  3. share
    let people know about your content, with the key method being social media links. Gihan suggested automating this as much as possible to save time and ensure it is done, and I agree
  4. participateGenerate conversations with website content
    get online and join in conversations! So visit other websites and comment in blogs, add reviews, join forums, respond on Facebook, tweet and retweet, answer LinkedIn questions, share interesting things and so on. This step is necessary to engage with other people and should take a large proportion of your marketing time

 

When you think of it as four simple steps like this it is a lot less intimidating and a lot more achievable, don’t you think? And it is realistic to think of it this simply rather than worrying  about a big picture that overwhelms you.

I also like the priority of generating content before you get caught up in marketing and building links – I honestly don’t think you can build a strong foundation online until you have decent content that people will want to use – and share.

So now’s your chance – add a comment to this post to boost your internet marketing and share you ideas. It’s easy, I’ll answer you and you will get a ‘dofollow’ back link so – what do you think of Gihan’s internet marketing plan?

Tell others about you

There are two main reasons people visit a website – they want information on a topic or they want information about the business behind the site.

So why do some sites avoid sharing anything about themselves?

Add an about us page to your website and blog

About us page Word ConstructionsAs Chris Lake wrote, an about us page “is surely one of the only true rules of doing business online. I can think of no good reason why you wouldn’t have one.”

An about us page can be very simple but it can make a huge difference to people thinking of doing business with you.

For a stand alone blog, it lets readers know who is writing the posts – for instance, is it a business or an individual, is it by an expert or someone learning the topic, or is the blog focussed on a specific topic or just a collection of ideas.

For a business website, it can build enough credibility for me to do business with you – or not.

How ‘about us’ can build credibility

  1. you are being open and transparent compared to making me wonder why you are hiding things – no name on a website instantly makes me suspicious
  2. providing history shows the business is more than a fly-by-night – if you’ve been in business for a few years, you must have done something right!
  3. explaining how the business began or the passion behind the business will certainly give me a believe in the intent of the business and its owners
  4. introducing team members can give me an idea of what skills are available for me as a potential client
  5. listing values or just writing a personal story can show the company culture

I have an about us page on my website and as part of my blog, even though they are on the same domain, so it is easy for people to read about me and my business. I wonder if I’m brave enough to ask if you have read either of them!

How important is an about us page when you are assessing a potential supplier or service provider?

Communicating burning messages

Driving home form a meeting on Monday night, I heard a radio program about treating burns. The content was interesting enough but one comment in particular made by Lara Harvey (BSc, MPH, PhD Student) really stood out for me.

From a survey, they have determined that most people learn first aid (and specifically first aid for burns) from first aid manuals/books (43%) and the internet (33%). {I am in the minority to have done many courses apparently.}

However, if you do a burns treatment search, the answers are not consistent. That is most sites will tell you to treat a burn with water but they vary in how long you need to do so for. {Glad to say that I teach cubs the time experts want people to know!}

Lara asked (and I’m paraphrasing as I don’t recall her exact words) “How can we let people know something so important if there is an inconsistent message out there?”

I often write about the importance of consistency within a business or brand, but there is a broader issue of consistency within an industry or topic. It only takes one person to write the wrong fact for that message to get spread and potentially cause trouble – in this example, the trouble of not cooling a burn for long enough, but it could damage an industry’s reputation, give customers unrealistic expectations or have people using products inappropriately.

There are no rules for the internet – anyone can set up a website and put whatever content they like on there. If they make it look good and promote it well, they may just get it seen by many people and influence them even if they don’t have the appropriate knowledge to start with.

Likewise there are no updating rules – a knowledgable person could upload great information but maybe it is now out of date. How does the average internet viewer know the information has changed?

So do you have any suggestions as to how consistent messages can be reported on the net? 

How did you learn about treating burns and other first aid treatments? Do you think it was effective?

ADDED NOTE: The correct first aid for a burn is to put it under cold water for 20 minutes. Running water is best (although jumping in a pool or other big volume works well, too) but even a bucket of water is better than nothing. Ice and creams are not necessary and can make things worse. Severe, chemical and large burns need medical attention. Only remove clothing if it is not sticking to skin. Keep the patient warm and offer them water to drink.

Adding depth to your website content

Earlier this week,  we looked at how shallow websites are not as valuable for your visitors or your SEO efforts so let’s look at how to improve that situation.

Shallow content is giving the minimum so by default giving more is adding depth. Simple.

How can you provide more depth to your content?Tablet content form old books

  1. generally provide more information but be careful to not just pile on so much information people get overwhelmed – there is a balance between too little and too much that will vary between pages and sites
  2. link to relevant information (on your site and elsewhere) to enhance your content without cluttering up pages with too many words and facts
  3. consider adding fresh content regularly. This could be via a blog, a social media feed, a news feed, articles or uploading your newsletter.
  4. look at every page of your site and review the content to ensure it meets the purpose of the page and answers any likely questions people would have on that topic. For example, expand on your services so they are meaningful – ‘business bookkeeping and reporting’ is better than ‘bookkeeping’ – and give some background on your about us page.
  5. look for ways to add value to people. Some examples are a hair dressing salon adding hair care tips after each service listed, a legal firm linking to definitions of common terms for relevant areas of law, and a book store including guidelines to the age suitability of each book
  6. only create a new page when there is something to add – new pages created with the same information focussed on a different keyword is not adding value and is more likely to annoy humans and search engines
  7. where relevant, add reviews and testimonials to your pages as they provide relevant content from a different perspective
  8. if you can’t see how to add depth, but suspect you need to, get others’ opinions on various pages. Remember your target audience when choosing who to ask
  9. following the usual rules of easy reading (good spelling, grammar, flow and being concise) will make any value stand out better than a page of words that are hard to interpret – sometimes adding value is done by removing the junk!
  10. add tips and ‘how to’ notes where relevant – for instance washing instructions with every clothing description and alternative uses alongside certain products can provide true value to people and potentially increase your sales
What have you done to add depth to the content on your site? Do you think this is something to get help with or easy enough to manage by yourself?

Is your website shallow?

What is the content like on your website?

A new term around at the moment refers to shallow website content, meaning content that meets any minimum expectation without any additional information or resources.
Consider the contact us page on most sites – there is very little content other than contact details. That is shallow content – although highly appropriate for a contact page!

Imagine that level of information on other pages of a site – for example, I followed a tweeted link today to a blog post that was purely a title and a link. It can be very frustrating for a person wanting to learn something if a page gives so little information, but shallow content has worked in the past for getting search engine results.

One of Google’s plans, apparently, is to make information-rich pages rank better than such shallow pages. I say bring it on!

So before Google makes that change, maybe now is the time to build up the content on your website. Even adding depth to a page a week or fortnight will improve the experience for your site visitors so what have you got to lose?

So, is your website shallow? Are there obvious questions people would have that you are not answering?

Considering an interactive website?

Having an effective interactive website is up-to-date, interesting and easy to set up but can be very time consuming, so why consider making your website interactive?

  1. it gives you fresh content which is great for SEO and getting repeat visitors
  2. you can get input and feedback from customers and visitors which can help you improve your business
  3. you can develop relationships which is good for you as a human being, puts a personal feel to your business and develops a group of people who trust you and may just recommend you
  4. build trust and credibility in you and your business by sharing information and encouraging a community
  5. it makes your site interesting and therefore gives people a reason to come back
  6. you can centralise information rather than promote various online profiles – for instance, if I can read your Tweets on your site instead of logging into Twitter I stay on your site for longer
  7. it can be an easy way to announce business news (new products, extended hours, more articles on the site, etc)
  8. you never know why you may learn from the people who decide to interact on your site – use the internet opportunities to positive effect
  9. it will certainly appeal to some groups of people and is unlikely to offend or upset other people
  10. it puts you into the ‘up-to-date’ minority, showing you have an interest inner technology and advancing your business
  11. it shows you are interested in other people and can accept their ideas

 

Making your website interactive

While I don’t think making your website interactive is necessary for a successful website, it can be very effective for a number of reasons (and I guess that will be the next post in this series!)

If you are not familiar with the online world, making an interactive website may sound a bit overwhelming and very technical – but hopefully you’re brave enough to have kept reading anyway!

Making your website more interactive can be done in a number of ways and most of them are actually quite easy to add and run.

What is harder is maintaining the interactivity – people will only interact with you if you are seen to be willing to interact regularly and if you give something interesting enough to interact with.

So if you are adding interactive features to your site, I would suggest adding one feature at a time so you can establish it before learning the next one – spreading yourself too thin won’t help your business in the long run.

Making your site interactive can be done by:

  1. adding a blog and allowing comments – software is easy to use but it takes time to think of topics and prepare the content
  2. adding a Twitter feed – there are a few ways to do this but it effectively means people can read your tweets on your website. There is no work to run the feed but managing your Twitter account can take time
  3. adding a Facebook feed – again, your Facebook updates can be read live on your site for little effort other than keeping your Facebook page up-to-date
  4. other social media feeds can also be placed on your site
  5. adding a ticket system so people can not only tell you about issues but track progress simply. This is most commonly used for IT suppliers such as web hosts and software providers
  6. introducing a discussion forum can generate a lot of interest but also requires a lot of time and effort to get enough people involved to make it work, and then maintain it in an appropriate fashion
  7. add some live chat features so people can ask questions immediately
  8. feedback forms and rating systems allow people to give you input and are probably has one of the lowest time requirements in this list
  9. various places offer the means of adding surveys, poll and quizzes that can be purely for fun, to educate or to gain information for your planning. Remember to make the content and the wording appropriate, relevant and clear
  10. if you take appointments or run events, consider adding an online booking system – this will probably save you time as well as making it easier for people to book and change appointments. If the system updates a viewable calendar and can confirm times (rather than just accepting requests), it does make your site interactive.
  11. add a wiki or other shared documents to your site if you are doing research or gathering community input
Do you have any other suggestions for making a website interactive? What have you enjoyed on other sites?

Must your website be interactive?

In a series of 10 posts, we have looked at the steps required to get your business online. Hopefully you’ve seen that getting a website up doesn’t have to be hard or very expensive, and that it can provide a lot of value to your business.

Up to a few years ago, that would be all you’d have to do to get a website up and running – with good content and links, it would probably have done quite well.

Now you will hear that people have higher expectations and that static (i.e. simple web pages that are one way only) sites are not effective.

There is an incredible number of websites out there now so competing against them all probably does need an edge such as an interactive site (where others can provide content on your site). However, you will not be competing against all those sites.

If you have been running business for a while without a website, you probably don’t need thousands of visitors to your site every week to survive. Many service based businesses also don’t need large amounts of traffic as they just need localised traffic.

While an interactive site may be more interesting and may do better than an equivalent static site, it is okay to have a static site. Here are some of my thoughts on static vs interactive sites:

  1. a static site is fine for people needing basic information about your site (e.g. a friend referred me and I need to find your phone number)
  2. a static site is better than an interactive site that is not maintained and looks rushed or empty, so if you don’t have the time or expertise to do an interactive site a static site is still valid option
  3. content is king – having quality, relevant content is critical; keeping it updated and fresh will go a long way to making your site successful
  4. know the purpose of your site and the preferences of your audience – both of these answers will influence the need of more interactivity
  5. after you’ve had a static site for a while, built up some traffic and back links and have an idea of what you’re doing, you can slowly introduce some interactivity – it doesn’t have to be done all at once nor at the start of your site
  6. making your site interactive actually isn’t very hard – making it work well is time consuming and can be challenging
So what do you think – does your website need to be interactive? Do you think all sites should be adding interactive features?

Understanding keywords in 9 steps

Once you set up your website and start reading about getting visitors (traffic) to your site, you are bound to hear about keywords (and key phrases but keywords is often used to mean both).

Here are a few points to help you understand keywords, their importance and how you can use them in your website content (and other online communications).

  1. keywords are simply words that summarise your message – don’t get caught up that they are magical or fancier than that. If you are a plumber, your keywords could be plumber, pipes, gas fitting and domestic, but would exclude business, builder and accounts.
  2. when you enter words into a search engine to find something, you are effectively using keywords. The web pages ranking highest for those keywords are what you will see in the search engine results
  3. behind each web page is some information known as meta data. This is part of how websites and search engines work, so is another aspect of using keywords as you can add a string of keywords in your meta data.
  4. make sure you use keywords that your potential customers will use
  5. don’t use too many keywords as it gets hard to read and search engines may assess it as an attempt to trick them. Always write for humans so it is interesting and relevant, rather than writing nonsense just to get keywords on a page
  6. each page on your site has a different purpose and will have different content so don’t expect each one to have exactly the same combination of keywords. In fact, search engines apparently give better ranks to sites with varied keywords across the site.
  7. specific words (e.g. dresses compared to clothes) are easier to rank well for but they are likely to have fewer searches so you need to balance which keywords are most useful to you. Of course, less effective words can still be used but just less often than your main keywords.
  8. use keywords in your online ads and directory listings, social media profiles, etc – not just in your own web pages. When you have the control, get keywords in the text of links to your site, too.
  9. within the boundaries of writing for humans, remember that keywords earlier in a piece of writing and highlighted in some way will have more impact than keywords late in the piece. (By highlighted I mean placed in a title or heading, in bold font or in italics)

Keywords help people find your messageIf you used a good web designer in creating your site, they have probably added some keywords into your meta data, headers, image descriptions and so on. Likewise, if your content was professionally written, edited or reviewed, there are likely to be some well placed keywords on your site already.

However, it is an ongoing task to keep your keywords working effectively so worth understanding even if someone else manages it for you.

This post is part of Word Constructions’ Setting up a website series
1. having a website helps more than you
2. what’s involved in setting up a website?
3. Learn about web hosting
4. Preparing your initial website content
5. Managing website design 101
6. Choosing a web designer
7. Basic web pages
8. Navigating your site
9. Making web content attractive