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Andy Hagans Talks Accessibility

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Andy Hagans, of Andy Hagans Link Building fame and his relatively new SEO blog, Tropical SEO sat down with me to talk accessibility.

Unbeknownst to most, accessibility is actually Andy’s third love (first is his mother, second is SEO). Andy is somewhat of a perfectionist which lends well to his accessibility skills because it can be a very time consuming task that requires a lot of little fixes. Accessibility is often overlooked when planning or improving website usability, but it in fact is the basic building block of usability. Andy provides his thoughts below:

ConvertUp: What is accessibility and how does it relate to usability?

Andy: Accessibility is giving people the ability to access your content, regardless of their limitations, device, or platform; that encompasses all types of situations—for instance, can someone on a mobile phone use your site? How about someone using the Netscape 3 browser? How does your design degrade? What if a visually-impaired person bumps the text size up by 3 points, will this “break” your design?

Accessibility and usability are joined at the hip. If someone can’t access your website, they can’t even begin to use it successfully.

ConvertUp: Does making your site accessible make it more SEO friendly?

Andy: Ha, funny you should ask. I contributed an article to A List Apart on the very subject.

ConvertUp: Do you see web-site accessibility heating up as a cultural or political issue in the near future?

Andy: Well it’s political in the sense that it’s legislated; governmental sites, for instance, have certain accessibility standards they are required to meet. Otherwise they would be discriminating against certain groups (for instance, the visually impaired). If a major company’s website isn’t very accessible, that also has the potential to turn into a public relations or legal problem.

Above all, I see usability and accessibility as a business case. When you make a site usable and accessible, you usually increase profits. More customers can access your site; more customers can successfully use it to achieve a goal. Who doesn’t want increased sales?

ConvertUp: What is a reasonable accessibility standard someone’s site should pass?

Andy: There is no short answer to this question. Sites of different reach, scope and audience should be held to different accessibility standards.

There’s also quite a spectrum, and accessibility standards change over time (and, in fact, many smart people disagree on what should be the standard in the first place). If you’re even thinking about accessibility, and integrating it into your design process, you’re well ahead of most people. If you absolutely need a “rulebook”, check out the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (and note that achieving even Level 1 compliance puts a web page above 99% of what’s out there).

ConvertUp.com: Can you give some tips to help people get started making their site more accessible right away?

Andy: Sure. First, I always like to do two things to show people how inaccessible their current site is: number one, bump up your font size a few times in your browser. This is what some of your visually impaired users are looking at. Still proud of your design? Number two, turn off stylesheets and browse your site. Still proud of your markup and content organization?

The good news is, this stuff isn’t rocket science, and you can learn the basics in a week: start with Dive Into Accessibility.org.

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