Website Accessibility, Compatibility and Search Engine Optimisation

Avec Solutions recommends that its clients seek to make their websites accessible to the widest possible audience, including those ‘browsing’ the web using alternative technologies such as those used by people with various disabilities (e.g. large-print or audio browsers for those with visual impairments) as well as mobile phones, PDAs, etc. This recommendation is a point of principle, though it also meets the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.

The best way of ensuring this is to comply as far as possible with the guidelines of the Web Accessibility Initiative (see www.w3.org/wai for details), which includes such things as using only structural/semantic elements in HTML code and separating out all design features into Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) files, as well as ensuring that alternate text is available for all graphical elements. We will ensure the website meets a minimum of AA standard for accessibility.

In our experience the main obstacle to maintaining website accessibility is the need for staff looking after the site to make sure that all content updates and amendments comply with accessibility standards. We will therefore ensure that handling accessibility issues forms part of the training process.

As search engines like Google will ‘read’ the website in much the same way as a special browser for the visually impaired would, search engine optimisation (SEO) is also directly related to making the website accessible at the design level. Likewise, keeping to web standards will ensure compatibility with all major modern web browsers (which our developers test at every stage of the development process as well as in the site testing/troubleshooting phase before launch).

Accessible and SEO-friendly content is also a function of proper writing, editing and semantic markup (eg headers, subheadings, proper use of strong/emphasised text and linked text words), and we do not simply provide the website framework and tools for this, but also active assistance to our clients as this content preparation is undertaken.