Attention to accessibility issues benefits all mobile computing users


With global mobile phone use at an all time high, there has been a surge of interest in developing websites that are accessible from a mobile device. Similarly, making websites accessible for people with disabilities is an integral part of high quality websites, and in some cases a legal requirement.

This is the opening statement of web standards organisation W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) report on content accessibility and mobile web, which highlights the overlap in good practice in making your web content perform well on mobile devices AND being accessible for users whose disabilities create barriers to their web use. Mobile computing (for the sake of this article, smartphones and tablet computers) is expanding rapidly from all angles: in terms of the numbers of users, the range and diversity of devices and the technical infrastructure necessary to deliver high volumes of data to people on the move. But why should you make the effort to make your mobile site accessible?

From a business perspective alone, the numbers present a compelling argument. In Ireland alone, recent research by Eircom suggests that 1.3 million people wish to stay connected 24/7. The typical Irish home now has four potential online devices. Tablet ownership has doubled in the last six months: 1.2 million people will have access to a tablet by the end of the year. With consumers increasingly liberated from the constraints of desktop computing, the ability to offer goods and services on a site optimised for a mobile platform is moving quickly from being a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ for businesses if they want to keep a commercial edge.

Accessibility is an issue that W3C give a high priority. While there is no comprehensive minimum technical requirement for an ideally optimised mobile website, WAI’s paper Essential Components of Web Accessibility sets criteria – general and technical – that accessible websites on all platforms should address. But what is the connection between accessibility and general good practice for mobile content? At the most basic level, and aside from compliance with discrimination legislation, what is good for accessibility is good for your site as a whole: anything that makes your site easier to use will improve your site’s overall performance.

This principle is particularly true for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Attention paid to SEO that also addresses accessibility issues – good meta information, language attributes and alternative text descriptions for image files, for instance – will also improve your overall ranking in search results. Good, honest and straightforward content and design that offers high contrast, high visibility calls to action will make your mobile web experience better and more satisfying to use for everyone. And that’s good for your business.

Contact us to find out how we can help you address your accessibility issues and improve your site’s performance.