Enhancing Accessibility on Websites

Stephen Yagilowicz

With the broadening demographics of Internet users now encompassing nearly all of humanity (and beyond), it is vital to realize that different users have different capabilities; and many face unique challenges that prevent them from effectively using some websites.

While “designing for search engines” and other non-human entities has long been a hot topic of conversation among adult website developers, taking “the handicapped” into account could provide an equal or better amount of benefit and bottom line boost.

If your visitors are required to be able to read English (or read, period), then you have eliminated many prospects.

For example, the overall aging of the population means that your visitor’s eyesight may not be nearly as sharp as your own; and will likely have grown worse by next year. If your web design sensitivities demand small fonts, at least use a CSS switch to allow the viewer to increase the font size on large blocks of text and consider large tooltips that appear when a user hovers over small navigational icons and other tiny elements. Audio cues can even be used; however, be sure to make it an option so that inappropriate sounds do not suddenly unexpectedly and unwontedly blare from the user’s speakers.

Likewise, motor skills tend to deteriorate at an escalating rate, making it harder for a user to click on just the right spot — even if it is big enough to see — so try not to put navigational buttons or links too close together.

Language skills and reading ability also come into play. If your visitors are required to be able to read English (or read, period), then you have eliminated many prospects. Take a lesson from the airlines and those emergency evacuation instruction cards that are located in the seatback pockets: big, bold, colorful graphics that clearly illustrate vital, lifesaving procedures to a global audience with potentially limited comprehension skills.

Keep in mind the nature of adult entertainment as well. Your visitor may have great eyesight, hand-eye coordination and superb reading skills — but he may also be heavily intoxicated and visiting in the middle of the night, when his skills are highly diminished. Of course, that “relaxed” visitor may be most likely to become a paying customer, so the thought of “catering to drunks” should not be dismissed too quickly.

Some surfers need help to enjoy your site, whether it involves “plus size” fonts, better alt tags and more comprehensive element information to assist automated screen readers, or other tools. Make it easier for them to navigate and enjoy your website and you’ll reap the rewards of reaching the broadest audience possible.