Have you ever thought about the accessibility of your website? Or the accessibility of websites you visit? You might think that website accessibility is only important, for instance, for people who have changes in their vision and use screen readers. The accessibility of your website is critical for anyone who uses a screen reader and there is every reason to include them in the information you provide online. However, it may surprise to to learn that website accessibility helps everyone use websites with greater ease. Furthermore, being sensory-friendly overlaps with being accessible. Discover how to make your website sensory-friendly to improve your website accessibility and include more people online.
What is a sensory-friendly website?
First of all, it is important to understand the features of a sensory-friendly website. However, it is important to note that creating a sensory-friendly website can look different for different websites. Neither sensory-friendly websites, nor accessible websites are meant to be identical. Moreover, people have different sensory preferences. Therefore, it is important to understand how to make your website sensory-friendly for different senses. You have eight senses, not just five. Most importantly, sensory-friendly websites in particular, are friendly for what you see and hear and how you navigate (move around the website). Furthermore, sensory-friendly websites make your information easy to understand.
Who benefits from a sensory-friendly website?
Fundamentally, everyone benefits from a sensory-friendly website; just like everyone benefits from website accessibility. Regardless of your sensory needs or preferences. Below are some common scenarios that make a sensory-friendly website beneficial:
- Navigating a website on a small screen, like a phone or tablet;
- Being in bright light, e.g. in the sun outdoors trying to read a screen;
- Noisy environments where people cannot listen to audio features on a website.
Although sensory-friendly websites benefit more than people with disabilities, there are certainly people who benefit more from sensory-friendly and accessibility features. For example, this may include older adults who are more likely to experience differences in their vision or hearing. In addition to people who have changes in their vision, or hearing, people with changes in their mobility or even their thinking (cognition) benefit from sensory-friendly features along with other accessibility features on websites. For instance, someone with ADHD benefits from sensory-friendly features. Likewise, someone who uses a screen reader because screens give them headaches.
Why is a sensory-friendly website important?
There are over 4.66 billion active internet users as of 2021 and 6 out of 10 people have internet access. Furthermore, 33% of the population is more likely to experience sensory sensitivity or sensory overload. The ability to easily access information on websites is helps this huge number of people.
How to create a sensory-friendly website
There is no single template for a sensory-friendly website. However, there are certain features and characteristics of your website to improve. Below are 6 tips to help make your website more sensory-friendly.
Check website accessibility
Use the many available website accessibility resources. For example, there are service providers who will check your website accessibility for your. There are also do-it-yourself resources. For instance, everyone who works on the Sensory Friendly Solutions website, completes an online course by W3C, the Web Accessibility Initiative. Sensory Friendly Solutions also uses, WAVE, a web accessibility evaluation tool. With it, you can check each page of your website to identify aspects of your website that are deemed inaccessible. Additionally, the WAVE tool will also suggest solutions to resolve any inaccessible features on your website. This may include fixing the colour scheme on your website, missing alternative text, font and suggesting changes to sentence structure. Improving website accessibility is a journey not a destination, and it is one Sensory Friendly Solutions is on with you!
Add alternative text
Including alternative text (alt-text) for images on your website is essential to be accessible and sensory-friendly. For example, alternative text helps people who use screen readers to recognize images on a website. As aforementioned, people use screen readers for lots of different reasons. Alt-text is a simple description of any image on your website. Typically, these descriptions are only one sentence long and use simple terms to describe each image. As a bonus, adding alt text improves the search engine optimization on your website, too!
Use simple language
Another important aspect of making your website more sensory-friendly is focusing on the content of your web pages. It is crucial to use simple language in your copy and design. People have different levels of literacy. Many people read websites in their second or third language, and may be less fluent. Finally, you are absorbing so much information each day, reducing the “cognitive load” of what you read and hear, helps you to understand it. Use simple words, less complex words and phrases.
Make sentences short
Furthermore, it is important to have short sentences. Use 15 or fewer words in each sentence, on average. For example, split larger sentences into shorter ones. If you present two ideas in a sentence, make it 2 sentences, instead.
Increase colour contrast
Another important aspect of a sensory-friendly website is having sufficient colour contrast on your website, especially between font color and background color. A good contrast ratio makes your website easily read. That is true for everyone and not just people with changes in their vision. There are free, online, contrast checkers you can use to help.
No moving text
Additionally, it is essential to not include any moving text on your website. Oftentimes, websites have moving banners with written text that has important information on them. Moving text is difficult for most people to read and understand at a glance. Moreover it is impossible for a screen reader to decipher. It excludes your important content from people with lower literacy, people reading in their second language, someone with ADHD or using a screen reader.
Make simple sensory-friendly changes and your website becomes more accessible, understood and enjoyed by many more people.
Interested in learning other strategies to make your business sensory-friendly? Check out:
- How to Create Sensory-Friendly Emails
- Make Your Virtual Meetings Sensory-Friendly
- Good Presentation Skills: Make it Sensory-Friendly
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