man on laptop with headphones
Too many businesses see web accessibility as a burden rather than an opportunity to improve everyone's user experience PHOTO: Simon Abrams

When you provide a great digital experience to each customer, you’ve not only likely won their immediate business (and perhaps that of their social circle), but you've also begun to establish long-term customer loyalty. 

But fail to deliver fully accessible digital content, and you ignore the needs of one billion potential customers, and possibly forfeit the opportunity to engage with them for good.

Ensuring every piece of your digital content is easily findable, searchable, navigable and consumable is no easy matter, but it’s vital to address. After all, there is no standard online path for how and when a consumer will engage with your company. The customer might choose to reach you at any time, by accessing one of the tens to hundreds of digital interactions you provide, the majority of which involve some form of content. 

Simply put, each and every digital content asset you produce is important and must be accessible by all customers.

Web Accessibility Benefits Everyone’s User Experience 

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) describes web accessibility as “essential for some, useful for all,” with benefits for every user. The W3C established the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which form the basis of much of the accessibility legislation around the world.

Adhering to the WCAG guidelines means ensuring an additional one billion people can find, navigate and access your content. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as many as 15 percent of the world’s 7.5 billion population have some kind of disability or impairment, which includes visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning and neurological disabilities. That one billion or so people represent tremendous spending power that goes unrealized for companies which don’t provide fully accessible digital content.

Providing all users with open and equal access to your content is, in the words of UK bank and financial services company Barclays, not only “the right thing to do” but also “makes good commercial sense.”

Unfortunately, accessibility is all too often an area which companies overlook when thinking about digital content, or which they only address in hindsight rather than building accessibility in from the start.

As the old adage has it, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s a lot cheaper to act now to resolve issues than deferring resolution to a later date when those issues will have significantly worsened, and require more resources to fix them.

Implement DQM to Comply with Accessibility Standards

By putting in place a digital governance tool, you can make sure your digital content is fully compliant with the W3C’s WCAG standards. The Digital Quality Management (DQM) software suite gives you the ability to centrally manage all your digital content and to catch and fix errors before, during or after content publication. DQM can crawl your entire website (or multiple websites) and flag issues with content you published years ago.

DQM has baked-in checkpoints for accessibility, which map to the latest WCAG accessibility standards. By being able to identify all accessibility issues across their entire digital content portfolio, companies can prioritize what needs to be fixed when. 

Companies can also use DQM's website dashboards to monitor and track their progress to accessibility compliance and compare goals across different areas of their business. Companies may additionally choose to benchmark their performance against that of other websites within their organization.

Inclusive Digital Experiences Limit Risks and Create Opportunities

Fear of sizable fines and lengthy, potentially brand-damaging litigation may drive some companies to invest in DQM, particularly if they’ve already been the target of a web accessibility lawsuit. But fixing accessibility issues under a legally mandated deadline is both time-consuming and expensive.

Meanwhile, other companies recognize the opportunities afforded by becoming compliant with web accessibility standards.

The WCAG guidelines enshrine best practices for building inclusive digital experiences for everyone, not only people with disabilities. That’s because the recommendations improve readability across devices including older technologies, and they provide better support for lower bandwidth areas.

Every customer benefits from websites which, for instance, make use of strong color contrast, offer clearly titled and well laid-out web pages, provide audio captions to videos, and enable website pinch-and-zoom functionality. Companies can use accessibility best practices to help inform content creation across their entire organization including third parties such as agencies.

Don’t Neglect Web Accessibility 

It’s time to stop treating web accessibility as an afterthought. Fixing lack of compliance with accessibility standards is costly not only to a company’s bottom line, but can also negatively impact its reputation with customers.

By applying digital governance in the form of DQM, companies can get ahead of accessibility issues and provide digital content which is readily searchable, findable, navigable and consumable by all audiences. After all, your content should facilitate customer experiences, not obstruct them.

This is the second in a series of articles from Crownpeak making the case for customer adoption of Digital Quality Management (DQM) software. The first article in the series is here.