June 14, 2021 Content Chat Recap: How To Create Accessible Content For Your Audience

A #ContentChat header image that says today's topic is how to create accessible content for your audience, with guest Melissa Eggleston.

When creating content for your audience, do you consider the range of potential barriers they face in consuming and understanding that content? Members of your community likely experience visual, auditory, or other circumstances that can make it difficult—if not impossible—to engage with your brand. But, there are a few simple best practices to ensure that your community can get the full value of your content.

In this #ContentChat, we’re joined by Melissa Eggleston, founder and UX designer at Birdcall, to explain how to create accessible content for your audience. Read the full chat below, where we discuss the common accessibility issues we see with brand sites and other content, how to get started in improving your content accessibility, and our go-to resources for help.

Q1: What is accessible content?

Accessible content can be consumed by as many people as possible, regardless of their abilities.

A1. It’s content that can be enjoyed/used by as many people as possible, including people with physical challenges like low vision and invisible issues that might reduce cognitive abilities #ContentChat #A11y

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

I completely agree!

There are so many new ways people enjoy our content now, such as using apps that read content aloud to them, that only work if your content is accessible.

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

A1: Delineating “accessible content” from “content” tells you most of what you need to know.

All content is content, but not all content is accessible.

Accessible content = trying your best to make it usable for as many ppl as possible, not just ppl like you. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) June 14, 2021

“Accessible” can be swapped with inclusive, which is a more broad term.

A1a. Note that the word “accessible” is a legal term that our US courts use. I tend to use it interchangeably with “inclusive” but please be aware of this. Inclusive is more broad. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

A1b. I like to think that we all want to be inclusive! #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

A1: @melissa_egg is right. “Accessibility” gets overlooked because it’s attached to legalese.

Content that removes barriers for comprehension, participation, and inclusion is accessible. AND…it’s better writing anyway. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/G8acN64BqQ

— SPW ✍️🤓 (@ShawnPaulWood) June 14, 2021

Many professionals overlook the accessibility of their content during its creation, which is a major disadvantage for your brand (we explain why in Q3).

It’s interesting that although we’ve been having conversations around accessible content since websites became a thing, accessibility is still something that many content creators aren’t aware of. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

Honestly there are still web designers who don’t get how people interact with websites. We have a lot of opportunity #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

Q2: What are some typical accessibility issues you see with brand websites and other content?

Alt-text on photos and captions on videos are a great starting place to address accessibility.

A2: Well if you aren’t using alt-text on your photos or captioning your videos, you just aren’t trying in terms of accessibility. Start there. Those items are essential for speedreaders and/or people who can’t have sound on videos. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

As someone who almost never watches videos on social or websites with the sound on, I second the call for captions on all videos. It’s essential for reaching your audience—and it gives an SEO boost, too. #ContentChat https://t.co/ohxfFks0ay

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

A2: I am surprised to still see lots of blog posts where key pieces of information are in images that don’t have captions, alt-text, or a text description in the post. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

Yep, there’s lot of reasons beyond disability reason that you might have sound off. You are on public transit. It’s the middle of the night in your house, you are already listening to music, and more. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

Just remember that most AI-generated captions will have errors. Review these before publishing.

And you can’t depend on YouTube captions. They are getting better, but still wrong often. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

The same is true of most of the free AI transcriptions, unfortunately. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

Write in language that your audience uses, and avoid jargon.

A2b: Other things I see are items written at WAY too high a level for reading online. Unless you are running a website with academic papers on it, even a highly educated person isn’t looking to have to work to comprehend the content. Make it as easy as possible. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

With #B2B content, in particular, jargon can overtake communication. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

Yes, if you wouldn’t say the sentence to someone, then don’t write it. Unless you want to sound like a robot or Dilbert cartoon. #ContentChat #B2B #SmallBiz

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

Ensure that your content is readable. Review your choice of font, text size, and use of color.

A2: Some prevalent (yet preventable) accessibility issues I see a lot:

1. Low contrast between your text & background.

2. No zoom in/zoom out for images.

3. Stylized fonts that can’t be read by Google or screen readers.

4. Re: fonts, your text is too small. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) June 14, 2021

A2: Contrast issues are one thing I see (and try to avoid when designing websites). #ContentChat https://t.co/All6TWlotp

— Sherry Holub – Wizard of Design (@jvmediadesign) June 14, 2021

See also: tiny type with poor background contrast on printed materials too! #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

Q3: What risks does a brand face if it does not create accessible content for its community?

In a worst-case scenario, inaccessible content could lead to a lawsuit or a hit to your brand reputation.

A3: Best-case scenario, people can’t access your content (why exclude people from your content?!). Worse-case scenario – a lawsuit and bad PR. More businesses are getting sued for not having accessible websites – Domino’s Pizza, Winn Dixie, Robinhood, Morningstar. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

This also includes websites that are only accessible if you use a specific browser and allow all manner of scripts to run on the page, etc. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

Without accessible content, your brand is alienating community members that would otherwise engage with your content.

A3: Each time you make a decision against accessibility you’re also:

– Alienating a current audience that wanted to support you.

– Alienating a future audience who has learned from your current audience & their frustrations, so they’re going to buy elsewhere. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) June 14, 2021

A3: Being tone-deaf.

It’s no longer an accusation; brands give folks proof on the regular when they don’t include everyone. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/MuL32mMQ5G

— SPW ✍️🤓 (@ShawnPaulWood) June 14, 2021

Q4: How can marketers audit their content to understand if it has an accessibility problem?

Use WAVE (web accessibility evaluation tool) to test a page for accessibility.

A4a: There are tools online such as the Wave tool – https://t.co/SKafWZh7O4 – that will help you identify problems. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

WebAIM (web accessibility in mind) can check the contrast of your text and background.

A4b: You would want to make sure that your contrast of text to background is sufficient too – especially with links. There’s a checker here I use: https://t.co/y8ClVmLqyD. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

Hemingway can audit the readability of your content.

A4c: Check your text with @HemingwayApp created by @Adam_B_Long and @BenLongComedy.- I try to aim for grade 8 reading level and getting rid of my difficult sentences. You can use the free version to get started easily. I’m a big fan of Hemingway. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

Familiarize yourself with WCAG standards.

A4: I’d start online with your own properties.
🔹Is your tone inclusive?
🔸Do you offer equal access?
🔹Can someone else detect bias?

And if you haven’t ran your website through WCAG 2.0, then you have a problem. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/TSvJRCwpdv

— SPW ✍️🤓 (@ShawnPaulWood) June 14, 2021

A4: For websites, once you get familiar with WCAG standards (https://t.co/uOIf5zPfZo) you can go through each page of your site looking for issues. Also, you can use services such as https://t.co/TauPjMJENI for some automated help in that department. #ContentChat https://t.co/xgqXqih9aH

— Sherry Holub – Wizard of Design (@jvmediadesign) June 14, 2021

And the Web Accessibility Initiative is another go-to resource.

A4: Researching accessibility measures used to be a lot of, “Um, maybe?” But there are tools now to help!

The Web Accessibility Initiative is gold standard. https://t.co/sEB5Slc60t

For a slower immersion, start w/ that contrast check. https://t.co/QxOkGmWCXV #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) June 14, 2021

Look out for any web accessibility workshops or courses that you can attend. Erika and Melissa both recommend Nielsen Norman Group as one possibility.

A4: I still have my binder from the Nielsen Norman Group @nngroup web accessibility workshop I attended a lifetime ago, and its principles still stand up. A course like that is well worth the investment for changing your perspective IMHO. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

NNG has solid UX courses. I highly recommend the one on service design too. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

Q5: Where should marketers get started to improve the accessibility of their content?

To start, Melissa recommends that you read the four principles of accessibility.

Read about the 4 principles of https://t.co/yqfvF95ia9

Another great resource for getting started on basics is https://t.co/JGkWXsEvMj: https://t.co/CL4WOF9HCw. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

A5: There really are some great resources out there. I often point people to https://t.co/AXdGGvTECO #ContentChat https://t.co/b1x1iRI5xz

— Sherry Holub – Wizard of Design (@jvmediadesign) June 14, 2021

Provide a clear explanation of what your links will take the reader to (instead of “read here” or “click here”).

A5: Fix your links and make them way better than “read here” or “click here.” Good information scent – this is good for everyone, not just screenreaders. This is a short video I made for my students to explain more best practices for links: https://t.co/deFa21LDZK #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

Love this!

I am forever editing content and revising “click here” sentences. Smart anchor text reads so much better in addition to being more accessible and easier to comprehend. #ContentChat https://t.co/03L8GWCCBu

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

That’s one I have to pause to think about each time. It’s been to easy (read lazy) to type the words “Click here”, but the process of thinking through a more descriptive way to express what and why is an ongoing learning experience. #ContentChat

— 🟣 Jennifer Navarrete (@epodcaster) June 14, 2021

Ask a marketing friend (but not a colleague) to review your team’s content for unconscious bias.

A5: Before you rush to @W3C or #WCAG guidelines, find someone you respect in marketing or DEI who has nothing to do with your brand…

…ask, beg, or even pay that person to find unconscious bias in your copy online.

It’s an eye-opening experience. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/HmflJfNX4K

— SPW ✍️🤓 (@ShawnPaulWood) June 14, 2021

I worked with a client who did unconscious bias training and did a ton of ghostwriting in that area. Really important, I agree. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

And review the structure of your content. Break up large sections of text, use headers and bullet points, and add captions or alt-text.

A5: Style, both layout & copy, is an easy way for marketers to make accessible strides.

Big paragraphs? Break them up.

No headers? Add ‘em.

Captions or alt-text missing? Get to it.

Finally, read your work to someone you trust. If they get it, you can post it. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) June 14, 2021

Q6: How can marketers work accessibility into their content creation process?

Add time to your content creation cycles to include captions, alt text, and additional revision cycles to adjust the reading level.

A6a: I’d like to see marketers be more mindful. Give people enough time to caption videos, write alt text for photos, adjust copy to an easier reading level. Make sure your language isn’t turning off groups of people or reinforcing bias. Ensure acronyms are clear. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

A6: Accessibility practices should become a normal part of work flow. Build in extra time to allow marketers/internal content creators to add this to their workflow. Eventually it becomes part and parcel of the work. Start with checklists and examples. #ContentChat

— 🟣 Jennifer Navarrete (@epodcaster) June 14, 2021

Agreed. Often, we know that we should do these things but time and budget constraints cause us to rush and publish as quickly as possible. And to not push back against authors and approvers who push for things we know aren’t accessible. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

Yes, we have got to push back. How can anything ever change if we don’t?! I find people respect me when I push back anyway. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

Right??

And if you have someone who doesn’t respect you for pushing back, to do the right thing for your readers/viewers, it’s important to assess if there are other boundaries they aren’t respecting, and do you want to work with/for this person? #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

Have 1-3 people in your target audience read all content before it is published. Ask them about any items that are unclear or other challenges they faced with the content.

A6b. Have 1-3 people in the desired audience read any article before you publish it. They can point out items that are unclear or that they had to re-read it too. Make it a policy that no content goes up without an accessibility check at the end too. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

Q7: How can teams stay up to date on the latest accessibility concerns and best practices? What accessibility resources and tools do you recommend?

Melissa recommends Jack McElaney’s email newsletters.

A7. Besides what’s been mentioned, I teach UX at the University of North Carolina and for accessibility I tell my students to sign up for the newsletters from Jack McElaney @microassist. Then you will be up to date on news as well as learning opportunities. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

Include accessibility protocols in your brand style guide.

A6: Accessibility protocols (whatever your org has decided) should be in your style guide, period.

Too many see accessibility as an accessory, when it’s a necessity.

Including what you consider “extras” in the first draft instead of @ the end is a good start. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) June 14, 2021

As mentioned before, become familiar with the WCAG guidelines, and attend webinars or other trainings to strengthen your understanding of accessibility concerns.

A7b. The WCAG guidelines are good but can be overwhelming. Good to go to some webinars, talk to others. #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

Consider adopting tools like accessiBe and Grammarly, in addition to those shared in Q4.

A7: I have a few small clients and non-profits without full teams to keep up with this so as a cost effective solution, they’re using https://t.co/NVh8gHtus7 or similar. Most are mindful about their actual content + I help when it comes to formatting for readability. #ContentChat https://t.co/8salLvZGG8

— Sherry Holub – Wizard of Design (@jvmediadesign) June 14, 2021

A7: In addition to @HemingwayApp I use @Grammarly to ensure my content is clear and easy to understand. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

Q8: Do you have some examples of accessible websites and content marketers can use for inspiration?

A8: I like to check the work of Unity Web Agency @unitymakesus
They are a woman-owned website development shop whose speciality is accessibility. I know the CEO – she’s smart and inclusive. I look at Unity’s portfolio for inspiration: https://t.co/4kSwTbETvY #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

Q9: What audio-related accessibility issues should content marketers be aware of?

More than 90% of people watch mobile video without audio. Include captions on all audio content.

The good news: If your audio sucks, most of your mobile users won’t even notice 😄, as over 90% of folks watch mobile video w/ no audio.

~which means~

The low engagement on your video is because you don’t have captions yet. Do that!

Also invest in a quality mic. #ContentChat

— Rachel Wendte (@rkwendte) June 14, 2021

The more different ways you can allow people to access your content, the better. People like choices and situations demand flexibility #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

This is so true. I’m always sad when my only options for a story are video and audio for example because I’m a reader (and I read really fast) and like to skim a transcript before I commit to watching a video or listening to a long podcast, for example. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

Erika recommends Shure microphones.

I love my @shure mic — it always sounds so clear for videos and webinars. Well worth the investment. #ContentChat

— Erika Heald | Founder @ErikaHeald Consulting (@SFerika) June 14, 2021

And Melissa recommends reading Conversational Design by Erika Hall.

I am not an audio expert, but I would read the Conversational Design book by @mulegirl to start! #ContentChat

— Melissa Eggleston (@melissa_egg) June 14, 2021

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