Increase B2B leads with improved accessibility

 An illustration montage depicting a computer screen surrounded by a colour palette, an eye, two users, a finger pressing a mobile screen and a moving object in a popup window.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, 16 million people in the UK had a disability in 2021/22. That’s 24% of the population. 23% of working-age adults have some type of disability, compared to 45% of adults over State Pension age.

When you consider nearly a quarter of working-age adults have a disability, that’s a lot of potential customers your website could be preventing from contacting you if you haven’t considered their needs. And a lot of potential customers up for grabs if you have.

So, let’s look at how the web design choices of one (fictitious) business can impact visitor engagement. How a few small details can hugely influence trust and credibility – and for users with specific disabilities, impede or encourage them to make contact.

 Image of a typical web page with a skip to content link and example alt texts in place of missing images. One text reads: Company execs pose for a photo, each holding a different business award trophy and looking very pleased about their achievements.

A fictitious company – real business objectives.

Meet Puffery Solutions; a forward-thinking B2B company. Puffery specialises in providing IT solutions that meet the needs of start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and large corporations, across finance, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and education.

They aim to enhance their online presence, attract qualified leads, and drive business growth through their website. Key objectives include:

  • Increasing website traffic and visibility through search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies and targeted digital marketing campaigns.
  • Improving user experience and engagement by optimising website design, navigation, and content.
  • Measuring and analysing website performance metrics, including traffic, conversions, and user behaviour.

Customers are typically drawn to the website via targeted messaging that highlights the PS team as seasoned IT professionals with extensive industry experience and expertise across a wide range of technology domains.

Now let’s look at some of their potential customers, their needs, and what the barriers could be to contacting Puffery Solutions.

Sarah the CEO.

Sarah heads a manufacturing company looking to upgrade their outdated IT infrastructure. Sarah has dyslexia, which affects her ability to read large blocks of text and process complex information quickly. Her hearing has declined recently, too.

Sarah needs:

  • Clear and concise content with bullet points, short paragraphs, and headings to aid comprehension and reduce cognitive load.
  • Dyslexia-friendly fonts, such as Arial or OpenDyslexic with sufficient spacing between letters and lines to enhance readability.
  • Visual Aids such as infographics, diagrams, and charts, to supplement text-based content and convey key messages more effectively.
  • Audio descriptions or narrations for multimedia content as Sarah prefers auditory learning and can have difficulty processing visual information.

This comment goes for the rest of the blog which is following the same pattern. Rather than position her challenges and then come back to the later in the blog, I think we need to address straight up how Puffery Solutions has designed its website to be accommodating to her needs.

This is also a change in how the last part of article is positioned. Instead of focusing on what Puffery Solutions didn’t do right (which takes things in a negative direction), let’s pretend they did implement the best practices for individuals and celebrate how this helped the user to achieve their goals and as a result drive leads/ROI for the business.

Captioned multimedia content.

Sarah finds it useful to turn on captions for videos like she does on YouTube. She’s relieved to find the video content on Puffery Solutions offers captions too. (If not, she’d have searched for a transcript option instead.) The short video was super-useful in evidencing Puffery’s suitability for her requirements.

Mark the IT Manager.

Mark is the go-to IT guy at a progressive healthcare organisation. His company places a high value on accessible inclusivity. He’s been tasked with migrating their on-premises infrastructure to the cloud.

Mark is blind and relies on screen reader software to access and navigate websites.

Mark needs:

  • Semantic markup and proper heading structure to facilitate smooth navigation and provide context for screen reader users.
  • Descriptive anchor text that accurately conveys the purpose and destination of links so his screen reader can help him understand the context of each link.
  • Descriptive alt text for all images to provide equivalent textual information for his screen reader to announce since he can’t perceive visual content.
  • All interactive elements, such as buttons and form fields, to be fully accessible via keyboard navigation as he can’t use a mouse.

Accessible navigation menus.

Puffery’s website has foregone complex navigation menus that rely on mouse-hover to reveal the menu options needed to get to content pages (particularly frustrating to Mark). This mean that for once, Mark’s screen-reader doesn’t skip straight over the links leaving him confused about how he’ll get to the sub-pages of the site.

 Image of a typical web page with a skip to content link.
Accessible navigation menus.

Alternative text for images.

Most of the images on the site have alternative text (alt text) which helps Mark understand the meaning they convey to non-blind people. The alt text has been well considered, so instead of his screen reader announcing things like “Image of person” and “puffery003.jpg”, Mark misses nothing.

 Example alt texts in place of missing images. One text reads: Padlock surrounded by binary code, representing impenetrable cybersecuirty measures that safeguard financial institutions from data breaches.
Alternative text for images.

No auto-playing media.

Mark is always negatively impacted by auto-playing videos – the audio competes with his screen-reader. Providing controls to pause or mute the media helps prevent unintended disruptions and ensures a more inclusive browsing experience.

Non-descriptive links.

Because he’s visually impaired, Mark can’t take advantage of photos and icons that usually give context to multiple ‘Read more’ links on a webpage. Instead, he asks his screen reader to read out the page to make sense of where he needs to go next.

This connects to my previous comment and all the paragraphs below. Let’s position them in a positive light, i.e, Puffery Solutions did these things which helped the user meet their goals, and the business achieve their goals as a result. Let’s also deal with these in context of the users above, rather than wait to list them all at the end.

Accessible captchas.

Once Mark is happy enough with PS to hit the contact form, he breathes a sigh of relief; he isn’t greeted only with a captcha (completely inaccessible to him as it relies solely on visual). Instead, Puffery provides alternative methods of verification, such as audio captchas or text-based challenges.

 Example descriptive links. One reads: Read more about elevating e-commerce with digital transformation.
Descriptive ‘Read more’ links.

Alex the Marketing Manager.

Alex is a marketing manager at a retail company interested in exploring custom software development solutions. He is looking for a tech partner capable of delivering software solutions tailored to his company’s unique needs.

Alex has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which affects his ability to maintain focus and process information in a linear manner. He’s also red/green colour-blind which affects 8% of the male population. Puffery Solutions appeared to him in organic search results.

Alex needs:

  • Content organised into manageable chunks with clear headings, bullet points, and visual cues to help him quickly scan and digest information without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Attention-grabbing visuals, such as videos, animations, and interactive elements, to capture his interest and maintain his engagement throughout the website.
  • Progressive disclosure techniques to reveal information gradually, allowing him to explore content at his own pace without feeling bombarded with too much information at once.
  • Minimised distractions and unnecessary elements on the page to help him stay focused on the primary content and desired actions, such as filling out a contact form or requesting more information.

Considered colour choices.

PS has invested time and effort into its corporate colours and how they play out on their web pages. A low colour contrast between text and background elements makes content difficult to read for Alex who has red/green colour blindness. On many other sites, he completely misses the inline links which take him to things like lead-generation forms.

No auto-playing media.

Like Mark, Alex finds auto-playing videos distracting. It takes his focus away from other content that’s more relevant to his needs. Deciding against auto-play was an easy decision for PS, and it means Alex lingers longer on the site.

 Example inline links. Links are visually differentiated from the surrounded text as they are underlined as well as being in blue where the rest of the text is black and without underlines.
Strong colour contrast links.

Chris the Operations Manager.

Chris manages operations at a logistics company, tasked with optimising inventory management processes. He’s researching digital transformation solutions.

Chris has limited manual dexterity due to arthritis, which affects his ability to use a traditional mouse or keyboard.

Chris needs:

  • To be able to access and operate all website functions, including navigation, form input, and interactive elements using keyboard as using a mouse causes him pain.
  • Clickable elements, such as buttons and links, to have sufficient size and spacing to allow for accurate selection and interaction using his touchscreen.
  • Auto-fill, predictive text, and error correction to help him minimise the amount of typing so he can complete forms more efficiently and accurately.
  • He is particularly pleased when he can used voice commands to enable hands-free navigation and interaction with websites.

Accessible navigation menus.

Once again, Puffery Solutions’ simple navigation pays dividends. Chris doesn’t use a mouse, so his go-to method is using his keyboard to tab through the menu. He can also switch to the touchscreen which enables him to see the sub-menus, so he’s soon confident he isn’t going to struggle with the rest of the site.

How to fix issues and improve the user experience.

While our fictitious company got it right, not all websites make life so easy. However, all of the issues highlighted can be resolved and are technically straightforward. The World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative includes tutorials and checklists for ensuring that navigation menus, images, videos, colour, layout and much more are accessible to all, regardless of disability. There are plenty of expert consultants, Torpedo included, who can audit your site and make recommendations for improvement.

In conclusion.

With permanent and temporary disability being an inevitable fact of life, it’s important to employ techniques at all stages of design, development, and content production to ensure you aren’t inadvertently excluding users. The simple step of enhancing your user personas with real-world struggles from people with additional needs can help you, your designer, developer, and content creator think more inclusively.

And remember, this is not just about the obvious moral and legal obligations. With such a significant proportion of the population living with some form of disability, giving them a user experience that helps them can also help you to reach your business goals more easily.

head shot of Guy Carberry

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