How to write content with accessibility in mind to attract a wider audience

Portrait of Rob Simpson
Rob Simpson

I drive businesses forward with custom design and development solutions

Did you know, that the way you write and format the content on your website, can have a big impact on whether people find it easy to read, or read it at all?

As I’ve already touched on, having an accessible website makes good business sense, and there are a handful of things content editors can do, to improve the accessibility of their websites.

In this article, we’re going to focus on writing, and formatting content for the web, that will help attract a wider audience and make the reading experience easier for everyone.

We’ll be looking at:

  • why you should be writing descriptive link text
  • how to write content that is easy to read
  • how to format your content to make it easier to scan
  • what tools you can use to help write better content

Writing descriptive link text

I’m going to kick things off, with link text, because I see this issue crop up far too often.

When it comes to writing text for links or buttons, avoid writing “click here”. This is useless to screen reader users and makes it more difficult for people scanning the page.

Navigating through a page full of links using a screen reader can be tiresome – or worse, useless. “Click here, click here, click here” is often all you’ll hear.

Descriptive links, instead, help links make sense out of context and provides users with a sense of where the link will take them. “View all articles” is a lot more descriptive than “click here”.

To summarise, here are just a few advantages to writing descriptive link or button text:

  • it helps screen reader users
  • it makes it easier for people to scan the page
  • it improves SEO

Writing well-defined link text can help aid accessibility, improve SEO and make a page easier to scan.

How you can test your link text

Tota11y is a browser extension, that can help check if your link text is descriptive enough (amongst other things).

Fortunately, it does more than just pick up text that says: “Click here”. If your link text is not descriptive enough, tota11y will say something along the lines of:

The text “Click here” is unclear without context and may be confusing to screen readers.

Make your content easy to read

I’m going to keep this one short – just make sure you’re content is easy to read. Don’t go out of your way to fill your content with big words. The easier it is to read, the more people will benefit from it.

If people with lower educations or dyslexia can read your content, then people with higher educations will find it easier to read too – a win-win situation.

10% of the British population are dyslexic; 4% severely so.

How you can test your content’s readability

Whenever I come to write a new article, I use Grammarly – a tool which helps you eliminate errors and find the perfect words to express yourself.

On top of this, Grammarly can also check the readability of your content. A score of 60 or above is advisable – the higher the score, the easier it is to read.

Grammarly testing the readability of this article – how to write content with accessibility in mind to attract a wider audience

Grammarly checks the readability of your content, this article is “likely to be understood by a reader who has at least a 7th-grade education (age 12) and should be easy for most adults to read”

Format your content so it’s more approachable and easier to scan

If you’re going to take the time and effort to create content, then make sure to format it properly. There is nothing more unwelcoming than a wall of text. Make use of:

  • headings
  • lists
  • images (with captions)
  • blockquotes
  • videos

All of these things will increase the likelihood of someone reading your content.

Chances are, they might not read the entire article (and that’s okay). But, they’ll be able to skim through to find the bits they’re most interested in.

Use headings that follow a logical order

Headings are a great way to group content into sections. Screen readers can jump from heading to heading, which makes it easier for screen reader users to read the content they’re interested in.

Without headings, they’d have to read everything on the page, at which point they might not even bother.

Headings should have a logical hierarchical order <h1> to <h6>. They should not be used, purely based on what they look like (also don’t just make text bold if it’s actually a heading, as screen readers won’t pick this up as a heading and just skip over it).

For example, don’t do this:

<h4>Format your content so it’s more approachable and easier to scan</h4>
<p>Content for this section</p>
<h2>Use headings that follow a logical order</h2>
<p>Content for this section</p>
<strong>How you can test your headings</strong>
<p>Content for this section</p>

Instead, do this:

<h2>Format your content so it’s more approachable and easier to scan</h2>
<p>Content for this section</p>
<h3>Use headings that follow a logical order</h3>
<p>Content for this section</p>
<h4>How you can test your headings</h4>
<p>Content for this section</p>

How you can test your headings

This is an article for content editors, so I don’t expect you to start writing HTML. There are tools out there that can test the structure of your headings.

As I mentioned it previously, tota11y can also be used to test your heading structure. Tota11y gives you a visual overview of the hierarchical order of your headings.

Tota11y heading structure accessibility testing on robsimpson.digital

Tota11y testing the hierarchical order of headings on robsimpson.digital

Tools you can use to help write better content

I hope you can see the value in taking a little bit of time to format your content properly. It might take a small change in your process, but it will be worth it in the long run.

To summarise, here are the tools you can use, to help create more accessible content for your audience: