Day 7 – 5 ways to make sure your content is accessible

by , Content Strategist, GatherContent

It’s day seven of ourContent Strategy Advent Calendar and Trisha Doyle, Head of Content Design at the UK’s Government Digital Service, is here to share three tips to help make your content more accessible.

Video transcript

Hi GatherContent. My name is Trisha Doyle and I’m the head of the UK’s Government Digital Service and I lead the cross-Government content community.

I’m here to talk to you today about the importance of accessibility. Twenty per-cent of people in the UK have a disability, so it is important to make sure your products and services are accessible, and the more accessible they are the more people can use them. So I want to give you three tips today to help make your content more accessible.

“Twenty per-cent of people in the UK have a disability, so it is important to make sure your products and services are accessible.”

Number one is understanding the importance of plain English. Plain English is one of our guiding principles for people working in content in Government and that means that it is clear and unambiguous so everybody can understand it and it is particularly important for a couple of different user groups which I want to go in to.

Firstly it is for people with memory issues. So for example, people where a situation might be situation or temporal so you might be in a really really stressful situation and you might need to get something done really quickly, or something more long-term, so people suffering from Parkinsons, dementia, or MS.

It’s also really important for people where English might be a second language or where they might have low levels of literacy. And also for people on the autism spectrum. It can be quite common to take things quite literally, so phrases and idioms like ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ can be really confusing.

So to make sure that your content is understandable, actionable and can reach as many people as possible, know why plain English is important and make sure that you’re doing it.

“Make sure that your content is understandable, actionable and can reach as many people as possible.”

My second point is about the importance of titles, headings and links. Titles, headings, links, it’s the way users scan your page and understand what’s there and it’s important to be able to understand the structure of information and the hierarchy. So a couple of points about that. First of all make sure that the title is unique to your page and that it is clear and understandable. Any headings should explain what’s there and should be a way to structure the content. Make sure that you H2 and H3 headings are really clear and convey the structure and hierarchy of the page and finally, really important point about links. Make sure that they explain what you’re going to get when you click on that link text. Never have ‘click here’ or ‘more’. Lots of screen readers might use links as a way of navigating page, so a big long list of ‘click here’ is not going to be helpful to anybody.

“Make sure that link text explains what you’re going to get when you click on that link text. Never have ‘click here’ or ‘more’.”

My third point is about making sure you get your ALT text right. ALT text or text alternative is a way of communicating what’s in the image to people using screen readers. or assistive technologies. If an image is purely decorative, it’s just there to make it look pretty, avoid using ALT text. It would just clutter up, the info would distract the screen reader from the most important information. Make sure you describe what’s happening in the picture. So a good tip for doing that is if you’re, imagine you’re on the phone, if you had to describe what’s in the image, that would be a good way to figure out what to put in your ALT text.

So there are my three points or tips about accessibility. Accessibility is one of our big focuses in Government right now and it’s a really exciting time to be in Government content so do check out civil service jobs for more jobs in Government, but mainly if you’re interested about accessibility do check out the GOV.UK service manual and you can search for that. We’ve just recently updated our accessibility information and it is full of lots of really helpful tip.

Thank you so much for watching this today and Happy Holidays.

About Trisha

Trisha Doyle is Head of Content Design at GDS, and leads the cross-government content community. She and her team help content designers work on end to end government services, across online and offline content and transactions. Before joining GDS, Trisha worked in user experience and digital roles at AOL Huffington Post Media Group and Money Advice Service.

About the Author

Content Strategist, GatherContent

Rob is Content Strategist at GatherContent. He is a journalism graduate and has previously worked as Studio Manager and Head of Content for a design agency and as an Audience Research Executive for the BBC. He’s a published author and regular contributor to industry publications including Net Magazine, Smashing Magazine, 24 Ways, WebTuts+, UX Matters , UX Booth and Content Marketing Institute. On occasion Rob speaks about content strategy at leading industry events.

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