3 Ways to Boost Digital Engagement

As businesses begin to rebound from the economic downturn of the past year, advertising spend is once again surging. Companies plan to increase their advertising budgets by 15% in 2021.

Specifically, companies are pouring resources into digital advertising, outpacing traditional media placements such as television, radio and print. This is a powerful trend, propping up major tech companies and empowering small and medium-sized businesses to reach more people with greater specificity.

These trends are undoubtedly inspired by the accelerating digitalization brought on by the pandemic, which helped push web traffic up by as much as 100% in some cities. However, many companies are missing out on significant opportunities to engage potential customers.

Web accessibility remains limited at best and unattainable at worst for millions if not billions of people with disabilities. While this poses regulatory and legal challenges for online platforms, poor accessibility also reduces the number of people who can engage with online content, limiting the reach and effectiveness of digital advertising and depriving online communities of equitable accessibility.

That’s why digital marketing teams and the agencies that support their efforts must help their company and clients understand and respond to the legal, ethical and opportunity cost of inaccessible web content. What’s more, they should move beyond awareness by taking steps to improve accessibility now. Here’s how you can get started.

Test website navigation

For people with disabilities, navigating many websites is prohibitively challenging, eroding the experience and restricting continued engagement. While web developers, marketing managers and engagement consultants have invested significant time and money into optimizing their digital platform navigation for some users, people with disabilities have often missed out on the results of these efforts.

Marketing teams or agencies can help companies reverse this trend by testing websites for accessibility, navigating with only a keyboard. If these processes pose limitations or erode the experience, the website requires accessibility enhancements.

At the same time, marketing teams can improve website accessibility in specific ways, including:

  • identifying and eliminating keyboard traps like pop-ups, drop-down menus, forms and other common web elements
  • prioritizing keyboard accessibility at every level
  • enhancing keyboard navigation by making content tab-index able

Navigation is a foundational element of any digital experience, and optimizing a site’s design for great accessibility enables more people to engage with your content.

Evaluate form functionality 

Forms are a fundamental part of the web experience, allowing users to log in to pay walled services, register for platforms and events, comment on ongoing discussions and make purchases.

When properly configured, some existing accessibility technologies like screen readers can convey labels, field sets and other structural elements, allowing blind people to review and complete forms effectively.

Regularly evaluate form fields to ensure they are properly configured to accommodate assistive technologies. However, marketing teams or agencies should avoid using audit software to complete these evaluations. Rather, turn to people with disabilities to evaluate a website, including form fields, to identify elements restricting platform participation. This allows companies to continually adapt their accessibility solutions, producing better outcomes that engage more users.

Improve visual elements 

The web is often a visual-first medium, relying on sharp design and vivid images to attract and sustain users’ attention. Therefore, marketing teams need to help their companies accommodate people with disabilities when developing visual elements.

Start by evaluating existing image descriptions, ensuring that each one contains detailed information that various accessibility solutions can convey. Next, assign a team to enhance captions for poorly described images by adding metadata, which can significantly improve visual elements for people with disabilities.

For platforms too large to execute this solution at scale, remove alternative text using a tab index -1 solution so that users don’t encounter a substandard alternative to comprehensive image descriptions. Several prominent companies, including the BBC, have used this process to optimize visual elements across their expansive web services.

As companies increase their investments in digital marketing in 2021 and beyond, they need to accompany those efforts with a renewed emphasis on web accessibility. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines outline clear expectations in this regard, but there is a bottom-line reason that every company should examine accessibility on their platforms today: In the digital realm, more is better.

Improving website accessibility allows more people to engage with your platform or digital products, expanding your reach and growing your community in a more meaningful way.

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