Understanding Site Accessibility: Making Content Understandable

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By Patrice Meadows — Mar 29, 2018 11:00 AM

Understanding site accessibility, how to make content more understandable

Site accessibility covers a range of topics that require many to rethink how content is created and managed. Throughout the Understanding Site Accessibility series, we examine the four principles of site accessibility to help those managing sites to learn more about the guidelines governing site accessibility. In this post, we’ll explain how content should be constructed and displayed to be considered understandable.

What makes content understandable?

According to the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, content must be easy to follow in order to comply with this principle of accessibility. The phrase ‘easy-to-follow’ can seem subjective, which is why the WCAG 2.0 includes additional information to help site managers make content easy to understand.

The requirements for understandability extend beyond how information is communicated and into it’s presentation. To satisfy the requirements of this portion of the guidelines, content must be easy to follow in terms of language and organization.

What is involved with making content understandable?

Making content that is easily understood by general audiences means focusing on clarity. Ensuring that information is communicated in simple terms and sentences, appropriate headings, and other relevant tools that organize content can help make content more understandable.

Here’s how you can determine if your content is understandable:

  • Readability: Is your content readable and understandable?
    • Do you avoid complex language, industry jargon, and other uncommon terms throughout your site?
    • Can the language on your site be detected by screen readers or other assistive technologies?
    • Is the content written for those with a lower secondary reading level?
  • Predictability: Do web pages appear and operate in predictable ways?
    • Do elements of your website change automatically when users focus on specific information?
    • Is your navigation structure consistent throughout your website?
  • Input Assistance: Does your site help users avoid errors and provide feedback when errors occur?

There are additional requirements for each of these guidelines, especially for those seeking the highest level of compliance (Level AAA). Check out this resource for more details about regarding compliance.

Who is involved with making content understandable?

While site accessibility is a priority for everyone involved with building or managing websites, content understandability really involves content contributors and site designers. Both groups directly impact whether sites meet the standards required to be deemed accessible.

For content contributors, this means getting even better at drafting clear, concise content. Many of the requirements outlined in this section align with best practices for writing for the web. Crafting text in this way helps users with cognitive disabilities and/or language limitations.

How to change text content to increase understandability:

  • Be concise
  • Make content skimmable
  • Avoid jargon and unfamiliar terms
  • Use simple sentences

Site designers and others that manage site's appearance and function must ensure that content is organized predictably and presented consistently across websites. These mandates make for good design overall but also impact accessibility.

Things to remember when organizing content:

  • Clear layout and design
  • Structure content with headings, lists, and spacing to support content clarity

How does your organization manage site accessibility? Share your stories of success below or tweet us @hannon_hill.

Don’t forget to come back next week to learn about building robust content. You can also subscribe to our blog to get the latest posts delivered to your inbox automatically.