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Writing for the Web

Writing content that is accessible, optimized for search, and otherwise informative and easy to read.

Accessibility

Most of the best practices covered in the the Top Ten Tips will ensure your content is accessible to assistive devices. There are currently 78 success criteria in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, but you can make a big impact by following these seven rules. For a deeper exploration, visit the Web Accessibility LibGuide.

1. Headings & Document Structure

Use the headings provided by your website or software (H1, H2, H3, etc.) Proper use of headings gives your writing structure: assistive technologies use them to build a table of contents that a user can navigate through. 

2. Alt Text

Alt text should be brief, descriptive and serve as a reasonable alternative to the image.

3. Color & Contrast

Federal regulations require a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text under 18px, and 3:1 for headlines that are 18px and larger. This ensures your text is legible for low-sighted and color-blind individuals as well as bright screens or monitors with poor color rendering.

4. Hyperlinks

Assistive technologies allow users to navigate a document or webpage by just the hyperlinks found on the page. Screen readers read the text of the link on your screen. Links like "click here" or "more" have no context or meaning in this scenario. Make sure you use place links on words or phrases that describe what the link does.

5. Lists

Bullets and numbered lists make it easier for people to scan a page and find actionable information. Use the buttons for ordered (numbered) lists or unordered (bullets) lists in your editor so that assistive technologies can tell that the text is in a list.

6. Tables

The web is not an ideal location for tables due to the unpredictability of the size of the screen that a person uses. Tables should be simple ( only a few columns), have a header row, and include a summary or caption describing the purpose of the table. Avoid using tables for layout, unless the information can be understood logically when structured in a grid. Assistive devices read out the rows and columns which could add unnecessary complexity for content that is not tabular by nature.

7. Audio & Video

All audio or video uploaded to a university website or social media site must have captions. You can auto-generate captions in both YouTube and Facebook, but you must edit them to ensure complete accuracy. If you can't provide captions, you should include a link to a page with the transcript of the audio or video as a last resort.

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