Everything You Need to Know About Inclusive Design for Social Media
Inclusive design principles have taken priority on the web. Google even ranks accessible web pages higher in its results.
And while social media accessibility isn’t technically required under Web Content and Accessibility Guideline’s 2.1 compliance standards, it isn’t any less important.
While not all social media platforms have accessible interfaces, there’s nothing stopping social media marketers from creating accessible content and becoming advocates for inclusive social media. After all, you want as many people as possible to be able to enjoy your social presence, right?
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What is inclusive design?
Inclusive design methods aim to deliver an amazing user experience to as many people as possible. In practice, that means shifting away from one-size-fits-all solutions for the “average user.”
Instead, inclusive design accounts for a range of diversity—including ability, language, gender, age, and other factors—by creating a variety of ways for people to engage.
The best inclusive design solutions start with edge cases (those with the most extreme or rare needs) as a basis for innovation. At Microsoft Design, this approach translates into their motto: “Solve for one, extend to many.”
Closed captions are a prime example of this in practice. Not only do captions assist people with hearing impairments, they also help language learners, and enhance viewing in low or no-sound environments.
Why accessibility matters for social media
A social media strategy without inclusive design considerations will miss out on connecting with a large audience.
A recent survey of Facebook users in 50 countries found that more than 30 percent of people report difficulty with at least one of the following: seeing, hearing, speaking, organizing thoughts, walking, or grasping with their hands.
Worse still, non-inclusive content and experiences will push people away. And it’s not always easy to pinpoint when that’s happening. Excluded web visitors often don’t complain: 71 percent will just leave.
Keeping social media accessible means recognizing exclusion, learning from your followers, and presenting information in the clearest ways possible. And at the end of the day, that’s just being a good social media marketer or manager.
11 inclusive design tips for social media managers
1. Make text as readable as possible
Accessible copy is simple copy, and simple copy is effective copy.
Clear and direct text helps a variety of readers, including those using assistive technology like screen readers and those still learning the language you are posting in.
Here are some inclusive design tips for text:
2. Provide descriptive captions for images
Descriptive captions and “alternative text” (also known as “alt text”) helps people visualize images. According to WebAIM, a nonprofit with Center for Persons with Disabilities, missing or ineffective alt text is the most problematic aspect of web accessibility.
Only Twitter and Facebook provide specific fields for you to add alt-text for images. On other sites, make sure to include descriptive captions for your images and videos.
Tips for writing descriptive alt-text:
3. Include captions in videos
Closed captions are crucial for viewers with hearing impairments and can enhance the experience for other viewers.
Facebook and YouTube provide auto-captioning options, whereas Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat require that captions be burned in or encoded in advance.
4. Add a descriptive transcript for video
Unlike captions, which are usually a transcript of spoken dialogue, descriptive language denotes the important sights and sounds that are not spoken.
For example, without adding: “A man enters the room and turns off the oven,” a visually impaired viewer may be confused when the new character suddenly says, “You’re going to burn the house down.”
There are a few ways to provide descriptions:
Hotels.com took descriptive captions and ran with them, picking up a Facebook Gold Award in 2016.
5. Use a color contrast of at least 4.5:1
For people who are colorblind, or even those who’ve switched to grayscale to ward off the dopamine delivered by red notifications, color contrast is important.
The ideal contrast between a text color and its background should be at least 4.5 to 1, as instructed by WCAG. For larger text that ratio decreases, but it increases for smaller text.
This image from @teenvogue on Instagram passes the contrast test:
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6. Don’t rely on color for meaning
Almost one in seven people have some form of vision impairment, ranging from colorblindness to low vision, near vision, or blindness. In fact, Facebook’s color scheme is blue because its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is red-green colorblind.
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Color can also mean different things for different cultures. For instance, red may signify a downward trend on US financial charts, but in China red is positive.
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7. Avoid placeholder text for forms
A clear and descriptive form will always have a better completion and conversion rate than a poor form.
Placeholder text is often used instead of labels, but this can pose usability issues. Placeholders save space, but they are often low in contrast. Disappearing placeholders can make forms harder to review and strain people’s short-term memory, which is probably not your goal.
Labels tell people what information is required. They are often read to people who use screen readers, further underscoring their importance.
8. Learn about the accessibility features of social media sites
Social media and community managers should be familiar with the accessibility features offered by the sites they use.
Facebook Accessibility Tips
Instagram Accessibility Tips
Twitter Accessibility Tips
YouTube Accessibility Tips
LinkedIn Accessibility Tips
Pinterest Accessibility Tips
Snapchat Accessibility Tips
9. Be thoughtful about representation
Barriers to inclusion are not just physical. If your brand uses photos or illustrations of people, representation should be top of mind.
It’s a basic marketing principle that brands should create content their audience can see themselves in. But too often brands over-represent young, white, straight, able-bodied, cis-gender men in their imagery. Not only does this often miss the mark, it can also marginalize those who don’t fit that description.
Consider role assignment and portrayal as well. Are women always doing the cleaning? Is romance always heterosexual? Before posting any image to social media, make sure it is not promoting racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, or other stereotypes.
Recent findings on representation in media:
10. Plan to test and iterate often
It’s rare to get everything right on the first try. Author Jim Benson said on Twitter: “Software being “done” is like a lawn being “mowed.”” Take the same approach to maintaining an inclusive social media presence.
Take advantage of tools like Color Oracle to simulate color blindness. Read alt-text aloud – or better yet, use a screen reader or other types of assistive technology to test your content. A full list of helpful tools is included below.
11. Embrace feedback
As Google’s senior designer Kara Gates says, “If you want to change the world you have to include it.”
If you’re a manager, make it a priority to hire for diversity. Diverse teams are proven to deliver better results.
If your team lacks diversity, seek out other ways to include different perspectives. Listen to your audience and request feedback often. Be open – not defensive – to the feedback you receive. And make sure your contact information is easy for followers to find.
Social media accessibility tools
WAVE Browser extensions
The Web Accessibility Evaluation extensions can be used on Chrome and Firefox to assess your website and its content for accessibility.
Readability Test Tool
The Readability Test Tool scores the readability level of your copy. Add a link to a URL or test by direct input.
If you use a Mac, Contrast app is a WCAG-compliant contrast checker. A nice feature about this app is that it allows designers to check their contrast scores as they select colors. The creators of this app even provide a guide that simplifies WCAG guides.
Contrast Checker lets you drag and drop a specific image for a contrast check, which is a good thing to do before uploading assets to social media.
To ensure that you aren’t using color alone to relay information, use the free Color Oracle color blindness simulator. The open-source tool is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Use Color Safe if you need help finding a color palette that offers enough contrast and adheres to WCAG Guidelines.
Text on background image a11y check
Please Caption Bot
Follow @PleaseCaption for friendly reminders to caption your Twitter images.
Dragon Speech Recognition
Use Dragon Speech Recognition to transcribe an audio or video recording. Make sure to review the finished transcript for errors before sharing.
Overstream is a free subtitle editor that allows you to create video captions from scratch, or can be used to edit existing YouTube captions.
YouDescribe, by the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute allows volunteer describers to create descriptive audio for YouTube videos. Simply copy and paste a YouTube url into the search field and click Create/Edit Descriptions to get started.
Videos can also be paused for extended audio description for when there’s not a long enough natural gap in the soundtrack.
67 Percent Collection
Aegisub is a free open-source tool for creating and editing subtitles. You can also use this tool to create transcripts for videos.
Additional social media accessibility resources
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January 9, 2019 at 08:32AM