Semantic, according to its dictionary definition, means having the correct meaning. Semantic HTML is HTML (a type of programming language) which contains meaning. Using HTML tags can be useful when building a site in general, but it’s also a great way to make websites more accessible for users who are navigating your website using screen readers.
Why Semantic HTML is important
Three of the most important reasons for using semantic HTML are accessibility, improving clarity in order to make it easier for web design teams to work together on the same project, and making it easier for search engines to understand what your content is about.
Search engines don’t read websites in the same way humans do. Using the right tags for headers and titles makes it obvious what your content is about. This is favourable when it comes to SEO. If you’re missing a page title or H1 tag on your site because you’ve styled the content without semantic HTML in mind, your rankings won’t be as high as they could be.
How you can improve the accessibility of your website
In Australia, over half a million people have some degree of vision impairment. It’s obvious that creating websites that can be accessed by everyone is important, which is where web accessibility comes into play.
In the past, accessibility was mainly a concern for government websites, but web accessibility has become an even hotter topic as of recent as the push for accessibility and inclusion becomes stronger. In the past, to make websites accessible for screen readers, government websites would often create very text-heavy websites with poor user experience in order to meet guidelines.
Making a site that’s compatible with screen readers is only part of the puzzle of creating an accessible website, but it’s a great foundation to start with. There are tools to help with accessibility, but often there is no right or wrong in many cases.
Some simple ways you can test your site for accessibility
If you’re curious to know whether your website plays well with screen readers, there are tools you can use to test it out. NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a great tool you can use on your Windows computer to test out usability of your site. If you’re using a Mac, you can initiate the screen reader by pressing “cmd + F5”.
Accessibility is often subjective and sometimes highly individual. There is no way to make everything perfectly accessible since access requirements can vary so greatly from person to person. However, there are tools to help improve accessibility in general. Some tools you might want to try out include:
Finding a web developer who creates accessible sites
If you’re looking for a web developer who can create an accessible site for your business or organisation, there are a few questions you might want to ask them to ensure they’re a good fit:
- Can they make a website that is compliant to the WCAG 2.0 standard?
- What accessible websites have they made in the past?
- What factors do they consider when creating accessible sites?