Google Ranking Factors 2017

14. Accessibility: How Important Is Accessibility Nowadays?

With Gerry, Barry, Ned and Dawn.


Dawn Anderson – Director Move It Marketing
I would say that accessibility – people tend to just assume that it’s like “can people hear it, can they see it, etc.” – but websites now are often very complicated. They have lots of things as they develop. We know that designers and developers love to do fancy bits and pieces. Swishy-swishy things, I always think of the as. They are not great for people that may be short-sighted. They are not necessarily all blind. But they are really short of sight.

So they struggle with certain things. Colour is another one. The very shallow nuances, I don’t think they are being taken into consideration. And I’m not saying it’s a ranking factor currently. But anything that becomes a passion of society as a whole – which for me, disability should always be a massive passion, for everybody. Over time, I think search engines tend to jump on board with trying to push these causes and I think that, over time, accessibility will become a bigger and bigger issue.

Ned Poulter – CEO & Founder Pole Star Digital
I actually think my kind of utopian view – you kind of dragged it out there, Dawn – is that, yeah, it should enforce it and they do enforce other things that we discuss, like security and stuff like that. I would like to see that. I don’t think it will happen. But I do think, especially the kind of, in society, the way that we interact with technology now and the availability of it. Especially with millennials and all the younger generations who are kind of growing up with iPhones in their hands as such. I do think that’s a really important thing.

There was a conference called Camp Digital which I spoke at back in March. Which was great, it had a real kind of feature on accessibility and its importance for design, for marketing, for usability. And some really inspirational talks, as part of that actually, including looking at like government websites. So obviously, government websites have a mandate to uphold accessibility and which is really great as kind of a best practice example. But then also, it was Molly Watts, wasn’t it, who spoke who’s so inspirational ….

Dawn Anderson
She has Usher Syndrome. She is deaf/blind and increasingly so.

Ned Poulter
Yes, exactly. And so, she did a great presentation about basically what she struggles with.

Dawn Anderson
Terrible experiences on the internet, yeah.

Ned Poulter
Exactly. And it was really eye-opening. And something which, I suppose, we can get too caught up as marketers.

Dawn Anderson
I think sometimes we don’t actually necessarily define disability well either. My son – a lot of you know that my son has Aspergers – is autistic. And one of the big things, I mean there is a huge amount of people with Aspergers out there.

And one of the big thing is about people with autism and Aspergers is they have like sensory sensitivities. If suddenly he goes onto a website and it’s immediately on AutoPlay video or really loud or something like really bright lights, et cetera.

Gerry White – SEO Consultant Just Eat
And animated gifs on webpages cause so many issues.

Dawn Anderson
It’s like you’re immediately screaming. Screaming at that person. Nuances, really.

Gerry White
Huge proportion of the population in some way perceive it differently. So from things like dyslexia, the bit and pieces, which means wider texts is bad and things like that.

Dawn Anderson
And that’s the government. On the government site as well.

Gerry White – SEO Consultant Just Eat
Oh completely, yeah. So basically, one of the things that I’ve learned recently is that it’s very much not a check box exercise. In the past when I was working on the internet, it was literally a long page of text with a menu and other bits and pieces. It was really quite simple. Nowadays, CSS, everything else like that, all kind of froze the content together in a very very different way to how it used to be.

As a result, it is very much about testing. It’s getting somebody who can actually do the testing for you. I mean I worked with some great organizations that kind of helped us with the testing internally. And it has meant that we have kind of gone from a “Oh … that’s a surprise. This we didn’t expect”. And this isn’t just for mobile sites. This is for apps, this is for desktop, this is for anything. Everything that has kind of accessibility, guidelines and inspiration. And actually interesting now, I was surprised to find out by that from Molly Watts, she…

Dawn Anderson
It needs to be fully inclusive.

Gerry White
Yeah. The iPhones are actually quite accessible. And you can work within them to make them more accessible.

Ned Poulter
It gives you the functionality to customize it.

Gerry White
There’s a framework for Android as well.

Barry Adams – Founder Polemic Digital
Can I pull a little debating trick and say – with the caveat that I don’t actually believe in what I’m going to say – but let’s play devil’s afterwards.

There comes a certain level of disability, with Molly being a good example as she is going deaf and blind, where there is a reasonable expectation that, at some stage, people with certain visual impairments stop driving cars. We should or could maybe extend it to the internet to an extend, at some stage.

“You know what, maybe people shouldn’t be using the internet”, because the effort into making it usable for all kinds of disabilities exceeds any potential payoff that a business might have from doing that. Now, like I said, I don’t necessarily believe in that, but there is a monetary aspect to that, we can’t necessarily ignore.

Dawn Anderson
How about moral responsibility though?

Barry Adams
Businesses, by definition, are amoral.

Dawn Anderson
I don’t know. I disagree on that one.

Ned Poulter
What if the internet by construct is that it actually enriches their life?

Dawn Anderson
Yeah, exactly. That’s their window to the world isn’t it, after all.

Ned Poulter
So they use it to engage or do things that they otherwise weren’t able to do.

Barry Adams
So how do you do the Amazon Echo or Google Now accessible for people who are deaf? Should it even be made accessible for people who are deaf?

Gerry White
Maybe that’s a great example for something that suits somebody who has got one level of disability, that it kind of suits them better there. The one thing that I was thinking, when we talked about it before, is actually, “the internet is a great opener to a lot of people who, you know, these are the people who can’t drive to the supermarket, these are the people who can’t”. So it is so important that Tesco’s is delivering.

Dawn Anderson
I remember taking pictures. I went to the Lake District and I shared a picture on Instagram and Molly Watts, the lady we talked about, she said “I really appreciated you are sharing that, Dawn, because I can’t actually see that scenery when I go to the Lake District.”

So she uses Pinterest and Instagram as a way of seeing in the outside world. I think as long as we are trying to do our best to at least be as inclusive as possible. There are obviously lines that must be drawn.

Barry Adams
But where do you draw that line?

Dawn Anderson
But I don’t think if they should really be based upon business-cases as such. I think they should be based on what we can actually physically achieve.

Barry Adams
Yes, but technology is fairly limitless in what you can physically achieve. But it’s not going to be feasible for businesses to take it to that extreme.

Ned Poulter
I mean, on a basic. There is the W3C compliant standard guidelines. Which, I suppose, is what we’re kind of getting at. There is a ruleset there of how accessible is your site by construct?

Gerry White
I’m not always a fan of the checklist approach because a lot of the times when I reach for the checklist, it’s actually…

Barry Adams
Who actually uses in front of the screen?

Dawn Anderson
Well it’s like checking the Mobile Friendly box. In theory you tick the box but you don’t have a good experience, it’s terrible.

Gerry White
Yeah, and I think one of the things, again, is the fact that I kind of assumed – because I was told this years ago and it turns out that things have moved on. JavaScript, Screenreaders don’t use JavaScript. That is not true anymore.

Screenreaders do use JavaScript. Screenreaders are very good with a lot of the more modern technology and video for instance. It’s like “Don’t use video” because video is not accessible. But actually, to a lot of people video is more accessible and so you have to kind of, you have to …. You have to kind of make sure that ….

Dawn Anderson
Youtube transcription is terrible.

Gerry White
Yeah, that’s because of the accent, Dawn.

Dawn Anderson
My accent does not come across well.

Barry Adams
It works fine for me. I find the accent cool.

Ned Poulter
I think it’s quite a broad conversation. It’s actually a really fascinating one.

Juan Gonzalez – SISTRIX
I think it’s important.

Ned Poulter
It’s hugely important.

Barry Adams
What I think is interesting, if you relate it back to SEO, back in the early days of the web. If you made a website accessible – according to the standards of the time – you made it SEO-friendly at the same time.

Gerry White
I think that’s why a lot of SEOs know about accessibility, because, exactly what you said, the more you designed it for search engines to be able to crawl and access it and used the links properly. A great example is, what we talked about earlier, “Click here”..

Terrible for accessibility, terrible for SEO. So, by making things more accessible, often you’re optimizing it for search. So I’ve actually sneaked SEO recommendations through kind of going “priority for accessibility that we do this” and it just means that by having two cases to get something done, it’s quicker.

Dawn Anderson
To clients things like accessibility depend on where their kind of moral stance is. Sometimes that is actually more important to them than SEO. From a business case perspective, it depends on where they are.

Barry Adams
There is not a lot of businesses like that. A lot of them play the game though.

Dawn Anderson
I don’t know. It means it has so much to do…. If it’s a charity for disabled people then, obviously, accessibility for them, or governmental sites, accessibility is: they’ve got to do it. Because otherwise they are discriminating. So they could actually have cases brought against them.

Gerry White
There was a case against a cinema, I believe. At one point, particularly when they tried to block an accessible version that somebody had done by scraping their side.