Making your online communications more engaging and accessible

The Digital Action Plan learning programme gives participants the skills and confidence to listen, explain and talk with their audiences online. But how can we be sure we’re communicating in ways that are accessible to all? Here are some some tips for making your communications more accessible and engaging.

1. Sharpen your writing

Badge with less is more written on it. Photo: othree CC by 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/othree/5009084934

Badge with less is more written on it. Photo: othree CC by 2.0

Attention spans are short and in our always-on world, the next distraction is never far away. Engaging content supports accessibility.

Make your content more engaging by:

  • Keeping sentences short and direct
  • Putting essential information at the start of your post
  • Listing information in bullet points

For more ideas, see:

The Guardian, Say it quick, say it well – the attention span of a modern internet consumer

Alive with Ideas, Comms Copy Tips: 7 Steps To Smashing Your Copy

2. Design content with screen readers in mind

Screenshot of the Digital Action Plan's content management system, showing an image in the media library with descriptive labels

Screenshot of the Digital Action Plan’s content management system, showing an image in the media library with descriptive labels

Research by the RNIB shows there are almost 2 million blind and partially sighted people living in the UK, many of whom use screen reader software to access online content.

Make sure your content is optimised for screen readers by:

  • Describing images. Make sure every image has an alternative text description. This will also help improve your search visibility.
  • Labelling headings, subheadings and body text. Don’t simply use bold to indicate a heading, select the heading option in your content editor.
  • Referencing links. Avoid links with names like ‘click here’. Instead describe where you are linking to.

For more more tips, see:

WebAim 10 Easy Accessibility Tips Anyone Can Use

3. Subtitle your videos

Screenshot of Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) YouTube channel displaying video with subtitles / closed captions switched on

Screenshot of Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) YouTube channel displaying video with subtitles / closed captions switched on

Video plays an increasingly important role in how we communicate and so it’s important we don’t exclude sections of our audience through carelessness.

Adding subtitles or closed captions to your videos doesn’t just people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Research by the Office of Communications (Ofcom) in 2006 found 80% of television viewers used subtitles for other reasons. Since that report was published the rise of autoplay videos on Facebook and Twitter have made subtitles even more important.

YouTube, Facebook and Twitter all handle subtitles slightly differently. Click on the links below for advice on how to add subtitles to your videos.

How to add subtitles to Facebook videos

How to add subtitles to YouTube videos

Twitter does not currently offer a subtitling service so it is important to add subtitles to your video before uploading it to the network.

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