Inclusivity and accessibility are words which have a greater importance in the digital marketing world than people might initially think. But what does it mean to be inclusive and accessible? It may imply creating content which is sensitive and welcoming to differences in race, gender, or cultural background. However, these are only some of the ways marketers can embrace these attitudes.
They should also be aware of age, disability, socio-economic status, sexuality, employment type, language, and geography when they communicate with their audience. In addition, in considering these groups, it is also worth asking the question: is anyone else who could be interested in this content being somehow excluded? Your audience wants to know that you can see and cater for them.
This is an important part of marketing effectively. This is evidenced by a 2019 consumer survey by Google and The Female Quotient which revealed that 64% of all respondents took some action after seeing an ad they considered to be diverse or inclusive.
Not making sure that content is inclusive and accessible can lead to dire consequences. For example, Domino’s Pizza in 2016 was sued by a blind man who was unable to order a pizza using their website. In 2019, the brand was told that its website and app must be made fully accessible to blind people after losing a drawn-out legal case in the U.S. This court case created a lot of bad publicity for the brand and was a result of them not properly thinking through their accessibility and inclusivity practices.
On the plus side, there are many positive incentives to making services and marketing content inclusive. A recent clip of a deaf Starbucks customer interacting with an employee who could speak sign language, was liked 4.2m times on social media platform TikTok. Excellent publicity through inclusion can be a huge boon to your business.
Appealing to such a wide range of people is not a simple task. However, there are a few simple tips and techniques which can be employed to help content producers craft inclusive and accessible digital experiences.
Language has an amazing ability to forge relationships between customers and brands online. It can also equally create barriers and sometimes unknowingly exclude people from the conversation. Using language to encourage a sense of belonging can lead to greater retention rates, as well as a higher level of customer satisfaction.
Largely, this involves removing bias from your language. This is easier said than done, as often people are not even aware of their ingrained bias when creating content. Take the sentence: “For all you guys out there looking for an amazing upgrade to your accounting software.” By using the word “guys”, you immediately alienate the female demographic, even when you may have had no intention of doing so.
Here are a few things that can help improve the inclusive nature of their writing:
· Avoid acronyms – Specific product or brand acronyms can give the impression to a new user that they are out of the loop. It follows that if you do use them, there should be an explanation as to their meaning somewhere on the page.
· Use simple language – This means communicating your point in the most straightforward way to make your message clear to the widest demographics of people. This can be done by trying to avoid idioms, jargon, and colloquialisms.
· Consider your use of pronouns – It can be very easy to unintentionally use “he” or “she” when using examples or addressing a theoretical person. Using “they” on the other hand is gender neutral and excludes no one from the dialogue.
· Videos and video conferencing — The type of language you use should also be considered in the video content that you produce. Open and inclusive language should remain consistent across all your content. This even extends to recordings of video conferences. A top video conference platform being used to its full effect can be ruined by the presenters being inconsiderate with their use of language.
As marketing is a visually driven industry (especially in the digital world), providing the right visual assets can make a big difference to the level of inclusivity that your brand presents. Be it a free web conferencing software company or a food delivery app that you represent, visual cues of diversity are essential to the implementation of inclusivity.
These visual materials cover marketing campaigns, websites, apps, and more, and should present a consistent theme of inclusivity across your output.
Balancing the gender ratio
Stock images, especially for “business” are dominated mostly by white men. Industries that often display this bias include construction and technology. Being conscious of how gender is represented across your materials is an easy way to open your content to a wider range of people. Examples include showing diverse individuals in leadership roles or in other positions of power, communicating to your audience that your business values and champions all genders.
Racial and ethnic diversity
Displaying people from a range of racial and ethnic backgrounds in the images that you present is also a positive way to visually show openness and inclusivity.
Equally, displaying a range of sexualities is also important when it comes to images and will show an openness to the LGBTQIA+ community.
Consider the disabled community and how they could be represented across your branding’s images. So often people with disabilities are underrepresented in marketing and advertising.
Considering accessibility for a range of people
Websites and apps, plus the digital marketing content accessible through them, now (as of the 23rd September 2020) must comply with the Web Accessibility Directive. This directive mandates that public sector websites and mobile applications in EU member countries must be user-friendly to people who are blind, deaf, or have certain other disabilities.
In some cases, therefore, making content accessible is not only advisable it is also enshrined in law. However, how do you make digital experiences and marketing content highly accessible?
Blogs, websites, and apps often come with the ability to add ‘alt text’ to an image or video. This text is designed to be picked up by text readers which are often utilized by people with visual impairments. This will mean that they can understand your content by hearing a description when they navigate your content.
For example, when cursors are placed over the words “conference call” an appropriate alt text tag could be “how to start a conference call meeting.” This also extends to links. Links should provide context and should never be written as “click here” or “more.” Moreover, links should be tagged, so screen-reader users know that a link is there. When tagging links, include where the link will take the reader.
Titles and headlines
Tagging headlines provide context for screen readers, so the headline doesn’t flow into the main body of a text. Tagging headlines also improves your SEO. The body of the text should also be tagged.
Importance of color and contrast
Colors for graphics or text need to be in a specific contrast and color palette to ensure that the vast majority of users will be able to understand the information that you are presenting.
Make interactive elements clearly distinguishable
Users need to be able to determine if elements are interactive or static. Elements which have actions such as links, buttons, navigation, and other controls (including swipe areas on touch devices) may be less obvious. This means using focus indicators which help people understand where they are when navigating content.
Treating people with disabilities with respect
If for any reason you need to address people with disabilities, you should always refer to the person first and the disability second. You should also make sure to check for the accurate terms when referencing disability. Write about people with disabilities as you would any other person, as preferential treatment seems patronizing.
The design of your content, be it a website, an article, or service, needs to consider the different formats that your audience use. These range from desktops and tablets to phones. Optimizing and managing your content for this range of devices means understanding how your content will perform across a wide range of resolutions and screen orientations. Optimizing for all devices also means that your site will be more search engine friendly, with a URL that’s able to serve all devices.
This also means looking at how certain functionalities of your app work best on various devices. For example, looking at VoIP pros and cons for each device for a company would be critical to understanding how to improve this function for various devices.
This is especially important once you consider that there are 3 billion people with smartphones, and that the technology is only growing in popularity. In fact, the use of mobile phones is now so ubiquitous, marketing companies are now told to prioritize smartphone content before looking at any other type of device.
However, when creating, content creators need to think carefully about their audience. For example, if you were creating an article about the best webinar services for small business, you wouldn’t gear the content towards huge conglomerates. The same applies to your audience when it comes to device optimization.
Older audiences will typically prefer content which is designed for the conventional desktop experience. However, if your audience is in their teens to late twenties, they are more likely to be using a mixture of tablet, phone, and desktop.
Therefore, making sure that your content looks and functions well on the devices that your audience use, is paramount to the success of that content. However, a great deal of data must be accumulated about your audience and which devices they prefer.
Some tips that can be useful for designing for a mobile device include:
Less is more when it comes to mobile devices. Because they aren’t as powerful as desktops, it is advisable that the content that you design is not overly feature heavy. The screen size for a smartphone or tablet is also significantly smaller than a desktop. Therefore, thinking about text and images, and their presentation on a small screen is essential to getting your message across on a mobile device.
Test your site
One of the fastest ways to discover the effectiveness of your site on a mobile device is to test it again and again by giving the URL to others to test on their devices. Doing this is free and will show you if your site is mobile friendly or not. Some common issues are that the text is too small or clickable elements are too closely aligned.
Redesign advertisement and interactive content
Not only will the articles and other content on your site need to be optimized for phones, but ads will also need a rethink. For example, pop-ups need to be easy to close, and contain the smallest possible information possible to get your point across. This is due to the small screen size. Interactive content will also need to work well across devices. This means formatting elements such as forms and videos so that they fit properly on various screen dimensions.
Diversity relates to who your audience are. Inclusion and accessibility are the methods by which you include them in your content.
By making this distinction, marketers can work in a two-step process to ensure the digital experiences they create are both inclusive and accessible to their audience. This process should in addition help marketers to manage their time properly, and focus on the most salient parts of this important process.
Step 1: Who are my audience and how are they diverse?
Understanding your audience profile is crucial to knowing the most appropriate methods for making sure that you cater to their various sensibilities. This includes as mentioned before, knowing the range of ethnicities, disabilities, ages, sexual orientations, locations and education level of all those you interact with. This can not only help you appeal to new audiences but aid your customer retention, also.
Step 2: How can our content be accessible and inclusive of the widest range of these people?
Once you know your audience, you can formulate plans as to how to include them in every piece of content that you develop. This chiefly is about empathy. When editing content, it is helpful to look at it in a range of perspectives that mirror the incredible scope of people that you are trying to appeal to.
It is worth remembering the importance of inclusivity and accessibility. It is just as crucial to the success of businesses as inventory accounting, stock management, or product quality. As it means more people will be able to access your content and feel included, leading to much improved customer satisfaction and conversion.