Not everyone has a fast computer or high speed access. Not everybody has the gift of sight. Make everything you do online accessible.
There’s nothing that irritates me more than a website with a purposeless landing page. Especially ones with complicated animation, long loading times and a ‘Skip Intro’ link. Every time I have to go back to that website, my annoyance increases exponentially, and my likelihood of returning is reduced even further.
The likelihood of parting with me from my money under those circumstances is precisely nil.
If you have to put a Skip Intro link on your front page, then you should have simply have skipped it yourself in the first place. You are not only wasting my time and bandwidth with your inane flash show, you’ve also clearly wasted your money on it. The only person you’ve made happy is the person you paid to make the logo whiz around like that.
But my grumpiness is not your problem — and nor is it the issue. Putting a large flash animation on your website is the equivalent of putting a couple of big, burly guys in shades on the door, and having them say ‘Not in those shoes, mate’ to everyone who doesn’t have the latest of the latest computer kit.
You’re turning your customers away with your inaccessible, high-spec, high bandwidth website.
Worse, building your whole website in Flash might look cool on the display screen, but you manage to discriminate against nearly everyone in the process. Well over half the internet-connected world still operates at dialup speeds on computers three years old or more. More importantly, you’re actively discriminating against disabled people.
Putting a rope ladder where your wheelchair ramp should be
Considering accessibility on your website is as important as considering accessibility within your workplace. Not only is it actually the law (I genuinely believe we’re only weeks away from seeing a discrimination court case being brought against a website on this basis), but it seems counterintuitive to assume that people who don’t have the ability to see don’t like music enough to get any value out of your website.
Maybe it’s just my experience, but the visually impaired people I know are avid consumers of music, and they are continually frustrated that the worst offenders in terms of not being able to use their screen reader on a particular website are often music businesses.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to make your website accessible, and there are handy guidelines to help you do that. The Web Accessibility Initiative has a range of useful documents on its website. You can also check to see if your website is XHTML compliant, as it should be.
You may be interested to know that there’s also a strong correlation between usability and accessibility. The more thought you give to one, the more likely you are to be doing the other well.
Jakob Nielsen’s Use It website has a wealth of helpful tips on web usability. He talks about browser compatibility, how people use websites and he has helpful top 10 things people do wrong lists.
Accessible does not mean vanilla
There’s no need for an accessible site to be an ugly site. CSS is a great way to style a web page (check out the CSS Zen Garden), and any web designer worth their salt has brushed up on all the latest standards in this respect — and knows how to make it sing, visually speaking.
But most of all, your site should be well thought-out, intuitive to use, quick to load and fit-for-purpose.
I’m not saying that if people like and can use your website easily they’re more likely to give you money — I’m just saying that if people don’t like it and can’t use it easily — they simply won’t.