ADA Compliance for Web with Responsive Web Design

In 1990, the US signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into civil rights law. This act makes discrimination based on disability illegal and overall provides the same protection of rights for people with disabilities that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides for people of all races, religions, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin. Title I of the ADA covers employment opportunities and prohibits discrimination in the workplace. Title II of the act enforces compliance to ADA policies in public entities and public transportation. These regulations are detailed in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations and commercial facilities to adhere to regulations, guidelines, and other code requirements. When it comes to website design, businesses, public figures, nonprofits, and all other independent parties must comply with the ADA’s accessibility laws. With the help of MLT Group’s design team, you can build profiles and adjustments into your site that help you meet ADA compliance requirements via responsive web design. Additionally we offer a powerful menu of onsite tools to make websites fully ADA compliant while providing adaptability control directly to the user.

 

Not only will having an ADA compliant website help you avoid a lawsuit or court judgement, it also protects and supports everyone who may wish to interact with your site and improves experiences with your brand for persons with disabilities. This in turn expands your audience and increases site traffic.

 

One of the most direct and surefire ways to build ADA compliance into your website is by following the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1) at the AA level.

 

WCAG 2.1 AA (released in 2018) is the most current edition of the most widely accepted web conformance to ADA guidelines. In WCAG 2.1 AA, there are 50 criteria your site should incorporate to ensure best ADA compliance. Checklists for these criteria can be found relatively easily online. For example, through this resource, you can find thorough guidelines and checklists in digital or downloadable PDF formats. In addition to these WCAG 2.1 AA criteria, there are many other ways to build ADA compliance into a responsive web design that site owners can include on a case-by-case basis.

 

The most powerful of these solutions is the accessibility control menu which allows users of different adaptabilities to adjust their experience with a site’s content to fit their specific needs. An example of this solution in action can be found on this site by clicking the blue and white person icon in the lower right corner of your screen. The menu allows users to choose from a list of adaptation to customize their experience with the site. Fully ADA compliant, this website solution is also updated every 24 hours so that new content is quickly made compliant as well.

 

While digital ADA compliance can get very detailed, there are common problems website designs often have that limit content accessibility for people with disabilities.

 

Common Problems with Content Accessibility

  1. Images: Frequently, websites that aren’t ADA compliant will feature images without text or verbal content equivalents. For visually impaired users or users with other disabilities that impact their ability to read image displays, an image that isn’t paired with text or verbal descriptions is inaccessible.

 

Fixing this issue requires the integration of technologies that improve access for disabled users, such as screen reader programs that translate text into auditory content or Braille display systems that turn digital content into refreshable, physical characters. Programs that speak or translate caption text into touchable displays can be easily installed into most website designs, and they go a long way in improving your site’s ADA compliance.

 

Adding text equivalents to images is also simple, typically through generic HTML code adjustments or tags. Because screen readers, Braille, and similar programs can’t translate from an image, adding text captions to pictures on your site is an ideal starting point to improving image accessibility.

 

  1. Videos: Like images, videos and multimedia content have accessibility issues for visually impaired users. Videos also pose access problems for hearing impaired users because they often introduce auditory content in addition to their visual components.

 

To make a video or other type of multimedia that combines visual and auditory aspects more accessible to disabled users, there are two solutions you can integrate into your site. First, adding text content equivalents/descriptions paired with the same screen readers and Braille systems that give visually impaired users better access to images will help bring video and multimedia content up to better ADA compliance. Secondly, incorporating captions that narrate the video into text as it plays will help hearing impaired users interact with multimedia content.

 

Today, there are reliable programs that auto-generate captions for auditory components throughout a video. While many of these caption-generator tools are useful and save content creators time, including more precise subtitles that have been accurately translated and well-placed as a video overlay will make your website’s multimedia easier to access for hearing impaired individuals. It might take more time to incorporate non-automated subtitles and other carefully built features, but it will improve your ADA compliance and make your brand more attractive to users with disabilities.

 

  1. Documents: If you’re following common internet standards, many documents, forms, text displays, and even images on your website might not be in an ADA compliant format. For example, if a document is available to users only in a PDF (portable document format), then visually impaired users will have low accessibility to that information.

 

If you translate a document’s information into a text-based format rather than just in PDF, JPEG, PNG, GIF, or other image-only format, it will increase disabled users’ accessibility to that content. This is because text-based documents like HTML or RTF (rich text format) can be processed through screen readers and other disability assistant programs. RTF documents are generally the most compatible format for the majority of translation technologies.

 

If your site requires users to fill out forms, read contracts, or interact with documents in any legal ways, it’s critical to improve accessibility for disabled users by providing those files in text-based formats as well as visual formats.

 

Another way to increase the accessibility of documents for visually impaired users is to provide tools that allow them to enlarge text, change font and display colors, and alter other font settings. These text-adjustment technologies help users quickly change a document display to read it right on your site. If making those small changes provides document content access for some visually impaired users, they may not have to spend the time to translate a text-based document through another system. This also increases your ADA compliance and provides accessibility for users that might be visually impaired for many different reasons.

 

  1. Design: Last but not least, the design of your website is a large part of building a foundation for comprehensive ADA compliance through the WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines. While aesthetics, formatting, and the general design of your site can be a key part of building your brand, keep in mind how all users, including those with a broad range of different abilities, will interact with and react to components of your site.

 

Take into account font, colors, brightness, size, and layout. Some users might have a hard time seeing small text and images, react negatively to certain colors and sounds, or find it difficult to focus on the information you’re providing. Additionally, many sites that aren’t ADA compliant don’t have seizure-safe designs or don’t provide warnings of potential bright lights, animations, or colors. All of these issues are addressed by the powerful adaptability solution used on the mltgroup.com site.

 

The best way to make your website accessible to all users without giving up the aesthetics and designs you want to build into your brand is to provide tools that let users make adjustments when they need to. Tools that let users change display designs without sacrificing the informational content will help visually and hearing-impaired people interact with your site, but other adjustment tools can make your content more accessible to people with cognitive disabilities, ADHD, or autism, as well as many other neuroatypical users.

 

To improve your website’s ADA compliance, these are some general issues to address. At MLT Group, we follow WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines in our site design. This includes seizure safe, vision impaired, cognitive disability, ADHD friendly, blind users screen reader, and keyboard navigation motor profiles. We also offer the adaptability menu solution found on this site which automates formatting for compliance when new content is added to the site.

 

It’s easier now than ever to incorporate tools for responsive web design that people with disabilities can interact with and use to navigate and process your site. By following WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines, making a proactive checklist, and integrating even the simplest ADA compliant tools, your website will become more accessible to all users and your ethical practices as a content creator, company, or other website provider will improve.

 

To learn more about incorporating ADA compliant designs into your website, contact MLT Group at (507) 281-3490 or sales@mltgroup.com today.

Franchise SEO & Website Design – The Big Fix

Everyone in America is familiar with franchises. They are represented on street corners coast to coast; McDonalds, 7-Eleven, Dunkin’, Great Clips, and hundreds more. From fast food to haircuts, and commercial cleaning to glass repair, franchises help meet a need for almost everyone at one time or another throughout each year. Their economic impact is fantastic, with those in the United States alone producing an output of nearly 800 billion dollars annually. In fact, franchises made up 10.5 percent of all US businesses in 2020 and employed over 8.5 million Americans.

Among businesses, franchise organizations have a unique component structure; a central licensing organization – the franchiser, often a large company with an entrenched corporate mentality, which supplies, supports, and collects fees from much smaller local businesses – the franchisees. The success of franchises across 295 industries attests to the benefits of this structure. In at least one area of the franchise world, however, there is an intractable struggle between franchiser and franchisee that often leads to marketing issues and lost opportunities.

That’s where we come in. At MLT Group, we have spent the last decade specializing in website design for franchise organizations and have become franchise SEO experts. In the process, we have assisted several national franchise companies to improve their digital marketing and have achieved outstanding ranking results for a plethora of franchisee sites. Now, for the first time, I’m about to tell you what we’ve learned, the not-so-secret problem in franchise SEO and marketing and the Big Fix that’s needed.

Number One: It’s important to recognize that franchise organizations want their franchisees to be successful. This desire is driven by economics and pride. Successful franchisees pay more fees to the franchiser and promote more interest among other potential franchisees. It is equally important to recognize that franchisers and franchisees don’t always share the same priorities. A franchisee sees business success as primarily defined by profit. The more business the better. A franchiser considers both profit and brand image to be paramount concerns. Which makes sense– the brand they have built is the foundation of their entire franchise organization.

Number Two: This misalignment in priorities frequently leads to problems for both franchisees and franchisers in the realm of digital marketing, with both groups struggling against one another rather than working in cohesive and collaborative harmony.

Concerns of the franchiser:

  • We need everyone to represent the brand consistently and accurately across all digital platforms. This is important to consumer confidence in the brand.
  • We worry that some of our franchisees lack the expertise in digital marketing to deliver our brand and messaging appropriately on their websites or on social media.
  • Even though digital marketing is most effective for service businesses when geo-targeted to the appropriate service area, our ability to assist hundreds of franchisees in producing digital marketing unique to their area and offerings is limited by budget and time.
  • Digital is more complicated and changeable than print, radio, or TV ads, making it harder to control from one central source.
  • Even though unique content is essential to search engine optimization, it is not feasible for corporate to write unique content for 400 or 1,500 separate sites, all explaining the same services.

Due to these concerns, franchise organizations often take the following actions which directly harm the digital marketing of their franchisees:

  • To control brand and messaging, they do not allow each franchise to have a unique “local” website and/or social media presence.
  • They do not allow each franchise to have its own unique domain name, preferring to house information about the franchise under the corporate “our locations” page or a URL like Bigfranchiseco.com/location_2463.
  • They may insist on franchisees using duplicate “boiler plate” marketing text for their websites, which is an SEO killer.
  • They do not accurately inform franchisees that the most effective way to rank on search engines is to have a unique local website with original content that is SEO’d and updated regularly.

Concerns of the franchisee:

  • Our local franchise needs to rank highly in search engines for the services we offer within our service area.
  • We need help to design, build, and populate a professional website and/or create an effective social media marketing campaign.
  • Our digital marketing efforts are limited by budget, available time, and lack of expertise in digital marketing.
  • We need a local web presence that is not owned by corporate.
  • Even though regularly posting unique website content is essential to search engine optimization, we do not have the time or expertise to create this content.
  • We want a robust social media campaign but do not have time to maintain it.
  • We want leads to come directly to us when potential customers find us online, not directed to us by corporate with fees or strings attached.

“Due to these concerns, franchise owners need their own unique local websites.”

Due to these concerns, franchise owners need their own unique, local websites. Many would also benefit from independent social media campaigns as well. Corporate can do a lot when it comes to buying online ad space for multiple locations or establishing a robust social media presence for the whole organization. Many franchise organizations maintain impressive social media campaigns, and for some, it can be enough for a franchisee to piggyback on these efforts. However, in terms of traffic and lead generation from Google and other search engines, there is no substitute for a robust local website for each franchise or major franchise market.

There are exceptions. Fast-food franchises, rapid oil change locations, car washes, and similar businesses do not need local websites. Due to the nature of their offerings, a central corporate website with locations pages is sufficient for these sorts of businesses.

“It is imperative for businesses to be  easy to find and easy to do business with.”

Companies providing services in people’s homes and businesses (cleaning, repair, remodeling, lawn care, pest control, etc.) need independent, local websites optimized effectively for Google and other search engines in order to achieve the best rankings possible. Solid rankings on search engines are the gold standard for being found, and the surest way to drive relevant traffic and leads. With an increasingly savvy consumer market, it is imperative for businesses to be easy to find and easy to do business with.

There are multiple benefits of an independent local website for a franchise. These include:

  • A unique domain name – important to franchise SEO and local marketing
  • A platform for unique content specific to the franchise’s services and service area
  • Ownership of the website for both control and as a valuable business asset
  • Results – a well-built and optimized local website will get better rankings and more traffic, leading to more leads and better ROI

“Corporate franchise organizations want their franchisees to succeed, however they have legitimate concerns about brand image and control.”

The Big Fix: Corporate franchise organizations want their franchisees to succeed, however they have legitimate concerns about brand image and control. The fix is to allow individual franchise owners to have their own local websites and to offer them trusted vendors who can provide quality digital marketing services that meet corporate brand expectations. Moreover, putting some money into the solution via co-pays helps the franchisees feel they are not bearing the burden alone. Additionally, the big corporate sites often have a good reputation with the search engines, so making sure to link from the corporate site to each independent franchise site provides powerful link juice. All of which lends itself to better franchise SEO, better Google rankings, more traffic, more leads, and better ROI. It’s a win-win that corporate franchise organizations need to understand and implement in the increasingly competitive world of digital marketing.

To learn more about professional franchise SEO services, contact MLT Group at (507) 281-3490 or sales@mltgroup.com today.

About the Author

Theo St. Mane is a partner and director of operations for MLT Group – Creative Solutions in Rochester, Minnesota. He has over 30 years of marketing experience and has spoken at national and regional conventions of franchise groups. He has also consulted on digital marketing for a variety of national franchise organizations since 2012.

 

The Design Connection Launches New Website

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MLT Group is happy to announce the launch of a new website for The Design Connection! The site showcases The Design Connection’s residential and commercial building designs and outlines their services with user-friendly pages that efficiently inform visitors. Content within the site explains the company’s process, services, and their extensive experience with residential and commercial designs while ensuring a positive user experience.

MLT Group’s search engine optimization (SEO) professionals worked directly with our team of content creators to optimize the site for search engines. These optimization procedures and the original, key phrase rich content on the site, will help the site rank well in search results. A solid onsite SEO strategy and ongoing SEO marketing techniques will help potential customers find The Design Connection site more readily.  After all, getting found online is important to being able to supply people with the kind of skilled design capabilities that create dream home spaces. Having an SEO enriched website that’s easy for visitors to navigate and take in the information about exactly what services The Design Connection provides is a critical marketing tool. Not only does a well-built website impart professionalism and expertise, it’s a marketing expense that is always justified by its return on investment (ROI).

Websites and ROI

“Return on investment” is a term that describes the justification of expenses from any type of marketing practices by attributing increased sales or income to those expensed techniques. Simply put, ROI is making money back on any marketing expense because the marketing technique led to more revenue. A website is a common kind of marketing expense that is justified by the ROI it provides.

There are many tactics for online marketing, such as pay-per-click advertising, social media marketing, and search engine optimization. When it comes to effective ROI marketing for websites, one of the most proven methods of increasing revenue and traffic is SEO. Largely driven by the need to adapt to Google’s search engine algorithms and those of other search systems, SEO utilizes careful research into relevant search terms or key phrases, location targets, original content, and other factors important to attaining high ranking in search engines.

With the launching of The Design Connection website, and an effective online marketing strategy, The Design Connection will likely see effective ROI created by increased visibility on search result pages, more traffic on their user-friendly pages, and more website visits that convert to sales and customers.

Ready to Make Your Site Work for You? Contact Us Today!

To learn more about professional SEO services, contact MLT Group at (507) 281-3490, sales@mltgroup.com, or online today.