There’s a clear business case for making sure your website meets accessibility standards, but too many businesses prioritise backwards browser compatibility instead. We’re here to show you why accessibility should take priority.

We hear this a lot: clients want their website to have backwards compatibility but they don’t want to spend their budget making the same website accessible. That’s because at some point clients have taken the time to define their browser support requirements, yet rarely their accessibility requirements.

But at Cyber-Duck, we believe overlooking accessibility is highly damaging to your business model. Here’s why.

1. It’s more cost effective to build for browsers that people use

There’s a tendency for teams to think that the more web browsers and older browser versions their product can support, the more people will engage with it. You’ll capture all users, from those using the latest version of Chrome or Firefox right through to the users still on Internet Explorer 10 or 11.

But have you stopped to think about how many of your users actually use older browsers? Does the number of users coming to your website justify spending more dev time creating a product compatible with IE than on making it accessible?

For instance, over the past two years, only 3.13% of total visitors to the Cyber-Duck website used IE 10 or 11.

Front-end developer at work

Our front-end developers prioritise accessibility for our clients.

When we began developing a new website in 2017, it made little sense to dedicate loads of resource making our website compatible with older versions of IE (or worry ourselves to death about IE – 90% of our users use Chrome, Safari and Firefox). There just isn’t the business case for it. That’s why our website only backdates to IE 8, but this is only functional compatibility – it definitely won’t look as good! We spent more time making a more engaging experience for users on later browsers instead, where the number of users justifies greater budget spend.

2. More users have a disability than use older browsers

Just 3.13% of total visitors used IE 10 or 11 to view our website in the past two years. Although we can see what browsers they use, we can’t use Google Analytics to see if users have a disability. While we do need to know about browser usage before we build products, it’s also important for us to engage with demographic realities.

Case in point, one in five of all UK citizens has a disability. The numbers are also high in the US, where at least an estimated 40 million US citizens have a disability – roughly 12% of the population. Therefore, in just two countries 14% of the population have a disability. These people deserve our attention and should be able to access our websites with ease.

But there’s another vital point we must make. The population is ageing. Advances in medicine and science have increased life expectancy, which is undoubtedly a fantastic achievement, but it brings with it a host of new problems. As we age, we develop impairments that could affect how we use technology. Our sight can go, our hearing can fade, and we can lose dexterity and physical capacities. That isn’t to say anything about the prevalence of dementia and similar afflictions among the elderly.

Older user with accessibility needs

We care about accessibility in all forms at Cyber-Duck. Above, we created a platform for older users to keep in touch with their family using an Amazon Alexa Skill. See more on Jim.Care.

Currently, half of over 75s in the US say they live with a disability. Considering that by 2040, one in seven people in the UK will be aged over 75 and that 19 million people will be over 65 by 2050, the proportion of the UK population with a disability is set to increase further. Worldwide, the UN even predicts that 2.1 billion people will be over 65 by 2050.

All of this means that more people will have increased accessibility needs in the future. This is especially the case as the current tech-savvy generations grow older. Age-inclusive design and accessibility should, therefore, be one of your main priorities. It makes perfect business sense. The elderly and disabled are two very large demographics that we don’t cater our products enough to, so you can increase your market reach and growth by meeting the needs of these users. It is a more pressing need than trying to cater to users who use outdated web browsers.

3. Accessibility enhances your brand

It isn’t just about increasing your market reach. Accessibility also enhances your brand.

All businesses want to promote their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) credentials. You only need to look at Facebook to see how a poor commitment to CSR principles can seriously harm your brand!

Businesses that commit to accessibility are making a clear commitment to inclusive marketing and employment practices as well. This is great for a brand’s reputation, as people see your business as caring, one that will take the time to meet their needs. As a result, you may see an increase in sales and customer loyalty.

But allocating budget to ensure your website runs to the same spec on older browsers instead of ensuring it is accessible is a bit of a non-starter. People won’t look at your brand and see you as progressive because you support older browsers – most won’t even care. Accessibility, however, matters.

4. Don’t forget, accessibility is a legal requirement

The law is changing when it comes to accessibility. We’ve seen a lot of changes in recent decades when it comes to equal access to physical spaces, and greater equality laws in general for disabled people. But one area that isn’t enforced as heavily as it should be is accessibility in the digital sphere.

Things are changing. The internet is now integral to many everyday activities. From catching up on the news to seeing what your friends are up to, we do so much online – and that’s just the simple things. Consider too that now we’re expected to do our banking, taxes, utility bills and more online as well.

Signing a legal contract

Accessibility is a legal requirement, so don't overlook it.

Government, banks, energy suppliers, supermarkets and much more besides is moving online. But if an individual or group can’t access these facilities, we’re effectively cutting them off from society. Accessibility is about making sure that doesn’t happen, and it’s a legal requirement or will be soon depending on your location.

For instance, the UK Equality Act 2010 states that websites must be accessible to users with disabilities. This has actually been the case since 1995 when the Disability Discrimination Act came into law.

There is confusion in the area. Some companies don’t know how the laws impact them. Likewise, not many companies or organisations are publicly named and shamed for not embedding accessibility so awareness is limited, but some stories do break through. In 2018, a blind man in the US sued Playboy because the website didn’t support his screen reader and he couldn’t read Playboy’s articles.

Expect more cases like this – and probably more serious cases! – after the European Union brings new legislation into force in 2019. The European Accessibility Act will make it even more important to embed accessibility to avoid heavy fines.

5. Browser compatibility is also a security concern

There’s a reason why apps, websites and browsers are updated regularly. Sure, as technology progresses we can update products to provide more engaging user experiences, but there is a more fundamental reason too: security.

Over time, hackers discover loopholes in browsers that make them easier to manipulate and exploit. This is the same for apps and any other digital product. It’s always a race to stay ahead of hackers and to protect users by closing these loopholes quickly. That’s why Google, Microsoft and the other tech companies update their browsers regularly to improve their security.

The UX team interview users with accessibility needs

Enhanced security is a major incentive for adopting accessibility, but it also helps for a great UX. Our UX team promotes accessibility in their designs.

If you champion an outdated browser that is no longer maintained, you are needlessly opening up your website to major security flaws and hacking. New security techniques may not be supported by older browsers, which means developers have to resort to outdated libraries and code to guarantee compatibility. This needlessly opens a door for hackers to collect information.

As an ISO 27001 certified company, Cyber-Duck is committed to high security standards. We recommend limiting backwards compatibility to increase your security standards and protect both your users and your organisation from hacking. So if you prioritised accessibility instead of backwards compatibility, not only would you increase your market reach and enhance your brand, you would also make your website more secure.

How to make your website accessible

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the go-to guide for champions of accessibility. The latest version is 2.1 and its recommendations are internationally recognised. The WCAG is based on four design principles:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

All accessible web content is created with these principles in mind. There are loads of areas to think about to ensure all users can tell what your website is with the senses or abilities they have, that they can work it, and that it works regardless of how users interact with it.

To really get to grips with accessibility, contact Cyber-Duck today. We’re experts when it comes to accessibility, and champion the WCAG. Our UX designers and expert development team pride themselves on achieving the highest accessibility standards for our clients. We’re ready to help you too. Get in touch now.