Alms given openly will be rewarded in secret

Ensuring your website is easier to use for visually impaired people may not be high up in your priority list. Disregarding the possibility that you may have more visually impaired potential customers than you realise, it may be worth rethinking this area of neglect. Nobody knows what’s in the search engines’ secret sauce, but I’d be willing to bet that ‘accessibility’ is at least a small factor. And guess what? It turns out that many of the practices suggested to help the visually impaired also assist machine intelligence in assessing your website.

I’m not suggesting you rip up your website here, but there are some better practices going forward which will not be a time or cost imposition, and they’ll help in several ways.

‘Alt text’ on images is a good place to start. When you add an image to your website, your content management system should give you the opportunity to add a descriptive (or ‘alt’) tag. Use this. Visually impaired users and search engines can both get an understanding of what’s in the picture this way.

Also, make the image file name descriptive. Why call it ‘IMG9000.jpg’ when you could call it ‘bluewidget.jpg’? In fact, make everything descriptive: URLs, document file names, whatever you come across. Fill in the metadata fields on PDF and (if you must post them on your site) Word and Powerpoint files. As the Chinese proverb says: “Alms given openly will be rewarded in secret.”