Beyonce’s website is getting sued. Here’s why web designers should care.

Her website clearly wasn’t ***Flawless.

Beyonce is making headlines once again, but this time, it’s not for dropping a surprise album or for being pregnant again.

It’s for something out of left-field: her website.

More specifically, that her website doesn’t work for blind users. A group of blind Beyhive members is suing the star for not having an easily accessible website or online store.

Beyonce’s definitely not the only big name being hit with these lawsuits. Target, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and other businesses have been publicly called out for not providing users with disabilities with a functional website experience. Even public organizations like school systems and government agencies — including the ADA compliance website itself — struggle with being ADA compliant.

What is ADA compliance? Why does it matter for websites?

The American for Disabilities Act covers more than making sure there are ramps into buildings and braille signage. According to Title III of the act itself, public accommodations and commercial facilities are required to make “reasonable modifications” to serving visitors with disabilities. Before the World Wide Web, these “reasonable modifications” largely dealt with physical buildings.

However, more business is happening online now than ever before — which means those online websites have to be accessible to users with disabilities.

Websites have to include the same “reasonable modifications” that storefronts would give in the physical world, just in an online form.

What does accessibility look like?

In short, it means making sure your website can still be used by visually impaired or auditory impaired users. Website accessibility includes things like making sure there are alt tags on images, accurate captions for videos, and clearly contrasting colors.

Accessibility takes on a lot of forms for a variety of users, so making sure a website is accessible to everyone can be taxing.

But first, why should you care if your website is ADA compliant? You’re not Beyonce. Will anyone even notice?

Yes.

With nearly 17 percent of the US having some sort of disability, someone will notice your website isn’t easy to access. If you have a business website, you’re losing out on business by not applying the basics of accessibility.

What’s wrong with Beyonce’s website?

Screenshot of our SiteImprove diagnostic of Beyonce’s homepage

Using SiteImprove and just by knowing what to look for, here are a few things our team spotted while looking at Beyonce’s website:

  • Issues with her Search feature:

1. No associated label.

2. No “on-focus” style.

3. Lack of alt text with the search icon; screen readers wouldn’t pick up that there’s a search bar on her homepage navigation.

  • Multiple elements used the same ID, meaning different elements would be read the same by a screen reader.
  • Links weren’t distinguishable from surrounding text.
  • A lack of description tags for inputs, forms, and iFrames.

In Beyonce’s case, the lawsuit is particularly difficult. Beyonce’s website is largely visual, making it imperative that her web designers consider users with visual impairments. Her website isn’t alone. There’s a rising trend in websites with designs built upon massive visual elements.

Sometimes web designers follow a certain aesthetic so much that they neglect the UX of users with disabilities. It’s rare that these choices are intentional.

Does it mean these ADA issues can’t be resolved? No! And does this mean your website can’t become more accessible? Absolutely not.

Website accessibility is an easier fix than one would think, but it requires a fundamental shift in how you develop your pages. It’s asking questions like “How would a user with visual disabilities experience this page?” or “Does this layout still work in grayscale for users with colorblindness?” It requires more than one-time fixes and one-button solutions.

Here are three big takeaways from Beyonce’s ADA issues:

  1. Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought.
  2. There’s a bigger risk in not having an accessible website than spending time investing in accessible pages.
  3. You might not be Beyonce, but you should treat your website visitors like Queens. Your website visitors — regardless of ability or disability — are VIPs. Make sure they all get a great experience.

Upgrade U

Have questions about ADA and accessibility? You don’t have to go it alone, and there are plenty of resources available online and offline to help you make a more accessible website.

Accessibility takes your websites from this:

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To this:

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Want to learn more about accessibility? Our free eBook does a deep dive into the history of ADA, how accessible websites perform better with SEO, and critical components to successful, accessible websites.

Have a specific question about ADA and website accessibility? Drop us a line at scott@solodev.com