Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Content Contributors: Who, What, & Why?

Have you recently been told that you will be a content contributor to your company’s website? Are you wondering what all this new job duty entails? This article will provide you with some insight on what to expect, as well as tips on keeping that content accessible for all of your website’s users.

As a content contributor, you will be responsible for creating effective, usable content for your company’s site, usually on a regular basis. Under normal circumstances, you will not be responsible for developing templates or applications.

Typical content editor job titles include:

  • Editors
  • Writers
  • Instructional Designers
  • Content Managers
  • Producers
Photo by Dan Counsell on Unsplash
Photo by Dan Counsell on Unsplash

The types of tasks you will be responsible for include:

  • Providing captions and transcripts for videos
  • Creating links to related content
  • Adding supporting images, photos, and graphs (including appropriate alternate text)
  • Creating audio and video files to make the end-user experience engaging
  • Assigning headings to organize the content

The types of tasks that should be handled by developers (and not you) include:

  • Establishing branding standards for images and colors
  • Creating designs for different device sizes
  • Validating HTML and CSS code
  • Utilizing proper HTML tags, labels, and attributes
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

So what exactly on the company website might you be in charge of editing?

  • Writing and formatting web page content (should be a given by now)
  • Assigning headings to organize content (we all love organization, right?)
  • Creating links to related content (the longer a person stays on your site, the better, right?)
  • Adding supporting alternative (alt) text for images, photos, and graphs
  • Providing instructions, scripts, and audio descriptions for audio and video
  • Supplying captions, transcripts, and alt text to supplement multimedia content.

So how do you make sure the content you are providing is accessible?

  • Written Content – should be clear, concise, organized, and well-formatted.
  • Images – should include descriptive alt text for assistive technology users.
  • Tables – should be simple and clearly labeled.
  • Multimedia – audio and video files should be supported with captions and transcripts in an accessible media player.
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Why should you worry about making your content accessible to the end-users? Well, it just so happens that there are more than a billion people in the world with disabilities – in the U.S. alone that is approximately 1 in every 4 people! And guess what, the word “disability” in this sense does not just mean a health condition – it actually is referring to a disconnect between a person’s abilities and their environment.

Still not convinced? Then keep in mind that the combined disposable income of this population is equal to $1.2 trillion in buying power.

Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash
Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash

Now that I have your attention, what types of disabilities do you need to be aware of when developing your content?

  • Visual – includes far-sightedness, blindness, color blindness, and low vision.

    In a study that was published by the Journal of Usability Studies, they found that only 28% of blind users could successfully complete online job applications due to the process typically not being designed with accessibility in mind.

    Just think … how many potentially awesome people are not at your company because of this issue?

  • Motor/Mobility – covers muscular and skeletal issues, more than just hands and arms.

    In these cases, people may not use a mouse at all to navigate your website. Instead, they may use a keyboard, joystick, or even voice recognition.

    So a well-organized site that uses headings properly will be a lot easier for them to navigate – not to mention, will look a LOT nicer!

  • Auditory – like the visual issues, hearing-related disabilities exist on a spectrum, which includes total deafness.

    Does your site include a lot of audio? Without an alternative way of interacting with that material (e.g., audio transcript), they will miss out on a huge part of your brand experience.

  • Learning – a non-physical disability – learning and cognitive issues also have accessibility requirements.

    Adjustments for these issues can include additional time for reviewing content, providing content in multiple formats, and operating with speech-to-text input.

  • Seizures – light, motion, and flickering screens can affect some of your users by triggering seizures – the most common of which is photosensitive epilepsy.

    How do you address this issue so that your company doesn’t get a lawsuit? Be mindful of any moving content you provide on your site. Does it flash quickly? Could it be a trigger? Does the end-user have a way to stop the movement? Putting control into their hands can be one way to mitigate the situation.

  • Situational – an end-user may be limited by their current situation, such as the device, connection speed, or environment.

    Mobile users or users on dial-up (yes, there are still dial-up users) may use alt text for images instead of eating up their bandwidth by processing images.

    Someone in a noisy environment or in a library where silence is preferred may read captions or transcripts instead of listing to the audio on your site.

    Another person may be limited to operating devices with just one hand, such as when holding a child, and may opt to use speech-to-text instead.

  • Temporary – many of us have or will experience temporary situations that affect our ability to use technology.

    Examples include issues like a broken arm, pain flareups from conditions like fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, or carpal tunnel syndrome. Other issues may be sensory related, such as sensory overload for someone with autism.

Now that you have an idea of issues that need to be kept in mind, here are some benefits of accessible content:

  • Reaching more users and gaining a competitive edge (your boss will like this)
  • Improved understanding with clear and simple language for non-native speakers
  • Accommodating a broader audience by providing content with a low readability score that is easier to understand for all users
  • Providing accessibility improvements that benefit all users
  • Increasing user retention and reduce eye fatigue with content that is succinct and easier to read online.
Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash
Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

Writing for the Web

Did you know that for most people, reading off of a screen is tiring for the eyes? In fact, people typically read 25% slower online versus reading from a piece of paper.

What can you do to alleviate this issue?

  • Include only one idea per paragraph (check with an English teacher if you don’t believe me)
  • Use the inverted pyramid style – i.e., started with the conclusion or main point of your article
  • Break content into bulleted lists when possible (for example … this article!)
  • Write with short paragraphs, short sentences, and short words … leave those big words for your dissertation!
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

So how do you improve the readability of your content?

  • Be Concise – too many sentences and your main points get buried.
  • Be Concise – too many words and your main points get buried.
  • Don’t bury your point – put the most important info at the beginning!
  • Use the KISS principle – content should be easy to read – use a readability scale to measure the complexity of your text.
  • Reading Grade Level – i.e., the level of education required to read your content.
    In the U.S., it is recommended to aim for a 7th or 8th grade level.
  • Don’t use complex terms – avoid jargon and long or uncommon words.
    Just because your company knows the jargon, doesn’t mean everyone does. If you must use it, be sure to provide definitions or clarifications for these words and phrases.
  • If you have to include a word that is difficult to pronounce, consider including a pronunciation key.
The end of the article

I hope this article has helped you gain a clearer insight into what will be expected of you as a content editor. There is an abundant amount of information on the web that can aid in assisting you as you progress into this field. So do not be afraid to research and look for more resources.

Stay tuned for future articles on this topic!

Content partially curated from SiteImprove’s Course: Accessibility for Content Contributors (Premium) and is not available for sale.

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