Voice Search: An Accessibility Feature Adopted En Masse

This is a guest post contributed by Rebecca Feinberg, Sr. SEO Account Manager at Seer Interactive.

While people often view incorporating accessibility into products as a burden or a “nice to have,” baking it into your product development and design cycles can actually pay dividends. At a very high level, accommodating people’s limited abilities often means an unapologetically user-focused design approach, which results in a far more usable product. When you make something easy to use for someone with a disability, the end product is often an effortless experience for users without disabilities—the holy grail for product design.

Voice search is yet another example of a feature that best serves individuals with disabilities that has been co-opted by the masses because of convenience. According to Google, voice search is growing daily and it will continue to accelerate as technology improves and using voice search becomes ingrained into the way people search the web. In 2018 alone, 27% of the global online population was using voice search on mobile.

What is voice search?

woman using voice search on a phoneVoice search is the practice of using a smart device (like an iPhone, Google Home, or Alexa) or mic-enabled browser (like Google Chrome) to search the web.

The most common types of voice searches start with “how,” “what,” and “best,” indicating that voice search adopters are typically looking for quick answers of high-level research, rather than in-depth lower funnel searches).

Educational voice search results tend to pull from available answer boxes that you would see in desktop and mobile search results. This means that if you are considering incorporating voice search into your SEO strategy, the same principles apply to voice search as they would in your content strategy (i.e., use your content to answer your target audience’s questions).

Does considering voice search create a more accessible experience?

The quick answer is yes, in the search engine results, but not necessarily on your site.

Optimizing for voice search alone won’t make your site more accessible (unless, of course, you add the capability to your website’s search functionality). The idea of “Voice Search,” ends once a searcher leaves the search engine results page and navigates to your website.

If someone is leveraging voice search on a phone or a browser, they have the option to visit the site that provided them the answer. Many people using voice search may have a disability, so it is in your best interest to provide an accessible experience for them if they end up on your site after using voice search.

Considerations for those using screen readers

If your site contains visual elements, like images or an infographic, screen readers may not be able to properly convey the value of those visual elements without additional considerations. For example, with images you can implement descriptive image alt text. Screen readers can read this piece of code and share that description with the site visitor.

Considerations for users who may be audio-impaired

If your webpage has a helpful video but no transcripts or captions, a user who may have a hearing impairment would be unable to find value in your video and would have a poor user experience.

Although including elements like image alt text and video transcripts can help make your site more accessible for all users, this is not an exhaustive list of opportunities to improve your site’s accessibility.

Optimize for people and accessibility for the best experience

The implications of voice search and accessibility apply to everyone. Voice search shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, in 2016, 61% of consumers used voice search when their hands or eyes were occupied, like when they were cooking or driving. This number has likely grown in the past five years.

Just as having a user-focused approach to product development is the best way to improve the user experience, the best way to prepare your site for voice search is to continue answering your target audiences’ questions clearly and with natural language. Note that optimizing your site for accessibility doesn’t stop with having the right questions answered. Take into consideration the site experience individuals may have when they arrive on your site.

If you’re considering making your site more accessible to people with all different abilities, contact TPGi today to learn more about how we can help you. An accessible website elevates the experience for everyone, lowers legal risk, and opens up your target market to include more people.

About the Rebecca Feinberg:
Within digital marketing, she specializes in leveraging external factors that impact organic performance (current events, the economy, financial statements from publicly traded companies, etc.) and incorporates them into her digital marketing strategy and analysis. When she is not glued to a screen, Rebecca can be found volunteering, running, hiking, cooking (and subsequently eating), reading horror books, or traveling. Find her on LinkedIn.

Categories: World of Accessibility