According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 2.2 billion people worldwide have some form of vision impairment.
Another estimate of 253 million people experiences severe vision impairment or total blindness.
That’s a huge portion of the world population that may need to use inclusive technology like screen readers and/or text-to-speech programs to navigate the digital world.
It’s a huge part of the population. Yet, it is something that able-bodied individuals who do not live with any form of vision impairment don’t think about as often as they should — particularly when marketing their business online.
It comes down to something as simple as emojis. To many, it’s just a cute little smiley face being used in place of a bullet point. To someone who accesses your content with a screen reader, it’s a headache that limits their accessibility.
Walking Our Talk
As Just Marketers, we are always learning. It’s the only way to truly embody Just Marketing™ practices! Admitting where you may have gone wrong, learning from it, and doing things differently the next time around.
So, let’s talk emojis — shall we?
Excessive use of emojis makes it extremely challenging for the visually impaired, who use screen readers and/or text-to-speech programs to access information.
This is not to say that you should stop using them entirely, but there are a few different ways that you can do so in a way that is far more accessible.
Emojis Are Cool, But…
Emojis are always a great way to make your messaging more personal; I know I love them. However, to make your marketing more accessible, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Never Use Emojis to Replace Words
When you use emojis to replace words, screen readers only read the alt-description of the emojis. It does not clearly translate what you mean to the visually impaired. You can totally use emojis to enhance the experience of your content, but words should still be used to clearly convey the full meaning of what you want to say.
Not Repeating Emojis
Repeating emojis or using too many emojis in a row can confuse screen readers. This, in turn, can lead to confusion in the message you are trying to convey with people using screen readers. Overall, it results in a poor user experience. On average, limit to three emojis per post or message when necessary. Anything more makes it time-consuming and annoying to have to listen to screen readers reading out a bunch of emojis.
Text Before Emoji
Like dinner before dessert, your emojis should always come after the text. Not before, not in the middle of words, AFTER. Using emojis in the middle of a sentence will confuse screen readers, which will read the alt-text as a part of the sentence. This translates into using emojis as bullet points as well (not recommended).
Keeping it Simple
When it comes to how to use emojis to ensure you create accessible content, simplicity is key.
Avoid Ambiguous Emojis
Some emojis can mean different things to different people in different contexts. Take this emoji, for example: 🙏
This looks like someone praying and raising hands in worship. It also looks like two people high-fiving. If different people interpret the emoji differently, then they will not have an equitable experience consuming your content.
Emojis > Emoticons
If you were born prior to 1990, you probably remember emoticons quite well! They are the ones that are created using semicolons, brackets and the like. So, for example, you would create an emoticon smiley face like this 🙂
These are not ideal as they do not have alt-text accompanying them, whereas emojis do. The alt-text is what allows screen readers to interpret the emojis, so they are always the superior choice!
Emoji Color Matters
Now, this one is a little bit nuanced. But you will see why it matters:
Consider Color Contrast
Light emojis on a white background are hard to see/identify. The same is true for dark emojis on a black background. Because some users prefer dark mode, it’s important to ensure we choose emojis that will be visible on both light and dark backgrounds —which is why yellow emojis are often the best option over skin-tone emojis.
It can be tempting to change the color of customizable emojis. Don’t. Why? Every unique icon gets descriptor information. The longer the description, the longer anyone using a screen reader has to listen before they get back to the content they came for.
For example, a standard, yellow thumbs-up emoji reads as :+1: but if you add a skin tone, it changes to :+1::skin-tone-5:, which will often just send folks searching for content that doesn’t have so many annoying emojis to deal with!
Where Emojis Should Never Live
When used sparingly and in the right location, emojis can definitely add a certain something to content. With that said, there are a few places you should avoid placing emojis altogether!
Before Your Precious CTA
All important information in your content should go before emojis. If you want to use an emoji somewhere in your call to action, be sure to put it after the text. Sometimes folks will simply tune out when screen readers start to read out excessive emoji descriptions, so you want to make sure that you get the most pertinent information to them before that happens.
In Your Twitter Name
Adding an emoji in your Twitter name will make it confusing for anyone who is visually impaired to actually capture the name when utilizing tools like screen readers. This is because a screen reader transcribing an emoji in your name will make it unnecessarily long. NOTE: (Your name is different from your @ handle)
If you’re ever confused about any of this, you can visit emojipedia to see how screen readers will read specific emojis.
Use this as your checklist before posting your content. Make sure:
- » You used emojis in moderation (less than 3 per message/post)
- » You did not use emojis as bullet points
- » There are no emojis in the middle of a sentence in your content
- » You used default yellow emojis unless skin color is necessary for context
- » You double-checked emoji descriptions on emojipedia.org
The Just Marketing™ Podcast
I am so excited about this new platform launching out into the world! Just Marketing™ is my new podcast dedicated to ethically-centered marketers and business owners who want their marketing to be inclusive and accessible. You can stay up to date on Just Marketing™ insights by listening to our new episodes every week.
It’s only right that we practice what we preach. So we have made it accessible to you however you prefer to consume your content. You can listen to audio on your fav podcast player, subscribe to our YouTube channel to catch it on video, or read the transcription on our blog.
Want to be the first to know as soon as we release an episode? You can find a link in the description or blog where you can sign up for email reminders. STAY JUST.