App store optimization (ASO) is the mobile equivalent of search engine optimization (SEO). The goal is to optimize ranking factors so that your business’s app appears towards the top of search results on Google Play, Apple’s App Store, and other app marketplaces.
As we’ve noted in other articles, mobile app accessibility isn’t optional, and focusing on accessibility yields a number of benefits. Accessible apps can reach a wider audience and provide a more consistent experience for all users — but can accessibility help with ASO?
It’s true that the best practices of website accessibility are closely aligned with the best practices of SEO. However, ASO has a much more limited set of ranking factors:
Your app’s title, subtitle, and descriptions.
The number of installs, ratings, and positive reviews.
Your app’s keywords (specific to the Apple App Store).
Your app’s retention rate.
Your app’s update cycle and overall stability.
On the surface, none of these factors relate directly to mobile accessibility — but by looking closer, we can see how accessibility can improve ASO and help you build your audience.
Accessible mobile apps tend to be more stable
Both Apple and Google have a strong incentive to send users to high-quality apps. The Play Store considers your app’s update cycle, along with the number of crashes and the resources consumed during operation (such as the app’s size, phone battery usage, and so on).
To create an accessible app, you’ll need clean, consistent code and markup. That’s not optional: Many people use assistive technologies (AT) such as screen readers when using their mobile devices, and AT requires logical code to function predictably.
Accessible apps tend to be lighter than non-accessible apps. That can limit the costs of development and reduce the number of necessary updates — and improve stability for every user, regardless of the technology they use when accessing your app.
Mobile accessibility promotes strong retention rates
About 26% of U.S. adults live with some form of disability. That’s an enormous market, and if you’re not focused on accessibility from day one, you risk alienating those potential users.
But while the core goal of mobile accessibility is to accommodate the needs and preferences of people with disabilities, this also translates to a more streamlined experience for all users.
If you fix your app’s color contrast issues, you provide a better experience for people with low vision and color vision deficiencies (also called color blindness). You also provide a better experience for a user who opens your app in direct sunlight. By building in robust support for keyboard users, you make your app useful for people who use AT — and people who plug their phone into a desktop computer at work to operate it without a touchscreen.
That can mean better retention rates and user ratings. When people aren’t forced to use your app in a specific way, they’re less likely to uninstall (and more likely to submit a positive review).
Focusing on mobile accessibility sends a strong message to users
App store optimization is all about branding. You want every user to have an excellent experience with your app, and you want them to spread the word.
By focusing on accessibility, you’re telling your users that you care about every experience. You’re committed to inclusive design, and you’re not trying to force your customers to use a certain technology. You’re giving your audience more options, which helps them develop a strong relationship with your brand.
And while mobile accessibility requires an investment, it pays off: In addition to better ASO, accessible mobile apps are easier to maintain and less susceptible to development roadblocks.
Think about accessibility from the first stages of app development
One 2020 analysis found that the world’s top five app marketplaces contained more than 8.9 million apps. To stand out — and build a consistent, dedicated user base — you need to consider the experiences of all users.
You can take the first steps by testing your app against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the international standards for digital accessibility. WCAG provides simple pass-or-fail statements for testing content, and an experienced accessibility partner can help you fulfill WCAG by eliminating barriers that affect users with disabilities.
By thinking about accessibility when planning your app, you can create a digital product that appeals to a wider range of users (and improve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other non-discrimination laws).
We’re here to help. Send us a message to connect with a mobile accessibility expert or read about our iOS and Android app accessibility testing services.