Our team made an interesting discovery recently. During the research for our survey of FTSE100 mobile websites with Investis, we noticed that roughly a third of sites are still using access keys. This is a practice that has been identified as problematic for disabled access for several years now.
Why is this? Well, until recently, access keys were still being widely recommended for mobile sites. They were included in the old WAP standards and were used for simplifying navigation by offering keyboard shortcuts for important links. This made sense when the majority of internet-enabled mobile devices produced still used traditional keypads.
Now, however, with touchscreen devices driving the mobile market, things have changed – and using access keys is no longer such a good thing for mobile design.
Access keys are also are irrelevant for touchscreen devices, and most importantly, adding them to pages can risk making the site less accessible by clashing with browser/screen reader defaults.
It’s likely that most companies whose mobile sites still use access keys either haven’t updated them recently, or have been confused by conflicting advice. But with more and more users opting for touchscreen devices, access keys are best left out of mobile design unless you are developing a site that will only be served to older devices.