Accessibility in Web Design - Ensuring an Inclusive Online Experience

June 16, 2023
David Sunnyside

Accessibility in Web Design Ensuring an Inclusive Online Experience

Taking into account accessibility modifications benefits everyone. When a site is accessible, it is usable for people with a variety of different disabilities and limitations.

For example, when all functionality can be navigated with a keyboard and single switch access devices, it helps users who cannot use a mouse. When videos are closed captioned, it benefits deaf and hard-of-hearing users.

1. Adaptive Design

In an increasingly diverse and multi-device world, designing for inclusivity means making sure your web design services or digital solutions are accessible to users of all types and abilities. This requires a holistic understanding of the user experience through research, creating personas, empathy mapping, and conducting user testing.

This can include things like providing closed captions on videos, using easy-to-read fonts and colors, utilizing HTML5 video tags, ensuring keyboard accessibility, and more. It also includes utilizing adaptive design to ensure a tailored experience for users on different devices.

Adaptive designs are similar to responsive designs, but they offer greater control over the content and layout of the site by producing a best-fit experience for unique device viewpoints. For example, Home Depot’s website uses adaptive design to allow visitors on mobile phones to shop with a streamlined experience while still enjoying all the benefits of desktop shopping. This approach allows the website to avoid a “one-size-fits-all” approach and can help deliver faster load times and a better user experience on all devices.

2. Responsive Design

Adapting web content for different screen sizes helps users with disabilities by reducing the amount of zooming required. It also eliminates the need for horizontal scrolling on a mobile device and prevents page elements from being hidden or cut off by unusable sidebars. Responsive design is especially important for creating websites that provide equal access to information across all devices.

Although accessibility requirements primarily focus on people with disabilities, they can benefit everyone in certain limiting situations. For example, large clean text benefits those with low vision and clear headings help those who browse while driving or in noisy or quiet environments.

Usability is the extent to which a website’s interface and content can be used effectively and with satisfaction by real people. This can be measured by time on page, which is an indicator of user satisfaction and typically leads to repeat visits. Usability and accessibility go hand-in-hand; accessible sites are more user-friendly for all.

3. Accessibility Checklists

There are a number of accessibility checklists online to help you test your website for compliance with the WCAG 2.0/2.1 and ADA and Section 508 federal standards. While passing these tests doesn’t guarantee your site will be completely accessible, they are a great way to get started.

For example, a checklist can help you make sure that all links are clearly labeled, tagged with descriptive heading tags, and that the content of those links follows a logical order. Another easy fix is to ensure that all functions are keyboard accessible. Try packing away your mouse or covering your touchpad and browsing the site using only the tab key to see if you can reach all areas of functionality.

Inaccessible websites shut out a significant portion of the population from critical economic, educational, health, and social opportunities that are only available online. Digital equity means making these online opportunities available to everyone, regardless of disability or other barriers.

4. Accessibility Testing

Getting accessibility right from the beginning of a project makes more sense than fixing problems discovered late in the development process. For this reason, accessibility evaluations should be integrated into all phases of design and development.

Evaluating a web application for accessibility requires testing the user interface and other features that impact the end-user experience. There are many ways to conduct accessibility testing, including manual tests performed with real people using assistive technology and automated test tools.

Combining accessibility standards with usability processes and research, allows a unified approach to creating accessible web content that is both technically and functionally usable for all. This is sometimes referred to as "usable accessibility." By including accessibility considerations in your work, you can better serve a larger audience base, decrease legal risks, and make your products more competitive. You will also gain a better understanding of your audience. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved! In fact, making the web more inclusive is a moral imperative.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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