Web Design Considerations for Improving Accessibility

Before Content

Mobile Accessibility

Hours upon hours are spent refining and simplifying code, multiple wireframe designs are tweaked to near-perfection, and user experience (UX) teams constantly research user interaction with their upcoming website launch.

It's pretty common to get lost in the rush to provide a client with a flashy web design with all of the bells and whistles. Who suffers the most? Today we're going to look at web design from the perspective of the most forgotten demographics and individual capabilities.

Older Users

Everyone is aware that eyesight declines with age, but web designers consistently forget to accommodate for older web users. Unfamiliarity with computers or operating systems aside, you're shooting yourself in the foot if site visitors can't see menus for navigation or written content.

As a web designer, the goal is to always provide easy-to-understand navigation and flow through the website. Something as simple as the contrast ratio between text and background is often neglected. There are a number of elements to keep track of, but the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Contrast Guide is all you need to evaluate your current text/background combination.

Visual Impairment

Giving a web user some sort of text alternative for any applicable visual content is actually of benefit in two very important ways.

First and foremost, a user that can't even access your visual information is a lost conversion opportunity. Take the view that it's no different than your website being down when someone with a visual impairment points their browser at your site. Take special note of things like Captcha. It's a great tool for verifying a user is a real person before any sort of registration or form fill, but an audio alternative is non-optional.

Secondly, web crawlers and popular search engines need text to operate. While it's common to make proper use of tags for images and galleries, designers really ought to include text for maximizing search engine optimization (SEO) potential. You'll be killing two birds with one stone.

Further Guidelines and Considerations

Your new landing page might have fantastic visual design and the perfect call-to-action, but your flashy introduction may have the potential to induce seizures.

An innovative user interface (UI) may have elements which aren't accessible from a keyboard.

Decorative elements make your website more impressive than the competition but may hinder the operation of assistive technologies which often utilize API monitoring for functionality.

The list goes on and on. Every web designer or website owner should do a deep review of web accessibility as soon as possible. If you aren't accommodating users, you're missing out on web traffic and revenue.

Check out the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for a comprehensive checklist of current best practices.