How to get the very best of your website accessibility features.
Accessibility is a term we often hear in a range of different circumstances, from how buildings are designed to UX design. Improving accessibility and ensuring everyone can enjoy the same resources has never been more important. As UX designers, we must ensure that the websites or applications we design are accessible to all because, at the end of the day – smart UX is about ease of use and accessibility.
However, good accessibility isn’t just about adding every single feature imaginable. As well as being of no use to the user, it isn’t practical. So, here are our tips on how you can get the very best from your app and website accessibility.
1. Remind yourself why you’re doing this
This seems like a simple point to make. Something that doesn’t even need to be said, but it can often be the most simple of tasks that set us up for success.
Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. When applied in the digital world, this definition can be expanded to include anyone who may need alternative routes to access in order to engage in digital spaces.
According to Crownpeak, one billion people live with a disability that impacts major life activities worldwide. Our societies are more digitally dependent than ever, so measures must be put into place to ensure that everyone can engage with online content, whether they have a disability or just need a helping hand to navigate the online world.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution – what works for one person may not work for another. And, as technology advances, so too do the ways in which people access and use the internet. This means that website accessibility is an ongoing journey rather than a destination. By reminding ourselves of what accessibility is at its core, and why it is important – we can set ourselves up to consider in more detail who exactly we need to have in mind when making our UX accessible.
2. Consider who you are designing for and who your accessibility features will be helping
As we said, when it comes to accessibility, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Going through an accessibility checklist and adding every possible fix or tool is impractical. Doing this may compromise your UX and make your website difficult to navigate in the long run. So, it’s important to consider who you are designing for (don’t be afraid to be specific) and what accessibility features will be most beneficial to them. Only then can you start making real headway in terms of accessible UX.
There are a few groups that we need to think about when considering accessibility features; however, you may identify others when exploring your website or application’s audiences during the scoping phase:
- People with visual impairments
- People who are deaf or hard of hearing
- People with motor or mobility impairments
- People with temporary impairments
- People with seizure disorders
- People with cognitive impairments.
- People who are less ‘tech-savvy.’
Each group has different needs regarding accessibility and, as such, will require additional features to make your website easy for them to use. It’s important not to make assumptions about what people can or cannot do. Instead, take the time to get to know your users and their specific needs; failing to do so and overloading your users with the wrong forms of accessibility amendments can actually do more harm than good.
3. Use existing accessibility tools and technologies
There are many existing accessibility tools and technologies that you can use to make sure your website is accessible to all. These range from simple changes that can be made to your website’s code to more complex solutions that can be integrated into your website.
Some of the most common accessibility tools and technologies include:
– Screen readers
– Text-to-speech software
– Alternative text
– Closed captioning
– Keyboard navigation
– High contrast mode
These tools and technologies can make your website more accessible to a specific group of users. For example, screen readers are often used by people who are blind or have low vision, as they allow the user to have the website content read aloud to them. Text-to-speech software can also be used by people with visual impairments and those with dyslexia or other reading difficulties.
4. Test your website’s accessibility
After you have made changes to your website’s code or added new accessibility features, it’s essential to test them to make sure they are working as intended. The best way to do this is to get feedback from actual users, as they will be able to tell you whether or not the changes you have made are effective.
There are a few different ways that you can test your website’s accessibility:
– Use an online accessibility checker: There are several online tools that you can use to check the accessibility of your website. These tools will scan your website and provide a report detailing any accessibility issues they find.
– Use a screen reader: If you are testing the accessibility of your website for people who are blind or have low vision, then using a screen reader is an excellent way to do this. This will allow you to experience your website the same way a screen reader user would.
– Get feedback from actual users: As we mentioned before, the best way to test your website’s accessibility is to get feedback from real users. This can be done by conducting user testing sessions or by asking users for their feedback directly.
5. Make sure you view accessibility as more than a tick box exercise
It’s important to remember that accessibility is not just a box-ticking exercise. To create genuinely accessible websites, we must think about accessibility from the beginning of the design process. This means considering the needs of all users, not just those with disabilities.
When designing your website, consider how people with different needs will interact with it. For example, think about how people with motor impairments will navigate your website. Will they be able to use a mouse or trackpad? Or will they need to use a keyboard?
It may be tempting to look at an accessibility checklist and add everything on that list to your website, but to do this without considering your users or the context may mean compromising your UX design; who would that actually help? By getting to know your user early on and ignoring the temptation to ‘cover all the bases’, you can design a user experience that delivers a functional, accessible experience, rather than an experience that ticks all the boxes but is actually a nightmare to use in reality!
6. Keep up to date with new accessibility guidelines and standards
The landscape of web accessibility is constantly changing, so it’s essential to keep up to date with the latest guidelines and standards. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main body responsible for setting these standards and regularly releases new updates.
It’s also worth following the work of other accessibility experts, as they can provide valuable insights into how to make your website more accessible. Some good people to follow include:
– Léonie Watson: Léonie is the Director of Tetralogical and a member of the W3C Advisory board. She regularly writes about web accessibility on her blog and Twitter.
Making your website accessible is important, but it’s not always easy. By following the tips in this article, you can make sure that your website is accessible to everyone, regardless of their ability or disability and that your efforts to ensure your website or app is accessible are actually making a positive difference.