Luke Matthews, User Experience Designer, Icon Agency
Web accessibility is about making information and functionality as sensible, meaningful, and usable for as many people as possible. It's about designing a website to be inclusive and accessible for everyone, regardless of their abilities. Not only is this good practice for users with disabilities, but it's also essential for time-poor users and mobile users.
With Global Accessibility Awareness Day (May 18) in mind, here’s some top tips for designing a website with empathy and understanding and ultimately creating an inclusive digital environment for everyone.
1. Create large clickable targets: Imagine using a website with a shaky hand, a touch screen, or a mouse with low sensitivity. That's why it's crucial to create large clickable targets. Your buttons, links, and input fields should be big and easy to click so users don't have to struggle with precision. This simple adjustment can make all the difference for users on mobile phones or those with physical or motor disabilities.
2. Make links descriptive: Have you ever clicked on a link that said "click here" or "learn more" only to discover that it led to something completely unexpected? For users with autism, dyslexia, or screen readers, these vague links can be frustrating. Instead, write labels for your links and buttons that are descriptive, clear, and informative such as 'Upload your CV' or 'Submit feedback.' This way, users can anticipate what will happen when they click or tap on a link, saving them from unexpected surprises.
3. Support text with visuals: Words alone can be challenging to understand, so supporting your text with visuals is an important consideration. Icons, diagrams, and photographs can convey your message more clearly. For users with dyslexia or those who are visual learners, this can be especially helpful. Additionally, consider producing videos for important content and providing transcripts for those who may have difficulty hearing.
4. Write in plain language: Using complex words and long sentences can make your website inaccessible to a significant portion of your audience. Use plain language to ensure that your website is inclusive and easy to understand. Avoid using jargon or technical phrases that readers may not be familiar with. Instead, use clear and concise language that targets a reading age of 12. This will help users with low literacy or those with English as a second language understand your content more easily.
5. Try accessibility tools for yourself: To truly empathise with users with disabilities, put yourself in their shoes. It's hard to appreciate how users with disabilities interact with user interfaces without experiencing it yourself. Try using your phone with a screen reader tool or only using the TAB key to navigate a website. This will help you better understand the challenges that users with disabilities face and give you a new perspective on designing your website.
By following these top 5 tips, your website will be more inclusive and accessible to a wider audience. Web accessibility is not just about compliance with standards; it's about creating an inclusive digital environment that everyone can benefit from and is accessible by all.