For some of us, using the internet is as easy as breathing. However, that’s not true for everyone. By incorporating accessible design practices you open your business to all people. It may not sound like a sexy topic, but it’s definitely one worth your attention. And we’ll explain why.
What is Accessibility?
Let’s get philosophical
Theoretically, accessibility is about designing for people with disabilities. But, as Interaction Design Foundation puts it: “it isn’t so much about designing for disability as it is about designing for everyone.”
Accessibility is a set of principles enabling the development of products/services that address users with different levels of ability.
Accessibility, Inclusive Design, and Universal Design are often used interchangeably. While the concept of universal design was developed in built environments, it was digital technologies that gave birth to inclusive design. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, inclusive design aims to meet a diverse range of needs and ways of interacting with the world.
Let’s get practical
Sounds intimidating? Designing accessible sites is easier than you may think. There are certain conventions and guides to follow. Accessibility is a team effort of designers, developers, and content creators.
Designers and developers are in charge of a logical information hierarchy, consistent and intuitive UI, sensible interactions, readability, etc. Content creators provide useful alternative text for images, subtitles for videos, button labels, etc. All this contributes to user experience accessible in different contexts and by all people.
Let’s look at some examples
We are not diving deep in the accessibility rules this time. But let’s look at a couple of websites from the accessibility perspective.
ATG Tickets is one of the world’s most visited arts and entertainment ticketing websites. But there are a few things that can be improved to make arts and entertainment more accessible.
- Colour-coded elements are not suitable for the colourblind people. Price and availability of tickets are communicated solely through colour, making the purchasing process challenging for 1 out of 12 people.
- Low contrast of the calendar makes it hard to use by customers with imperfect vision. The smaller the element the more contrast it must have.
- Focus indicators show the selected element on the page and help navigating the site with the keyboard. Some people prefer it to a touchpad or a mouse. But others depend on it. Blind users relying on screen readers and individuals with limited mobility (for instance, suffering from carpal tunnel) will have a hard time buying a ticket here.
Another example is of our own making. aTalent recruiting match highly skilled candidates with reputable companies. When it comes to employment, equal opportunities are a must.
- Visual hierarchy and correct mark-up enable effortless parsing of information. HTML elements communicate to the browser what kind of content they contain. That allows skimming through the page with the help of screen readers.
- Sufficient contrast makes the text readable for people with low vision.
- Intuitive UI doesn’t leave you guessing how things work. Accessible web is predictable.
☞ Check the full case study here: aTalent recruiting: a fresh take on recruiting.
Let’s get pragmatic
By implementing accessibility best practices, you are ensuring that all users have a satisfying experience and can easily access your information. Even for the ones not affected by any specific physical or mental characteristics, it can reduce fatigue, increase speed, decrease errors, and shorten learning time.
Here is how The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) builds The Business Case for Digital Accessibility:
Studies show that accessible websites have better search results, download faster, reach a bigger audience, encourage good coding practices, they’re also SEO friendly, and always have better usability. The direct return on investment for accessible design is hard to measure. Although it’s not the only way to measure the benefits of committing to this cause. A useful business case also presents the cost and risk of inaction.
Accessible design results in more human-centered, natural, and contextual interaction. Innovations like the typewriter, telephone, punch cards, text to speech, email, and voice controls were initially meant to include those with a disability, and all have found a much broader application.
Increase market reach
Accessible design considerations often lead to improvements in general customer experience and loyalty. For customers with disabilities, such improvements are essential for equal access. However, accessibility provides options that are useful to all customers in various situations.
Minimize legal risk
Many countries have laws requiring digital accessibility. With legal risks increasing, smart businesses – particularly those with global activities – are creating accessibility policies and programs to mitigate risk to protect both their assets and their reputations.
Enhance your brand
Diversity and inclusion efforts so important to business success are accelerated with a clear, well-integrated accessibility commitment. Businesses that integrate accessibility are more likely to be innovative, inclusive enterprises that reach more people with positive brand messaging that meets emerging global legal requirements.
At Contrast, we build accessibility into what we do. Fixing accessibility issues in existing websites takes more time, than getting it right from the start. By incorporating accessibility from the beginning, we optimize the result and minimize the resources needed.
Designing for accessibility means to be inclusive to the needs of your users. Understanding those needs is the key to crafting better and more accessible experiences for them. We attend to our clients’ business needs by understanding the end users.