An Overview of Accessible Web Design

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Accessible Web Design Overview

Considerations In Web Design

In the past, accessible web design might not have been a big deal, but with more and more internet users wanting to access websites from a variety of platforms (including computers, iPads, and smartphones), paying special attention to accessible web design is becoming a fundamental business practice across the world.

In this post, we’ll be taking a closer look at what accessible web design is and why it’s so important. We’ll also be discussing a few ways in which you can increase the accessibility of your website to make your site multi-platform friendly.

Understanding the Importance of Accessible Web Design

When it comes to understanding the importance of accessible web design, there are a few elements to keep in mind. These include:

Disabled Users

Users that are visually disabled might not be able to understand images on your website if they’re not described in some text. There are also users who might be color blind and who won’t be able to make sense of your website if the elements on the pages aren’t highlighted for them. Keep in mind that some visually disabled users might be making use of non-visual browsers, like screen readers, in which case they won’t find your website of interest if it’s not accessibly designed.

If your website relies on the use of sound for keeping users engaged, you may face serious problems whenever a hearing disabled user lands on your site. To help drive engagement, your website needs to be optimized to provide both sound and text information to users.

Problems beyond Disabilities

It can be hard to use the web if you’re disabled, but there are plenty of ways in which you can design your website to be accessible to a wide range of users, including disabled individuals. But accessible web design isn’t just about creating web pages to accommodate disabled users. You’ll also have to design your website so that it is accessible for:

  • Mobile phone users
  • Users with low bandwidth
  • Users accessing your website from a very noisy area
  • Users with screen glare issues
  • Users with different learning styles

Accessible Web Design Basics

As you know by now, accessible web design revolves around just how accessible your website is to disables users and users browsing from a variety of devices. When a website is designed for optimal accessibility, it makes use of various sensory channels (which may include sound and sight components), allowing disabled users to navigate through the website with interactive tools that go far beyond the standard point-and-click interface.

Why You Should Make Accessible Web Design a Priority

If you want to ensure that every user visiting your website has a good experience and can access all the features and information on your site, designing it with accessibility in mind is essential. Accessibility almost forms part of some other best practices of web design, such as mobile web configuration, usability, and search engine optimization.

When compared to websites that aren’t based on accessible web design, optimized sites tend to rank much higher in search engine results, cost less regarding maintenance and have a wider audience reach, to name but a few benefits.

How to Implement Accessible Web Design

Make Use of a Proper Content Management System

Content management systems such as Drupal and WordPress are just two examples of management systems which support accessibility. Make sure you’re using themes and templates that also support accessibility though. To check the accessibility of a theme, refer to the theme or template documents about creating more accessible content.

Make Headings Work for You

Users that rely on tools such as screen readers need your website to make use of the proper headings so that they can easily navigate through the content. You may use headings (like <h1> or <h2>) to help you better organize the contents of your website.

Use Text with All Images

We’ve already covered the importance of adding text to images so that it correlates better with users that have visual disabilities. Users visiting your website should be able to easily understand the images you’re using on your website, and this becomes even more important when making use of elements such as infographics.

Make Use of Descriptive Links

If you’re using external links in your content, make sure you’re using text that fully describes what the link is about and where it will redirect a user to. A good example would be to use the description of “To learn more about our unique approach, please read the About Us section” instead of using something as mundane as “Click this link to learn more.”

Stick to the Basics with Colors

We get that you might feel a desperate need to include a wide range of pretty colors in your website’s layout, but tread carefully here. Sure, you can use color, but don’t use the whole rainbow and don’t forget about including other visual indicators such as question marks and hashtags. Go ahead and check out some of the tools online which can help you evaluate color contrast if you’re determined to design your website in the most accessible way.

Be Sure to Design Forms for Accessibility

While sighted users might understand cues for form fields, unlabeled form fields might not be understood by disabled users, leading to a scenario where they won’t understand what information they need to enter into a specific field. Ensure that all fields in your form are labeled and are positioned accordingly.

Stick to Using Tables for Tabular Data

It may seem tempting to use tables for layout purposes, but this might actually create extra verbosity with users that use screen readers. Instead of using tables for website layout, rather opt for using CSS for presentations.

Make All Content Accessible Via Keyboard

Some users are unable to use trackpads or a mouse, which is why you need to ensure that the information on your website can be accessed via the keyboard using the arrow and tab keys. You may also want to consider using anchor links – also known as jump links – which breaks up pages with a lot of content into relevant, readable portions, important to the user.

Make Use of Accessible Rich Internet Applications

ARIA, an easy tech spec, should be used to ensure the structure of your website is as accessible as possible to users. You may implement ARIA landmarks and roles to help boost disabled users’ ability to easily navigate through the content on your website.

Where You Can Learn More about Accessible Web Design

If you’re keen on exploring the different ways of implementing accessible web design to your website, feel free to check out the following references:

  • Understanding WCAG2
  • W3C’s Accessibility Guide
  • Web AIM
  • Access for Disabled Users
  • Section 508 Resources

Conclusion

Not only does accessible web design bring with it some serious economic benefits, but it also holds benefits for social and PR aspects of your business. Accessible web design may also help you avoid litigation problems.

The best thing about accessible web design is that it’s not an overly complicated process. As long as you’re using responsive design which ensures access on various devices, you’ll be allowing disabled users to have the same great experience as regular users. Accessible web design should be treated as part of your responsive design process, and not as merely an afterthought.


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