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Providing equal access

All you need to know about web accessibility and UX

David Gevorkian
#ux
© Shutterstock /  Visual Generation

Web designers and developers should aim for accessibility because, at the end of the day, accessible design equates to good UX design. Follow these guidelines and web accessibility standards to ensure that everyone has equal access to the web.

In this digital age, the web is increasingly becoming a vital resource. Almost everyone utilizes the web relating to all aspects of life; be it for education, employment, government services, business transactions, and much more. Therefore websites, mobile apps, and other digital products shouldn’t be just visually attractive to users should also be accessible.

Web designers and developers should aim for accessibility because, at the end of the day, accessible design equates to good UX design. Web accessibility is the practice of making your online content easily available and usable to all people regardless of their limitations. So, web page accessibility is no longer optional—it’s a requirement!

SEE ALSO: Don’t lose sight of coworking. It’s part of the future of CRE.

How are web accessibility and UX related?

Web accessibility and User Experience (UX) are two elements that complement each other. An accessible design ensures that people of differing abilities can equally access and use the web. But it’s important to note too that web accessibility isn’t just for the disabled (those with permanent, temporary, situational/conditional disability). It benefits everyone.

UX, on the other hand, refers to the entire experience of the person using your digital products such as a website or mobile app. It pertains to the user’s overall satisfaction towards the product. A good UX ideally contains four elements:

  • it must be accessible, which means that the contents are readily available and usable even to people with disability
  • it must be desirable, which means that the contents can evoke emotions and appreciation
  • it must be credible, which means the contents should be based on factual reliable sources
  • findable, which means that the contents can be easily navigated and located on the website.

Understanding web accessibility

Web accessibility includes everyone, including people with disabilities, in using the web and provides a better user experience overall. It is regarded as the ultimate solution to eliminate possible online barriers. Implementing the standards of web accessibility ultimately leads to a universal design that is user-friendly for everyone.

When developing a website, many designers and developers tend to overlook the importance of web accessibility. However, continuing to ignore it is just a costly mistake. In the US, for instance, refusing to make your site accessible can lead to possible litigation. Hence, if you are based or doing significant business in the U.S. you need to consider regulations such as the ADA, Section 508, and VPAT.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that is designed to protect the rights of people with disabilities. Under this law, organizations (private or public) should ensure that their goods or services are accessible to those with physical limitations. While Section 508 or 508 compliance requires all Federal agencies to make all their electronic and information technology accessible to people with differing abilities. On the other hand, the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is a template that describes the level of compliance of a product or service according to Section 508.

What is WCAG?

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a series of web accessibility guidelines developed by W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). WCAG, recognized as an authority standard, contains a set of instructions for making the web accessible particularly for people with disabilities. WCAG 2.1 Level AA is the most satisfactory version and conformance level recommended by experts.

Web accessibility standards to be considered at the UX design stage

Consider web accessibility UX before or during the design stage of your site. You can start by reading the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit or following the WCAG guidelines as these lead to inclusive design. You can also start by applying the following:

Enable keyboard navigation for web design

Make your web design easy for your user to navigate the website with just the use of a keyboard. This is because many people with disabilities rely heavily on keyboard navigation.

Prioritize text clarity

Prioritize the clarity of letters and clarity of text blocks on your design.

Don’t rely exclusively on color

Color-blind users won’t be able to understand your content if you rely solely on color-coding. It’s best to add labels and use effective color contrast instead.

Order content in HTML for screen readers

Even if the CSS is turned off, ensure your content still has a logical flow. Do this by ordering your content in HTML.

Add explanatory link text

Providing an explanatory text link can help users distinguish one link from the others.

Use a 40×40 pt. clickable area for touch controls

The 40×40 pt. is the recommended size for touch controls as it’s good for all finger sizes and works well with assistive devices.

Do not forget to follow the accessibility checklist

The accessibility checklist helps you create both an accessible site and a good UX design.

How accessible web design can lead to a better user experience

Accessible web design leads to better user experience regardless of the user’s physical impairments. It is also an excellent UX design. For instance, simple interfaces and designs that work well with assistive devices ultimately lead to better user experience.

SEE ALSO: Reacting to the Future of Application Architecture

Usability & accessibility testing

After the design stage, check whether you have achieved your accessibility goals by doing usability and accessibility testing. Doing so determines whether your design is accessible and usable by all users. Generally, these tests are based on particular criteria such as efficiency, learnability and user satisfaction.

Conclusion

Accessibility simply means usability for all. Everyone should have equal access to the web. Aside from a moral and ethical perspective, it’s best for website owners and UX designers to comply with web accessibility standards to avoid lawsuits.

Having an accessible website also helps you have a good UX because it results in inclusive design.

Author

David Gevorkian

David started Be Accessible because of his passion for website accessibility and ADA compliance. He spent much of his career working for financial institutions creating websites and mobile applications. He earned his Master’s in Business Administration from Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. David is an advocate for creating web interfaces usable by all people. He enjoys recording music and playing soccer with friends.


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