Common mistakes people make when aiming for accessible web design

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Web design is about so much more than just the layout and navigation of a site. It’s also about making sure your website is accessible to everyone who visits it.

A woman wearing huge headphones.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to web design. There’s the layout and navigation and individual elements on each page. But one of the most important considerations of web design is making sure your website is accessible to everyone.

There’s no question that digital devices have changed our lives. We use them in almost every area of our lives. They play a role in our entertainment and communication, as well as in our work and education.

And COVID-19 is making more and more people use digital technology. This means that more Australians need to be considered when designing websites and other online material.

Almost 18% of people live with a disability in Australia, and about16% are over 65 years old. So, it’s essential to make your website accessible for everyone. After all, if everyone can’t use your website, it’s not that accessible.

How does assistive technology help with accessing digital resources?

Assistive technology refers to tools used to perform tasks that would otherwise be difficult.

We all use assistive technology daily, even if we don’t realise it. From the remote control we use to change TV channels to mobility aids that help us get around.

Assistive technology that improves access to digital devices includes:

  • screen reading and text-to-speech software
  • closed captioning on TV
  • talking devices
  • text editors
  • touch screen devices
  • e-readers, and
  • speech recognition software.

Website design needs to consider how assistive technology navigates websites. If your website isn’t designed with these tools in mind, you are disadvantaging the people who rely on them to access the web.

What does accessibility and inclusive design mean?

Accessible and inclusive design considers the needs of all users. This includes everything from website design to user experience. The goal is to create designs that everyone can use, regardless of ability.

There are several reasons why accessible and inclusive design is so important. For one, it helps to break down barriers for people living with disabilities.

It also makes it possible for businesses to reach more customers, since accessibility is a key factor in purchasing decisions.

Accessible and inclusive design can also help create a more positive image for your company.

A woman with eyeglasses is looking at a computer. What are some common accessibility design errors?

Focusing on the design’s appearance over its functionality

Unfortunately, many designers focus on the appearance of their websites at the expense of accessibility. While a site that looks good is certainly important, it’s not worth sacrificing usability in the name of aesthetics. Designers need to strike a balance between form and function to create an appealing site that’s easy to use.

Failing to consider the needs of all users

You can make sure your website is accessible by understanding how people use the web. Different people use the web in different ways, so it’s important to make sure your website works for everyone.

Ignoring basic principles of website accessibility. When thinking about website accessibility, you should refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 and follow four basic principles. These are known as the POUR principles.

POUR stands for:

  • Perceivable: information must be able to be seen, heard or felt.
  • Operational: the interface must be able to be used.
  • Understandable: content and web pages must be easy to understand.
  • Relatable: works on different browsers, devices and assistive technology.

Unfortunately, many websites fail to consider these principles, making them difficult or impossible for some users to access.

Insufficient colour contrast. This can make it difficult for users with low vision to read the text on a page.

Text in images. This can also be a problem for users with low vision or who use screen readers.

Not testing designs for accessibility. If you don’t test your designs for accessibility, you risk excluding many people from being able to use your site effectively.

This creates an unfair world and limits the potential market for your business. To create a more inclusive world, you must start testing designs for accessibility. There are many free tools to check your site’s accessibility and usability.

Badly structured layout. Make sure that screen readers can easily understand the structure and layout of your site. The easier it is for screen readers to read your design, the more likely it is that people will be able to use your site.

There are a few simple things you can do to make your site more screen reader-friendly:

  • use clear and concise headings and subheadings to help break up the text
  • add bulleted or numbered lists when appropriate to help screen readers identify key points, and
  • include alt text on all images so that screen readers can describe your site’s content.

Two women are looking at a computer. Thinking that accessible design is expensive and time-consuming. There’s a common misconception that design accessibility is costly and time-consuming. Making your design accessible can often be simple and cost-effective. And best of all, you can make these changes without needing any additional budget or extra time.

For example, adding alternate text to images is a small change that can make a big difference for someone using a screen reader. Including captions on videos is another easy way to make your design more accessible.

Accessible design is easy to achieve

Next time you’re thinking about design accessibility, remember: it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Making your design accessible can be simple, and it’s always worth the effort.

Ensuring your website can be used by as many people as possible is essential for business and moral reasons. By following some simple guidelines, you can ensure your site is accessible to everyone.

If you want help making your design accessible and inclusive, contact TCC International. We’re experts in this field. We’ll help ensure your website is accessible to everyone.

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About

Jacqui Sumner is a content writer with experience writing for the finance industry and not-for-profit sector.

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