Accessible User Experience & Design
When building websites and creating digital content, we often miss a crucial element - user experience mapping for people with physical, cognitive, literacy or language challenges. With increasing expectations for consumers to interact with us online, it becomes more and more important that we make the effort to bring our digital presence up to speed.
Website usability is an important part of this process. After all, creating a website that’s easy to use supports a good experience. But not everyone has the same abilities. That’s where accessibility in UX comes in.
Accessibility in UX is about recognizing different abilities, and considering whether a website will work for any user in any situation. This includes thinking about what needs to be done to make sure it’s usable by people with disabilities. For example, people with physical, cognitive, literacy or language challenges. If these users can’t access and consume your content, it will affect the quality of their experience.
Before we dive in any deeper, you might be wondering about some of the terms we’ve mentioned so far. So, let us explain.
What is website accessibility?
Web accessibility is about making sure that digital content can be accessed, understood and used by everyone. That includes people with disabilities, as well as assistive technology devices they may use, such as screen readers.
An accessible website design will have considered any potential barriers that a user might have experienced. And will have been designed to make sure they don’t exist.
In simple terms, web accessibility is about creating equal experiences for people with disabilities. As such, guidelines and legislation exists.
What is website usability?
Website usability is about how easy a website is to navigate and how intuitive it is to use. It’s also how efficient the content and page design is. It’s measured in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction.
Website usability is one aspect of UX design. Usability principles don’t necessarily address the needs of people with disabilities. That means that most often, usability design focuses more generally on design aspects that will impact everyone. That’s why accessibility in UX is another separate element of UX design.
What is website inclusion?
Website inclusion is about making sure a website is accessible and usable by as many people as possible. It’s about making sure that everyone can be involved and feels welcomed.
Inclusion considers people with disabilities, and more. It also considers the use and user experience of people of different ages, cultures and demographics. As well as people with different computer skills, internet access, and much more. It’s about design for all. That’s where we start talking about inclusive design, or what’s commonly known as universal design. We’ll explore that more as you continue reading through this page.
Webinar: Accessibility vs usability vs inclusion - what’s the difference?
In this webinar, hear from inclusion experts Eric Harris and Robin Christopherson, as they explain these definitions further. Gain advice on how to address each in your digital projects. Discover when and how to carry out user research, and make sure your website meets the needs of everyone.
By considering accessibility in UX design you’ll be making sure that your disabled visitors can access and digest your content. You’ll be making sure that they’re able to complete what they’ve visited your website to do. Ultimately, you’ll be making sure that their experience is smooth and enjoyable. With an accessible UX you’re truly keeping your customers at the center of everything you do.
Globally 1 in 7 people have a disability. Over the years this number is expected to grow. In fact, it’s expected to double by 2050. In the US specifically, 1 in 5 are diagnosed as having a disability.
For this audience, an inclusive brand is incredibly valued. In fact, 75% would rather pay more for a product from an accessible website, than buy the same product again from one that was less accessible.
By considering accessibility in UX, you’re also considering what’s valued by your audience. And that speaks volumes. For people with disabilities you’re showing them that they matter. For others, you’re telling them that everyone’s experience matters to you. Sharing in the beliefs, ideals and values of consumers is powerful in building a positive brand image. In fact, 62% of consumers prefer to purchase from brands that stand up for issues that matter.
“Disability is a resource for design, not a burden on design!” - Eric Harris, Research Institute for Disabled Consumers
With this in mind, taking the time and effort to create an accessible website design shouldn’t be seen as an extra step. Instead, it should be seen as an important and worthy part of the process. As Eric says, disability is not a burden on design. It’s a resource!
Designing for ease of use for people with disabilities helps to maximize ease of use for everyone. Not only that, thinking about how to meet different needs leads to creativity and resourcefulness. The result? Online experiences that are better for everyone, and a company website that stands out from the crowd.
1 in 4 older users face problems accessing products and services online
We recently released a research paper exploring the online experiences of those aged 50+ throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. We found that usability problems were experienced across healthcare, retail, financial and public service websites. In this report, learn what the top accessibility barriers were. Gain insights to help you make sure your website is inclusive of all.
Designing for accessibility and inclusion
When thinking about accessibility in UX, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. You might think that you need to design for every single disability that exists. But that would be impossible. Instead, designing for accessibility and inclusion means to shift your focus to a design for all. In other words, to follow the process of Universal Design.
To design for all is to create a website that’s:
- Accessible so that every visitor has equal access to your content
- Usable and is efficient, effective and satisfying to every visitor
- Inclusive and leaves every visitor feeling welcomed, valued and included
To achieve the above, you must think about the behaviors, goals and pain points of your target audience. Not only that, but also their ability to complete tasks online.
To help you consider usability and accessibility in UX design, guidelines exist.
Accessibility checklist for designers & marketers
Download our WCAG accessibility checklist for designers and help your team to design with accessibility in mind.
You’ll also find an accessibility checklist for marketers too.
1. Educating colleagues
Designing for accessibility and inclusion isn’t a task that sits with one person. Training your colleagues on why accessibility for web design matters can help set your company up for success.
After all, a whole team that shares the same vision means everyone's working towards the same goal. That means, your team will work better together to design a website fit for everyone.
At Texthelp, we have created a 10-point plan to help our teams work together to improve accessibility for all. Take a look and feel free to use it as inspiration to develop your own.
Webinar: Your 8-step plan to accessible and inclusive websites
In this webinar, we walk you through an 8 step plan to creating and managing accessible websites and content. Together with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), we’ll explore how you can gain business buy-in and prioritize action. Gain gain advice to help you improve & maintain accessibility of your website & digital content.
2. Involving end users
There’s no better way to improve your website than to get into the mindset of the people using it. User research gives you the chance to hear-first hand from your online visitors. This means the chance to understand what they need and expect from your website.
In the design phase of any project, you should involve users with disabilities...
- As early in the process as possible. Hearing from real people right at the start will help you to think of design ideas that are realistic for your audience
- Throughout the design process. To make sure you end up with a user centred design, it makes sense to keep end users involved throughout the entire process. That way, each idea can be reviewed and tested in real time.
- At the final stage, before your site goes live. Before your website goes live, having end users test your website for accessibility and usability is useful. You can gain feedback on their user experience and make any final tweaks before it’s set to go live.
- Beyond the ‘go-live’ date. Once your website is published, remain open to feedback. Openly ask for your visitor’s thoughts and continue to learn and improve.
In the next section, we’ll explore how you can identify your end-users and carry out user testing.
By understanding each, you can create a user experience that allows people to access, use, and feel good about your service.
Examples of user research:
- End-user interviews. Q&A style interviews that help you to get to know web users on a personal level.
- Contextual interviews. An observation of end users in their natural environment. This type of research let’s you see how a web user actually interacts with your website.
- Surveys. A questionnaire that can be filled in online. Once you’ve finished end-user and contextual interviews, surveys allow you to reach a much wider audience. You can use them to confirm the traits and behaviors you've seen so far. This is known as quantifying your results.
Read on to discover tips and tools to help you carry out contextual interviews.
4. UX agency: Fathom
Getting an expert on board can help set you up for success. With their expert knowledge, you’ll gain everything you need much more simply and easily.
In our latest website revamp, we worked closely with UX specialists, Fathom. They spoke to our customers, conducted usability tests, and held internal workshops. They then worked with us to create a blueprint that helped us to design a more accessible and usable website.