Ultimate Guide to Inclusive Web Designing Techniques
Times are changing and they are changing for the better, as inclusive web design is finally becoming a priority in the digital realm. As such, brands need to be aware of this and need to fully implement everything inclusivity brings to keep up with the trends in the digital world.
No matter which niche you are currently in, whether you’re providing services, selling products, or want to create a presentational website for your business, you should be aware of all the needs of all your users and cater to them.
For most of the existence of the Internet, web design was based on a rather narrow standard view of how humans interact with technology. In the past few years, that paradigm has shifted, because web designers realized that the approach they used actually managed to alienate certain user groups from websites and the Internet altogether.
These are the people who interact with websites differently. These are people with visual, hearing, cognitive, speaking, and motor impairments, and web designers need to create digital surfaces that are inclusive and accessible for them as well.
In this guide, we will go over some of the best website designing techniques designers and developers can use to make their web projects more inclusive and enable a larger group of people to use them with ease.
Table of contents
- Defining Accessibility
- Achieving Inclusive Web Design Through Simplification
- Going For The Right Fonts
- Alt Text And Anchor Text
- Captions and Text Structure
- Larger Buttons
- Choose Your Colours Carefully
- Flexible Controls
- Working Together With Developers
- Simple Gestures For The Win
- Finishing Thoughts
Sometimes, inclusive design and accessibility are used more or less interchangeably but there’s a distinction between the two, and failing to differentiate between them can lead to drastic consequences.
Accessibility is about removing unnecessary obstacles and enabling every visitor to use the app or website you design.
For example, larger font sizes can improve visibility, eliminating the “can’t read the text” obstacle, and oftentimes, designers go about this by enabling certain users to switch to an alternative “accessibility mode” or create a separate version that can be accessed through a link in the navigation bar.
While this technically is a solution for the problem, people with visual impairments will still have a difficult time locating the link in the navigation bar. As such, this method not only will blur the lines between inaccessible and accessible but also alienate these users since they’ve been, in a sense, segregated and made to feel different. Not to mention that you’ve also needed to develop two different versions of the same interface.
This is where the idea of inclusive designs comes into play. Instead of going through all this trouble (both the user and the devs behind the site), designing a singular, more inclusive interface would be the best solution, where the fonts are larger for everybody.
Achieving Inclusive Web Design Through Simplification
Simplicity, along with minimalism has been on the top list of graphic design trends for a while now, and as it turns out, they are great trends and important factors when it comes to making your website more accessible as well.
There are several obvious benefits of having a clear visual identity and layout. It manages to improve user experience in general as navigation and orientation on the website become easier. Simply put, visitors can easier determine the hierarchy of different webpage elements, and in return, can navigate on the website that more intuitively.
Group elements of the same size and color make it easier for most users to know which element follows the other, and white space can improve readability and can also reduce the risk of the user clicking on incorrect elements.
Additionally, by adding directional signage and icons where you can, you can even improve navigation and orientation efficiency even further.
Responsiveness and Inclusive Designs
Whether you’re a site owner, a web designer, or work for a Web Design Agency in Chicago, you already know that responsive web designs have become a must ever since the rise of tablets and smartphones. As such, responsiveness is also something you should keep in mind when you are trying to be inclusive as well.
As there are several different screen sizes and shapes, you need to assess what is lost or adapted when different users look at your site on different devices. To ensure full responsiveness, you need to make sure that your design looks good and works fine across screens, with a clearly defined goal for each page. With these goals in mind, you can better assess which elements need to be highlighted on certain screens and which need to be hidden to make using your website easier for everyone.
Before going live, it’s also necessary to test your design as much as possible to catch every bug or potential problem.
When it comes to simplifying the written words on your website, there are several different factors you’ll have to consider to make sure that the overall design experience caters to everybody in the end. The simplicity of the words you choose can make a world of a difference for those with reading difficulties, while typography can be bothersome for visually impaired users (more on that later). Lastly, text consistency can affect those who are cognitively disabled.
In terms of word usage and consistency, using shorter sentences with simple words in simpler structures can go a long way. Also, make sure to use shorter paragraphs and an overall simpler text structure that helps everyone with “decoding” your message.
- Define abbreviations when using them for the first time
- Efficiently describe your link texts
- Logically structure your content with clear headings.
Going For The Right Fonts
As we’ve already talked about this before, the right fonts play a vital role in making your overall design inclusive.
Small fonts are hard to follow, sometimes even for the average user, so make sure to use a 16px font, for legibility at the very least.
On the other hand, dark and heavier weighted fonts might be a better idea than light ones, as they are less prone to have the tendency of disappearing into the background.
Also, look for legible, handwritten fonts as they are more readable than cursive fonts, even though, less attractive.
Lastly, don’t forget about hyperlinks. They should be obvious right at first glance, so make sure to underline them and give them a different, contrasting color.
Alt Text And Anchor Text
You remember the time when hyperlinks were added on the word “here”, right? While this solution helped the content to flow greatly it turned out to be a less inclusive way of link incorporation altogether.
For starters, the anchor text that you will be placing the link on should match the URL. This will help screen-readers a great deal in picking up the link and thus, enhancing the overall user experience for visually impaired visitors. Not to mention, it’s also great for link building.
The same principles apply for alt text as well. If you wish to add non-text elements to your pages, make sure that they have brief explanations added to them so screen-readers can pick them up with ease.
Captions and Text Structure
We’ve mentioned the question of structure above as well. How you structure your entire content on your pages is extremely important, especially when you are considering how screen-readers scan them.
So, to structure your content the right way, use headers. H1 for the title and H2 and H3 for subheadings. This will be a huge help for screen-readers when it comes to dividing content up when it is actually being read out.
On the other hand, your animations, videos, and or audio content should always have captions.
We’ve all been there: trying to press tiny buttons or icons on our screens just to accidentally press the other button next to it or press nothing at all. Honestly, it’s a uniquely frustrating feeling for all of us.
That being said, try and recall how you felt when you couldn’t press a button on the screen when you’re designing your own website. Buttons should be large with a few pixels of space between each other so they are distinctive and hard to miss.
For example, Google’s accessibility guidelines recommend button sizes of 48*48px for comfortable tapping.
Also, even though your buttons should be large, don’t go overboard with the amount of text you’re housing within the button. Try and keep it simple and easy to understand, and avoid cramping the button full with words.
Choose Your Colours Carefully
If you’ve dabbled with web design in the past, you already know that color is a core concept in web design, as the right colors and shades can evoke certain emotions that may eventually lead to conversions. Also, color is a strong component when it comes to branding as well, and the right shades can go a long way in giving the brand justice online.
Basically, these two statements have been the driving forces behind websites using a wide palette of different colors for years. However, did web designers ever actually took the time to think about how color-blind people perceive these colors?
One way to make sure which would be the best options is by reading the related guidelines.
On the other hand, hiring a professional graphic design team can go a long way for site owners, as these professionals usually know that color contrast (black text in a white background for example) is a great way to enhance readability for every user.
Graphic design agencies in the US or several other countries around the world can help you with the creation of your company’s colour palette.
Lastly, good graphic designers and web designers also know that color, even though a powerful design element, shouldn’t be used solely for denoting meaning or dividing something in a design. Instead, they focus on clear notifications, so that the website design never gets confusing.
While an important factor for inclusivity, it shouldn’t be the only thing to care about. UI elements should be clearly visible just like website content but you don’t have to tinker with contrast problems right away to make these elements stick out. Oftentimes, larger fonts and element sizes can do the trick.
Sometimes, it can be hard to achieve optimum contrast with links in a text body. If that happens, underline these links to make them easier to spot, because there are actually color-blind users out there who don’t see contrasts at all.
A great way of creating an entirely inclusive experience for all users is to add some flexibility to them over your website and site popups.
These can be simple things like enabling them to change font sizes, or by making layouts zoomable. The latter requires a little planning because the scale of your site’s content should remain to same even when the users zoom out.
Remove autoplay on embedded videos and audio files: just give your user the option to turn the sound on and off or to start and stop the video. At the same time, distracting animations and carousels should also have a start/stop or on/off feature.
Chat messages, popups, reminders, alerts, newsfeeds should also on/off options or at least can be limited.
Also, be careful with timed forms, as people with impairments may take more time to complete them. The best option is to make your timed forms adjustable. It’s quite understandable that this feature (timing out) is more of a security reason on certain sites, like banking interfaces, and when people receive alerts, they should be obvious, however, in these cases, disabled users should be offered to fill out the necessary spaces within a larger timeframe and should have the option to let the interface know that the user hasn’t abandoned the page, or left their data mistakenly exposed.
Furthermore, be more “forgiving” overall in your web design. People often make mistakes as we’re all rushing to engage with interfaces and one great way to boost inclusivity for people (disabled or otherwise) is by giving them a chance to correct their mistakes.
We’ve already talked about difficulties with filling out forms. When your user makes a mistake, enable them to take a few steps back and correct the mistake without having to start over again.
Apart from that, you can always:
- Use form labels to describe input fields.
- Use placeholders to show an example of the input necessary.
- Enable autocomplete and autofill to reduce typing time.
- Display form errors in real-time, understandably.
- Let users verify the input before submission
The key takeaway here is to never make your users feel stupid, give them a chance to correct their mistakes, and enable them to personalize the way they interact with the website.
Working Together With Developers
When it comes to accessibility and creating an inclusive design, developers should also take responsibility, especially to help make interfaces more screen-reader-friendly.
Optimization for screen readers mostly happens “behind the scenes”. Screen readers work by audibly reading out the content on the screen.
However, icons and images, and everything else without text labels can be difficult to read out and to convey. Also, these assistive technologies need to shift focus quickly between key landmarks such as search and navigation. Optimizing these elements can be done with the help of web development or design agencies and can make a huge difference in terms of overall user experience for those who use screen readers. Since everything is done online, you can even search for an agency specializing in web design in Thailand to help you out.
For example, design elements with no accompanying text can be described using HTML. Landmarks can also be described with semantic HTML elements like
All in all, there are several tricks developers can help designers with enhancing inclusivity, so working closely together toward this goal is never a bad idea.
Simple Gestures For The Win
Going with simple gestures and not using complex ones can benefit a website in two ways. One, it will win over more non-disabled users and it will also make the UI generally more accessible to disabled users.
Apps and websites tend to have different gestures and most users already expect a certain action from an app and/or website. For example, most users will intuitively use swiping interactions when operating a touchscreen app but wouldn’t really do that with the same intuitive approach in the case of a website (not even on a mobile website).
Complexity can add confusion and frustration which, in return, can hurt the UX. For example, have you tried rotating Google Maps? While it can be done, it requires a lot of effort and fine-tuned motor skills. That being said, what do you think, how users with motor disabilities would handle the finicky experience?
Keeping it simple and self-explanatory is the key here. Always think about the most convenient ways users can interact with your design and the content on the website or app.
Site owners and brands should also understand that inclusivity isn’t a design luxury, rather it’s a necessity to reach the widest audience possible and to follow the trend of personalizing the overall online experience. This guide should help everyone grasp the concept of inclusive web design and give a better idea of where should they get started with creating a new project or tweaking their existing platform. It might take a bit of extra planning and work, however, creating a design that will enable you to reach and convert more people can very much be worth the effort.
Lastly, good web design practices start with a team that works closely together and understands the needs of all web users. Brands and online businesses should work closely together with these experts as they are in the first lines of the digital revolution closely researching the latest user trends and digital technologies that are reshaping the way we live our everyday lives.
Together with them, brands can make the web a better place for everyone, where everybody can access every piece of content without difficulty.