Whether you’re just finding out now, or you’ve been following the trending topics about how you should design with accessibility in mind, it’s no secret that the internet is taking steps towards being more inclusive for users with disabilities. At first, designers were freaking out regarding how to balance creative execution against the “scary and constricting” WCAG guidelines for accessibility. Honestly, it’s not that hard. If you’re a user experience (UX) or user interface (UI) designer (or both), here are some tips and explanations for designing with accessibility in mind. Spoiler alert: it’s not making it “dark mode”.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were created to help make web content more accessible to people with disabilities, and to allow any kind of user to be able to use your digital product (website, app, etc.) with ease. Accessibility in design should never ever be seen as a hurdle, or an inconvenience to the creative process. Being mindful with who is using your product, and showing empathy through how you’re methodically designed for users is super important and should be the end goal. Ultimately, this will result in greater success regarding the usability of your product for more than just users with disabilities.
And this is a far larger group of users than most people think it is, as it’s not only those who can’t see or have limited motor skills. Did you know that if you use glasses or wear contacts, technically you fall under the regulation of requiring assistance? It’s true! And then add in all the users who experience the inevitable vision changes that start happening around 40. We’re now talking about over half your potential audience.
Because UX design is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability of a product, a lot of accessible design thinking starts here. We think about the user flows and their journeys in a product, and how to get from the starting point to the end point. When thinking about this, we should also be considerate with how they’re accessing this information- are they tabbing on a keyboard? Using their phone? Using OS accessible tools or a screen reader? Regardless, the interactions created should reflect that thinking and can help create usability that’s clear, easy, efficient, and linear for any user.
This is also an important area to be mindful of the kind of content you’re choosing to lay out and how. Content like copy, images, and CTAs should be clear and not confusing. Make sure you use the correct headings that are easy for screen readers to navigate through, highlight recommended paths to make it easier for users, and don’t forget about your alt tags. You may need the help of a developer to make sure it’s all in order and it’s 100% worth the extra effort.
There tends to be some overlap with UX and UI design, however UI design tends to focus more on the visual layer of a design. This is where a lot of elements such as typography, color, and movement come into play in the design world, and where a lot of web content gets scrutinized for if not designed properly.
When it comes time to design the interface of a product, remember that color usage needs to have enough contrast when used as CTA buttons, text against colored backgrounds (or even image backgrounds). Users with different levels of vision impairment should be able to access the information without frustration or issue. Your fonts and the size of fonts you’re using is also important across all platforms. Something that might look okay at 12pt on a computer screen may be too small on a mobile platform.
You’ll also want to be aware of animation that autoplays. Something that might move too fast on an endless loop can cause a user who’s prone to seizures to have an episode. Limit auto-playing animation to 3 loops.
These are only a few tips that are important to have in mind when designing for users. Remember that it’s important to collaborate with other teams within your company in order to ensure that your product is usable by anyone, regardless of their background. If you’re interested in learning more, we highly encourage you to read some of our previous articles that touch on accessibility.