Accessibility in web design refers to creating websites and web applications that are inclusive and accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. We previously included Accessibility in our list of the Top Website Trends of 2023. Accessibility is important because it ensures that all users can access and use the content on a website, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities. This article will discuss the importance of accessibility in web design and provide tips and best practices for creating accessible websites.
Why Accessibility Matters
Web accessibility is essential for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it ensures that all users can access and use the content on a website. This is particularly important for users with disabilities, who may use assistive technologies such as screen readers, voice recognition software, or alternative input devices to access the web. By designing websites with accessibility in mind, designers can ensure that all users have equal access to information and services.
In addition to ensuring equal access, accessibility can also improve the overall user experience for all users. For example, providing text alternatives for images can improve the accessibility of the website for users with visual impairments, but it can also benefit users who are browsing with slow internet connections or who have turned off images to save data.
Finally, creating accessible websites is important for legal compliance. In many countries, including the United States, websites are required to be accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws.
Tips for Creating Accessible Websites
Use Descriptive Alt Text for Images
Adding descriptive alt text to images is important for users who rely on screen readers to access web content. Alt text should be descriptive and provide an accurate representation of the image. This helps users with visual impairments to understand the content of the website.
Side Note: For tips on how to optimize images and properly prepare them to be displayed on the web, read our article, “Is Poor Image Optimization hurting your Search Engine Rankings?”.
Provide Captions for Videos
Providing captions for videos is important for users who are deaf or hard of hearing. Captions should accurately represent the spoken content of the video and should also include non-verbal sounds such as laughter or music. Also include title attributes.
Use Consistent Navigation
Using consistent navigation can help users with cognitive disabilities to understand the structure of the website. Navigation should be clear and easy to understand and should be consistent across all pages of the website. It’s okay to have a secondary menu on pages that include links relevant to the content on that page, but the primary nav menu and footer nav menu should remain the same on all pages.
Ensure Color Contrast
Ensuring color contrast is important for users with visual impairments. Text should be easy to read and should contrast with the background color. There are a number of tools available online to help designers check color contrast.
Adobe has a cool tool, Adobe Color Accessibility Contrast Checker, that will let you know whether or not your color choices pass WCAG 2.1 level criteria.
Here are two examples from that tool:
While both examples use the same pink background, the example on the left has a lighter text color and therefore failed the WCGA 2.1 criteria. Using a darker color on the right passed the test.
Use Heading Tags Appropriately
Using heading tags appropriately can help users with cognitive disabilities to understand the structure of the website. Heading tags should be used in a hierarchical order, with H1 tags used for the title of the page, H2 used for primary headings, and H3 through H6 used for subheadings.
You can see this hierarchy on this page. The title is an H1, the primary headings like “Tips for Creating Accessible Websites” are H2’s, and the subheadings like “Use Heading Tags Appropriately” are H3’s.
Provide Alternative Text for Non-Text Content
Providing alternative text for non-text content such as images, charts, and graphs is important for users with visual impairments. The alternative text should accurately describe the content of the non-text element.
Ensure Keyboard Accessibility
Ensuring keyboard accessibility is important for users who cannot use a mouse or other pointing device. All functionality on the website should be accessible using the keyboard alone, including navigation, forms, and interactive elements.
Test with Assistive Technologies
Testing websites with assistive technologies such as screen readers and voice recognition software can help designers identify accessibility issues and make necessary changes to improve the user experience for all users.
Best Practices for Creating Accessible Websites
Start with Accessibility in Mind
Designers should make accessibility a priority from the outset of the design process. This means considering accessibility at every stage of the design process, from wireframing and prototyping to testing and deployment.
Use Accessible Design Patterns
Using accessible design patterns can help ensure that the website is accessible to all users. Accessible design patterns include things like consistent navigation, clear and concise language, and keyboard accessibility.
Train Designers and Developers
Training designers and developers on web accessibility is essential for creating accessible websites. Designers and developers should understand the importance of accessibility and be familiar with the best practices and guidelines for creating accessible websites.
Stay Up to Date with Accessibility Guidelines
Web accessibility guidelines are constantly evolving, so it is important for designers and developers to stay up to date with the latest guidelines and best practices. This includes guidelines such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) specification.
Conduct User Testing
Conducting user testing with users with disabilities can help designers identify accessibility issues and make necessary changes to improve the user experience for all users.
Creating accessible websites is essential for ensuring that all users have equal access to information and services on the web. Accessibility is not only important for users with disabilities, but it can also improve the overall user experience for all users. Designers and developers should prioritize accessibility from the outset of the design process and should stay up to date with the latest guidelines and best practices for creating accessible websites. By doing so, designers can ensure that their websites are inclusive and accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.
Bonus: Accessibility Audit
Devadigm offers various types of website audits and one of them is our accessibility audit. This reviews your site and provides a score and feedback regarding 12 important data points regarding accessibility along with a list of specific edits that can be made to improve the websites accessibility.