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UX & Accessible Design: The Essential Guidelines for Your Website

Today, it’s not enough for businesses to just have a website. Businesses are judged by not only what their websites look like, but how easy and enjoyable they are to use. This leads many business owners and marketers to user experience (UX) testing - but what about designing for accessibility? At the end of the day, if you want a user-friendly website, it has to be user-friendly for everyone through an accessible design.

The internet is becoming more and more of a necessity in daily life, providing access to vital information and communication. Yet, for people with disabilities, there are still barriers. If you’re ready to improve the user experience of your website, it’s also critical to improve the accessibility.

What Does Designing for Accessibility Mean?

According to a study from Section508.gov, 71% of web users with a disability will simply leave a website that is not accessible. There are a few main types of disabilities to consider when designing a website for accessibility:

  1. Physical (such as paralysis or fine motor control issues)
  2. Sensory (such as deafness or blindness)
  3. Intellectual (such as developmental delays)

Many senior citizens also have issues that come up as they get older and they can benefit from accessibility accommodations, too.

Designing a website for accessibility means you are considering countless scenarios of how different people will experience your website and working to be inclusive for as many of those people as possible. You can’t just design for your target demographic; you need to design for users outside of your target demographic, users with disabilities and even users from different cultures.

What Does ADA Compliant Mean for Your Website?

Simply, your website should be usable for all people. The most common guidelines people follow when it comes to websites is ADA Compliance. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is meant to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as anyone else. While you may not know the ins and outs of ADA compliance, your web design, development and user experience team absolutely should.

Why is UX and Accessibility for Web Design Important?

There are major benefits to making sure your website is user-friendly. People have many options when they are visiting websites online, and if yours doesn’t provide a great experience by following UX best practices, you could be driving people away from your website and directly to your competitors’. As a bonus, a positive user experience can also improve your SEO efforts! While you follow UX and SEO best practices to improve your website, focusing on accessibility offers the following additional benefits:

1. Legal Compliance. While it follows UX best practices for every website to be accessible to all, some types of websites are required to be ADA compliant, such as government and healthcare websites. To find out if your website is required by law to be ADA compliant, you should always check with your legal team.

If your website is not ADA compliant and it’s required to be, you may be contacted with a request to make it compliant or face a fine.

2. Your business’ reputation. If your website is difficult to use, has a poor user experience and is not easily accessible, your reputation could suffer. Users often associate the difficulty of using a business’ website with what they would experience actually working with them in person. That means it’s critical to make the online experience with your brand a positive, seamless one!

3. Inclusion. Finally, making your website user-friendly and ADA compliant is the right thing to do. If you are creating a website for your business and putting it out into the world, it’s your responsibility to ensure it’s adding positive value for all kinds of people.

Top Essential UX Accessibility Design Guidelines

Whether you're a marketer analyzing the usability of your website or a business owner partnering with a website designer and developer, there are probably UX best practices you are already following that are also improving the accessibility of your website. If you’re using a font size that is large and easy for users to read for example, you’re already improving the accessibility for those with vision disabilities. Take a look at these accessibility for web design best practices that influence user experience.

Accessibility for Web Design Tip #1: Color Contrast

From a UX perspective, having a readable color of font on an appropriate background color is important to make your site readable. It’s also an ADA compliance guideline. The foreground and background colors on your website need to meet ADA contrast standards to ensure those with vision impairments can access your content.

Accessibility for Web Design Tip #2: Heading Use

This best practice should actually be on your UX, SEO and accessibility checklists! Headings, such as H1, H2 and H3 tags are essential for good UX, because they help users easily scan your pages for the content they need. They help your SEO efforts because website crawlers use them to understand your content. And from an accessibility standpoint, screenreaders use headings to read the content of pages to those with visual impairments.

Accessibility for Web Design Tip #3: Screenreaders & Tabbing

Ensure your website is built to function with keyboard functions like tabbing. Tabbing allows users with visual impairments to use their keyboard to navigate through a website, and it helps users with motor disabilities click through a site without needing to navigate with a mouse. Your website development team should have this on their accessibility to-do list!

Accessibility for Web Design Tip #4: Alternative Text & Image Titles

Fortunately, designing a website for accessibility doesn’t have to take away from a beautiful visual design. In fact, some won’t even have a noticeable effect on the user interface. Ensure your website is developed in a way that lets you add image alternative text and title tags to your images. That way, when someone is using a screenreader to understand your content, the screenreader can explain to the user what the images are depicting.

While these are just a few areas to check for ADA compliance, be sure to ask your web design and development team about their full checklist to ensure your site is built appropriately.

Tips for Testing Your Website Accessibility

Once you have an idea of the guidelines your site needs to follow, it’s time to find out how your current site stacks up. Usability testing and accessibility testing are the first steps to take to get a benchmark for your current website’s compliance. User testing will help you understand where users are getting lost on your website and where they are hitting roadblocks.

There are several tools out there that include accessibility audits. At Blue Compass, we’ve developed website accessibility audits that reveal existing errors and warnings on your site, which provides a roadmap to becoming ADA compliant. It’s always important to review findings with a website development team with an understanding of accessibility design to ensure you are correcting errors in an appropriate way.

A Few of Our Favorite UX Accessibility Website Solutions

There are many creative solutions to help you make your site customizable and personalized to anyone who visits! Some of our favorites include using a color contrast changer tool.

color vs black and white website.

You can also try a font size changer! On some websites designed and developed by Blue Compass, we offer the ability for the user to easily increase the size of the website font with a click of a button.

example of different font sizes.

Finally, always be sure to include closed captions for videos on your website. Whether your user is watching a video at home, during their commute or over their lunch hour, many people who aren’t deaf or hard of hearing use closed captioning to consume video content because they’d like to avoid sound. This is a great example of an accessible feature benefiting everyone!

Blue Compass Provides Usability Testing & Custom Accessible Designs

If you believe your site may not be ADA compliant, contact a web designer and developer like Blue Compass. Our development and UX teams are specially trained to run ADA compliance audits along with user testing to help you build a website that works for everyone. Contact us today to learn more about our ADA compliance and development process today!

Author Thumbnail for Brady Rebhuhn at Blue Compass
Brady Rebhuhn

Brady is a Digital Marketing Strategist at Blue Compass and specializes in UX research. She enjoys developing data-driven, comprehensive digital marketing strategies designed to help clients meet their goals. With a passion for understanding how people interact with websites and applications, she regularly conducts UX research for clients and analyzes user behavior to uncover insights and recommendations that can help drive digital marketing efforts and the design.

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