The Importance of Accessibility in Website Design
One of the most common frustrations digital users face today is the lack of consideration from website owners towards accessibility.
Have you ever visited a website and found it hard to navigate? The text could have been blocked by an image, the website unreadable on your mobile or the poor colour choice could have deterred you from re-visiting or purchasing. All of these contribute to the ‘User Experience’, however, there is a noticeable crossover with UX and accessibility. Many presume that accessibility is a ‘nice have’; this isn’t true, we believe it is essential.
Accessibility is effectively the practice of building websites and applications that can be used by a wide range of people, including those with visual, motor auditory, speech, or cognitive disabilities. With 25% of the entire population either directly or indirectly affected by a disability, it is certainly not an issue which should be overlooked. Despite the name implying otherwise, accessibility also affects able bodied people too. For example if you are using your laptop in the park and the sun’s glare is causing your screen to be be unreadable, or if English is not your first language and the website uses obscure wording for key links. A strong accessibility standard throughout a website can solve these issues.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognised access to information and communications technologies, including the web, as a basic human right. This therefore means that by neglecting accessibility, a company could find themselves in lawsuits and with angry customers.In 2017 there were 814 website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal and state courts in the US.
There is also a strong business case for accessibility. Accessible websites score higher in search results, helping them reach a larger audience. It encourages faster load times, good coding practices, and thus can improve CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) for ecommerce sites.
When considering design and development, Verb ensures to abide by the World Wide Web Consortium (WCAG). This document breaks down accessibility into 4 main principles:
Can I consume content on my site in different ways? For example, having closed captions for a video.
Can the site function without confusion and without the use of a mouse or complex interactions?
Can a user understand how the user interface of the site functions and the information on the site?
Can different assistive devices, such as screen readers, understand the website?
Each of these principles have a rating of either A, AA, or AAA. An A rating is the minimum rating for an accessible website and AAA is the highest standard. Websites that require a perfect AAA rating throughout include sites such as Gov.uk. This is largely due to the variety of different people who need to browse the website. However, it should be noted that you do not need to be a AAA perfect site to be considered accessible.
The WCAG 2.0 spec has a conformance page explaining the 5 more specific necessary requirements of an accessible website:
- A grading level of conformance must be met with either A, AA, or AAA.
- The full webpage must conform to standards, not just a part of the page.
- Related process pages must all conform to the same rating or higher to be considered accessible (for example, an eCommerce checkout process).
- Accessibility must be achieved by the use of supported technologies deemed credible by the WCAG.
- It’s possible to use technologies that are not fully accessible as long as the content is still accessible with a different technology (for example, a Flash video with a supplementary text transcript).
The sentiment of these rules is that all content on the page should be easy to read and consume. This means all spelling, grammar, content location and text size should be scrupulously studied.
Although on the surface it would seem that using these guides can limit your creative ability, many designers find that adding constraints actively encourages out-of-the-box thinking. Verb’s own designers have demonstrated this, proving that websites can be designed to be both aesthetically pleasing and user friendly. An example of this is Luxury Communications Council, a website of ours which scores 88% on Google’s accessibility audit tool; a score much higher than industry favourite Net-A-Porter, which scores a shocking 26%.
If you would like some help with your own website in order to meet the standards provided by WCAG, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.