Naturally, we hear a lot about user empathy in relation to UX design. Interestingly, most don’t realize that when we start talking about accessibility in UX design, we’re still basically on the same topic. To many, accessibility means making a website accessible to someone who may be color blind, needs a screen reader or requires a special keyboard interface.
But accessibility covers a whole lot more. The term may also be applicable to someone who has trouble remembering steps through a process, who isn’t a native English speaker, who gets eye strain from reading or muscle strain using a mouse, who can’t hear a video or follow closed captions, etc. In many cases, simply accessing the web can be an uncomfortable experience. We should aim to keep the situation from becoming any worse.
The WCAG outlines four accessibility principles, with various guidelines. But in breaking down these principles we find they’re not far off from what we should strive for to make the web easier for everybody. So, in working accessibility guidelines into our UI/UX designs, we are really designing for everyone.
Accessibility guidelines for UI/UX designs:
All information and user interface elements must be presented in a way users can understand. This means not relying solely on images, icons or colors, making sure you provide text alternatives, ensuring clarity of text, sufficient color contrast, and so on.
The UI and all functionality must be operable. Everything should be accessible via keyboard, voice, touch interface, etc. If your UI relies exclusively on the mouse, it isn’t fully operable. Further, ample time should be provided for task completion, and all tasks should be explained clearly or via accessible help.
The information and site operation must be understandable. ALL text must be readable and understandable, even in images. Be sure your sites behave predictably, and always provide ways for users to correct their mistakes.
Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including by assistive technologies. Not only should content be responsive and touch compatible, it should be able to be read aloud or enlarged. Further, be sure even your HTML can be interpreted by screen readers and voice recognition.
You might have noticed all four of these principles make sense, regardless of accessibility. We should design and build sites that conform to these guidelines all the time, for everyone. These guidelines not only provide access for users with impairments and disabilities, they also make your site easier for people on the move, for those who forgot their glasses, who may have broken a wrist or who can’t sit at a desk too long.
These accessibility principles provide a good base to ensure our sites are engaging, simple to use and don’t leave users hating (or hurting from) their visit to our page.
Again, it all comes down to user empathy: putting yourself in the user’s shoes and understanding their needs, as well as understanding your responsibility to make sure everyone’s user experience is as enjoyable as possible. And if your organization ever needs additional help solving any UI/UX accessibility issues, just reach out to us. Our expert designers and UX strategists will be happy to help you out.
User Experience Designer/Art Director