Accessibility Strategies in UX Design
The internet, to put it simply, has utterly transformed the way that we work and play. Everything from the way we communicate with our friends and family to how we purchase everyday items has been disrupted by digital technologies.
Simply put, there is no turning back.
As user experience (“UX”) designers, our role has become increasingly important due to the internet’s importance in our society today. While the barriers to launching a website or product are essentially nil, UX, in fact, has become increasingly important. We need to design for all users, but this task has become more difficult since there are so many different types of potential users of your product or website.
Because of this, I wanted to spend this post talking about accessibility strategies in UX design. Accessibility is an extremely important concept for any UX designer. But while we may have some vague idea of what accessibility is, actually making our product or website more accessible is a different story.
There's no need to worry. I’m here to dispel some myths and further explain some of the most powerful accessibility strategies in UX design.
The Basics and Important Considerations
To start, the overarching concept of digital accessibility can be thought of as building digital content and applications that can be used by a wide range of people. This group of people can include those who have things like cognitive, visual, motor, auditory, or speech disabilities. Some of your users may be affected by flickering light on the screen (potentially triggering seizures) while others may have auditory conditions which may prevent them from fully engaging with your product.
Ultimately, accessibility means that any type of person can use your product or service—even if they aren’t users that you initially considered when building your product. As you can tell, this can become overwhelming relatively quickly. One of the great things about the internet is that virtually anyone can visit your product or website. On the flip side, though, you need to design your product or website so that it is accessible for all of your users.
So what can be done? Unfortunately, there is no magic pill to this problem. Accessibility is something that you must continue to think about as you design your website or product. That said, here are several important accessibility strategies that you should keep in mind.
To start, be careful with your use of color. While color is a great way to bring attention to certain aspects of your product or website, those users who are color blind may have a much more difficult time with your work. Because of this, make sure to add enough color contrast to your product or website. Critically, don’t make color the only way to communicate something important. Doing this will lead to frustration among your color blind users and may lead them to abandon your product.
Next, don’t forget to add alt text to your images. Alt text can help blind or low vision users understand the images that are on your product or website. For important images, you want to include alt text that accurately and concisely describes the image. But if an image is just used as decoration, you do not want to add an alt tag, as it will only confuse your visually impaired users.
Finally, it also helps to support keyboard navigation in your product or website. For those users with motor disabilities or who lack muscle control are dependent on their keyboards to navigate your content. Therefore, make sure that they can complete important tasks—like completing a form—without needing to touch a mouse or trackpad.
Designing For All Users
The above are simply a few UX accessibility strategies to keep in mind. While you can read books like Universal Principles of Design to get a broader sense of this idea of accessibility, it is helpful to experiment and try it for yourself. You will quickly discover that there are many things to consider when designing your product or website.
Ultimately, this is an iterative process. The best way to design for accessibility is to simply get started. From there, you will undoubtedly encounter more accessibility issues that you will need to solve. This work is worth it, however. By keeping accessibility at the top of mind, you will find that users will be happier and more engaged with your product.