Accessibility Guidelines for UX Designers: How to Design for Everyone?

Accessibility in UX Design

Accessibility in UX design implies designing products for a wide range of consumers, including people with disabilities, impairments, or limitations that affect their web use. Usability—the extent to which a product can be utilized by specific users to achieve specific goals—is strongly tied to accessibility in UX design. Usability and accessibility are not always the same. A product may work for some but not others.

Why is Accessibility Important in UX Design?

UX design needs accessibility for various reasons, including:

  1. Legal: Many nations mandate public and private sector online accessibility. Lawsuits, fines, and reputational damage can follow from violating these regulations.
  1. Moral: Equitable access and opportunity are human rights. Accessibility design empowers users to engage and contribute to society by respecting their dignity and individuality.
  1. Business: Accessibility can boost market reach and consumer loyalty, SEO ranking and performance, brand image and reputation, and development and maintenance costs.

How to Design for Accessibility in UX

Designing for accessibility in UX is not a one-time task or a checklist item. It is an ongoing process that requires continuous learning, testing, and improvement. Here are some steps you can follow to design for accessibility in UX:

Know Your Users and Their Needs

Designing for accessibility starts with empathy and awareness of users’ different requirements and preferences. User research, testing with real users, and using personas, scenarios, and empathy maps can help. Screen readers, magnifiers, and keyboard navigation can help you explore your product.

Key Accessibility Guidelines for UX Designers

The second step is to follow some essential accessibility rules and best practices to develop more accessible and inclusive products for your users. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)‘s four principles, which are Perceivable, Operable, intelligent, and robust, guide these guidelines.

1. Color and Contrast:

Color conveys meaning, emotion, and beauty in design, but inappropriate or irregular use of it can cause accessibility concerns. To ensure accessibility, use adequate contrast between foreground and background elements with a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1. Avoid using color to communicate status or information; use text labels or icons to signal errors or success. Customize product color palettes with dark, high-contrast modes or color pickers. Consider the color’s cultural and emotional connotations, such as red representing danger, love, or luck, depending on the situation and location.

2. Typography and Readability:

Typography is crucial for making written language legible, readable, and engaging. It impacts the user’s understanding and usage of a product. Key readability criteria include using legible typefaces, user-friendly font sizes and spacing, hierarchy and alignment, contrast and color to enhance readability, and speaking clearly for the audience. Tools like Hemingway and Grammarly can help improve writing style and clarity.

3. Navigation and Interaction:

A product’s usability greatly depends on its ease of use and navigation. To ensure accessibility and usability, navigation and interface design standards should include providing different methods for navigation, making interactive elements keyboard-accessible and focusable, clearly labeling and instructing interactive elements, and avoiding seizure-causing substances. These standards help users effectively find, access, and use features and functions. By following these guidelines, users can enhance their experience and the overall usability of their product.

4. Images and Multimedia

Images and multimedia boost product appeal and engagement. Inaccessible images and multimedia might also cause complications. Images and multimedia in design guidelines:

  1. Give non-text content text alternatives. For example, you can use the alt attribute to provide a short description of the picture content, the longdesc attribute to provide a deeper explanation, or the figcaption element to provide a caption.
  1. Caption, transcript, and describe audio and video content. The track element provides subtitles or captions for video footage, the audio element provides audio descriptions, and the transcript element provides a text version of audio content.
  1. Allow users to play, pause, stop, mute, and change their audio and video material. The video element can provide native controls for your video content, or you can utilize accessible and consistent custom controls.
  1. Give users who can’t see your graphics and videos suitable alternatives. For instance, the noscript element can give alternate information for JavaScript-disabled visitors, while the picture element can provide images for different devices or scenarios.

5. Forms and Inputs:

Forms and inputs allow users to enter data about your product. Forms and inputs determine how users accomplish tasks and achieve goals on your product, affecting accessibility and usability. Forms and inputs in design guidelines:

  1. Label form inputs and fields clearly. For instance, you can use the label element to label an input or the aria-label or aria-labeled by attributes to name inputs.
  1. Give clear feedback and error notifications for forms and inputs. You can use the title or placeholder attributes to provide more information or hints, or the aria-invalid, aria-required, or aria-described attributes to indicate input validity, requirement, or description.
  1. Sort and organize forms and inputs. The fieldset and legend components can group relevant fields, and the aria-orientation attribute can indicate input direction.

Accessibility, Compliance, and Standards 

The third step is to apply the accessibility guidelines and standards that are relevant to your product and target audience. The most widely used and recognized standard is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which provide a set of criteria and techniques to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. The WCAG is organized into four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

The WCAG has three levels of conformance: A (minimum), AA (recommended), and AAA (highest). Depending on your product’s scope, audience, and requirements, you should aim to meet at least level AA of the WCAG.

Testing and Iterating for Accessibility

The fourth step is to analyze and validate your product’s accessibility during design. Combine methods and tools like:

  1. Automated testing tools: software or browser extensions that analyze your product’s code or UI for accessibility concerns like [WAVE], [AXE], LERA and [Lighthouse].
  1. Manual testing tools simulate different scenarios to test your product’s accessibility. Color Contrast Analyzer, NoCoffee, and the Web Developer Toolbar are a few examples.
  1. User testing tools: These tools let you get feedback from real users with varying abilities or scenarios. [UserTesting], [Loop11], and [Optimal Workshop] are some examples.

Accessibility design is an ongoing process. Learning, testing, and improving are continuous. Follow these standards and best practices to develop accessible, usable, enjoyable, and worthwhile products for all consumers.

Tools and Resources for Accessibility in UX Design

If you want to learn more about accessibility in UX design, here are some useful tools and resources that you can explore:

  1. A11y Project: a community-driven resource for web accessibility best practices.
  1. WebAIM: a non-profit organization that provides web accessibility consulting, training, resources, and tools.
  1. Accessibility Insights: a suite of tools that help you identify and fix accessibility issues in your web products.
  1. Inclusive Design Toolkit: a collection of tools and methods that help you design for diversity and inclusion.
  1. Microsoft Inclusive Design: a set of principles and practices that guide Microsoft’s approach to inclusive design.
  1. Google Accessibility: a hub for Google’s accessibility products, features, initiatives, and resources.
  1. Apple Accessibility: a showcase of Apple’s accessibility features, products, stories, and resources.

The Future of Inclusive UX Design

Accessibility is a necessity and an opportunity as technology evolves. UX designers must create inclusive products that cater to everyone regardless of abilities, backgrounds, or situations. Inclusive UX design involves empathy, creativity, understanding user diversity, problem-solving, and creating value for all users.

Conclusion

This article offers guidelines and best practices for UX designers to create accessible and inclusive products. It explains the importance of accessibility, its tools, resources, and future prospects. Designing for accessibility benefits both users and businesses. Don’t hesitate to contact us at info@aeldata.com if you have queries regarding UX designing for your website accessibility.

Picture of Aditya Bikkani

Aditya Bikkani

Aditya is the COO of AELData, a growing technology company in the Digital Publishing and Education sectors. He is also an entrepreneur and founder of an accessibility tool called LERA. A W3C COGA (Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility) Community Member Aditya contributes to researching methodologies to improve web accessibility and usability for people with cognitive and learning disabilities.

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