The backbone of UX/UI design is clear: creating designs that not only enhance the user experience, but also promote accessibility throughout the process, prioritizing the use of the design by absolutely anyone. And while you might think that accessible UX/UI designs are taken care of as long as you add captions on videos and maybe provide a nighttime option for browsing in the dark, there’s actually a lot more to it.
In fact, some UX/IUI professionals have even dedicated themselves to this specific area of the field, ensuring that minority or disabled groups can access the same resources as the rest of the world. These professionals should be highlighted and praised; they work closely with accessibility experts and web designers to offer a truly inclusive experience.
As an up-and-coming UX/UI designer yourself, it’s crucial that you understand both the importance of accessibility and the basics of accessible designs so that you can continue making the internet a more inclusive and accessible place–for everyone.
What is Accessibility?
Accessibility has become quite the buzzword over the past few years and you’ve probably heard it thrown around by big corporations. But what is it exactly? It’s the practice of guaranteeing access to, without any barriers, anything the general population can use. As internet use has skyrocketed over recent years, web accessibility, or e-accessibility, has also grown in popularity, with new focuses being placed on guaranteeing equal access to online services.
Why is accessibility so important?
We think it’s pretty clear why accessibility is essential, but let’s provide a recent and straightforward example: during the COVID-19 pandemic, many services moved online, such as doctor’s appointments, immigration proceedings, and newspapers. For many, this made their lives easier; for others, however, this change led to complications. If, for whatever reason, someone can’t use typical websites, they are ultimately barred from accessing this crucial information and services.
Accessibility in design manifests itself in many different ways, but let’s explore some basic examples of how inaccessible designs can barr certain groups from accessing the service:
Information is provided solely on graphics: lots of websites offer an audio version of their information, helping visually impaired visitors access the service. However, the majority of these tools only read words aloud; if there are graphics or pictures that contain crucial information, the user may be unable to access it.
Using alt-text descriptions that provide the same information as the graphic does in text form can help eliminate this barrier.
The website requires a mouse to move from element to element: for many, this may not be a problem. But many physically impaired users need to use voice control or a special keyboard to operate their computer, meaning that a mouse isn’t an option.
Ensuring that users using a voice-controlled device or special keyboard have access to the exact same functions as users using the mouse is a great example of accessible design.
You get it, right? Accessibility is crucial to design and UX/UI designers must highlight these principles when creating their designs. And how can you get started? By putting the user first.
Inclusive Design Principles
It’s nearly impossible to create inclusive designs if you don’t prioritize the user experience. And that’s why our first principle is to design for your user.
Bring the user to the front of your design process
How can you make truly accessible designs unless you talk to the users themselves, learning from them and understanding what works and what doesn’t? No supervisor or manager will expect you to fully understand the experience of every group of people, but it’s your responsibility to research what you can do to improve the accessibility of your design. Don’t be afraid to sit back, listen, and make mistakes until you learn how to truly put the user and their specific needs first. It will be a challenge, but it’s one that is completely worth it.
Commit to creating comparable experiences
Accessible designs aren’t just ones that are reachable by all people, but that provide a comparable or equal experience and access to whatever is being offered. You may be tempted to cut corners sometimes and think, “Well, this isn’t totally necessary,” but that’s a slippery slope! All users have the right to see all content and equal experiences should be your priority at all times.
Create consistent and friendly designs
Understanding or accessing a web design shouldn’t be a challenge! Remember, you want the user to return to your site multiple times, accessing your product or service. And if they have to become an expert web developer to access the checkout page, they probably won’t be back for more. Stick to simple and well-functioning design principles, such as using brand colors and fonts throughout your entire design. Remember, accessibility includes first time users, users with limited access to high-speed internet, users in a rush, and users on mobile devices.
Offer options for your users
You can’t anticipate how your users will want to use your design every time they access it, so ensuring that it boasts various options helps even more users gain access while prioritizing their unique preferences and needs. This also means you should equally focus on mobile and desktop designs; some users may be limited to just one or have to use the other every once in a while, meaning they’re not comfortable or confident with their second option.
Do these sound doable? We hope so–creating accessible designs should be your first priority as a UX/UI designer and thankfully, it’s completely possible. And whether you’re just starting out on your journey as a UX/UI designer or looking to revamp your skills to prioritize accessibility, Ironhack’s UX/UI Design Bootcamp is perfect for you.
Ready to embark on your journey towards a more inclusive world? We can’t wait to help you get there.