In a recent presentation, John Seitz, UX architect at Perficient Digital, discussed the importance of inclusive design and how considering accessibility while designing and building your website has value for your company. Inclusive design is the creation of products or services that are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible. As that applies to your company’s website, it’s about keeping the diversity and uniqueness of each individual in mind as you build and design. It’s not about designing for people with disabilities per se. It’s about designing for everyone including those with disabilities. It has its roots in architecture and industrial design, but the principles that apply to these disciplines are equally relevant on the web. And it’s not a bolted-on feature – it’s something you need to design for and consider right from the beginning of your site’s development.
Who Can Benefit from Inclusive Design?
There are many different segments that can benefit from inclusive design, but we’ll take a look at just one example: those with color blindness. This is something that affects 8% of males, to some degree. So if you’re not using color on your site in an inclusive way, it’s possible that around 8% of your visitors are having a bad customer experience.
How can you design to accommodate for this segment? Well for starters, do you currently have any links that rely only on color to set them apart from regular text, instead of underlining them? If you’re only using color to demonstrate a link over regular text, someone with color blindness may not be able to identify your links.
Moving beyond this one example, what else should you keep in mind when designing?
- Novice users
- Language barriers
- Poor hearing
- Failing vision
- Blindness / visually impaired
- Mobility impaired
- And more
Good UX Means Good Business
In a world where technology is rapidly advancing and user expectations are rising, it’s no longer enough to have an average user experience; to delight your users and surpass your competition you must strive for the exceptional.
And, here are some stats to put it in perspective:
- 19% of the U.S. population has a disability when it comes to the web
- 8% of people over the age of 15 have some degree of sight or hearing impairment
- 21% of people over the age of 65 have some degree of sight or hearing impairments
- 54% of people over the age of 65 use the internet
- People 65+ years-old will more than double between 2000 and 2030
This is A LOT of people. And if you’re not considering them when you build a site, you’re creating a less-than-ideal customer experience for a large segment of the population.
Benefits of Inclusive Design
The need for inclusive design is apparent, but there are also benefits that come along with being considerate of accessibility.
The Curb Effect
You’ve probably seen ramps or curb cuts from the street to the sidewalk. That ramp is a feature that was built for people with disabilities, but it still benefits everyone. This is also the case with web design and development. A lot of designing for accessibility will also help users with old browsers, missing plug-ins, slow connections, small screens, etc.
Good Code = Good Inclusiveness
Inclusive design leverages coding best practices, so choosing to have an accessible site will typically result in better overall usability and a reduction in maintenance costs for your company. You can get a lot of bang for your buck by just utilizing good coding practices.
The better your site is structured, the easier it is to crawl. The easier it is to crawl, the better your organic search results.
Having an accessible website and mobile application is the right thing to do. It’s good business to create content everyone can access, but it also improves overall engagement and user experience, elevating your brand.
(Not) Breakin’ the Law
There are various laws and regulations worldwide regarding accessibility. A number of companies have already been involved in costly public legal actions where inaccessible sites were deemed discriminatory. As legislation continues to evolve surround this topic, be proactive and work towards inclusion on your own time instead.
Now that the need for and benefits of inclusive design are clear, what can you do about it? As our series continues, we’ll focus on the specific design techniques, content, and coding best practices that you can use to make sure your website is accessible to all.