Experience Design

POUR: Designing for Accessibility with Robustness in Mind

We’ve come to the final post in this series on the W3C’s Principles “POUR,” designing and coding for the “Robust” principle. In the context of technology, a solution is robust when it comes with a wide range of capabilities, or is able to deal with many different situations. Robust solutions should be navigable and usable by as many people as possible. These solutions follow the W3C guideline “Compatible,” meaning to maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

Why Your Designs Should be Robust

Most of us have several technical options readily available in today’s current marketplace, so it makes perfect sense that not everyone uses the same devices, browsers, and operating systems. We continuously upgrade, switch to something different, download a newer software release, and so on, and it’s common to use our technology differently. For example, many people prefer to view videos with the sound off and live captioning on, while some people turn off certain features, like images, when using websites. We all have different abilities when it comes to technology. Some of us are early adopters, and others adopt new tech after it’s been on the market for a while.

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The core of designing a robust solution is considering the different ways people use their devices, especially assistive technology, such as screen readers like Talkback and VoiceOver, and voice-enabled personal assistants like Siri, Echo, and others.

How to Create Robust Experiences

Developers are critical to creating robustness for different user agents and assistive technologies. They begin by helping to ensure that a site’s code is well-constructed. If the markup language is HTML, the code will have complete start and end tags, such as “<html>Welcome to Perficient</html>.”

However, developers can introduce errors and inconsistencies with sloppy HTML, which causes issues on even the newest browsers. The best approach is to follow WCAG 2.1 AA Principles, Guidelines, and Success Criteria to create valid HTML that works correctly across browsers and platforms. Next, developers must frequently decide which versions of browsers to support and strike a balance between developing for older browsers with smaller target audiences and newer browsers that usually garner an organization the bulk of its website traffic. And lastly, developers can use automated tools to catch errors and warnings in their HTML and XHTML code.

Invest in POUR and Create Better, More Accessible Design

There’s a great deal of information to remember when it comes to designing with all of these principles in mind. This shortcut will help you as you start to use POUR actively in all your designs:

  • Perceivable: Content is presented in more than one format.
  • Operable: Content is accessible on a variety of device types and input modalities.
  • Understandable: User interface components and navigation work independently of the device.
  • Robust: Maximize fit with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

For further information, check out our Accessibility IQ for your website, read more from our UX for Accessible Design series, and contact our experts about accessible design today.

About the Author

I'm a Senior Manager User Insights & Research out of the Atlanta office.

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