Making the consumer journey more accessible for all
It’s harder to retrofit accessibility to a website than to build it in from the beginning. So, the trick is to treat it as a strategic imperative from the start, not just a box-ticking exercise. There will almost always be a section of a brand’s target market that need more support so it’s important to pose the question upfront.
Historically, and despite the 2010 Equalities Act writing the requirement into law, only third sector and government service providers seem to have made this a priority. It is time commercial organisations caught up. You wouldn’t have a shop wheelchair users can’t access, so why have a website that doesn’t work for large swathes of the population?
The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has guidelines that offer a good starting point. They split accessibility into three standards:
- A – basic accessibility, but still serviceable
- AA – ‘middle ground’ accessibility; most government service websites conform to this standard as a minimum
- AAA – ‘hyper-accessible’ site design, but anything ‘flashy’ has to go
Choosing the standard suitable for a brand’s audience is challenging because there are often multiple different business objectives at play that require balancing out. Luckily technology and rigorous techniques now present solutions that mean you can avoid needing to decide between having an eye-catching site and an accessible one.
Good design and accessibility can go hand-in-hand, with a practical approach to UX that considers aspects such as:
- Layout – balanced, logical, and straightforward to navigate
- Motion – awareness that animation can be destabilising or disorienting for some users
- Size and space – should be proportionate, particularly relevant to buttons and interactive elements
- Typography – clear hierarchy of legible fonts at appropriate sizes
- Language – simple, well written, without jargon or acronyms
- Colour – harmonious use of colour with strong contrast for typography
Success relies on close collaboration between agencies, clients and the extended design team; a more holistic understanding between project partners to align solutions to the audience’s often diverse accessibility needs.
The process of understanding and implementing accessibility in design takes time. It’s important that everyone concerned doesn’t rush such vital requirements. Our own website is a case in point: it needs work from an accessibility point of view, which is something we’re reviewing currently as a priority.
Traditionally cost and complexity have been viewed as two key barriers to better accessibility in design. In reality, as long as the correct approach is taken, there is nothing to be scared of. Accessible design is good design, and the idea that creativity, visual aesthetics, or dynamic tech will inevitably be hindered is misguided and out of date. Technical rigor is required but it’s not rocket science, and the visual toolbox remains the same.
In an era when brands are throwing focus on the diversity of their own teams as well as their audiences, accessibility in design is the next step towards a truly inclusive experience for all. Brands need to be considering it, and agencies shouldn’t wait to be asked about it. We all need to be addressing these issues head on. There is an opportunity to get ahead of the curve here, solving a problem before consumer demand forces change, which it inevitably will.