Blog PostBeyond Design: The Journey of Inclusive Experiences

Pedro Pereira's picture

Pedro Pereira

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May 09 2024

Introduction

Following the insightful overview provided by Alexandre Santos in 'Understanding Web Accessibility,' I was moved by how little I knew about the subject and began to delve deeper. While Alexandre's article highlighted the crucial aspects and legal imperatives of web accessibility—increasingly becoming a mandatory requirement for all web applications—here, I aim to focus on its practical application in design.

Accessibility should not be viewed merely as an 'update' due to legal concerns but as a foundational aspect of user experience design and inclusivity. This guide is crafted for designers who truly care and wish to incorporate inclusive practices right from the start. It is essential that these considerations are integrated at the design stage to ensure we create universally enjoyable user experiences.

An accessibile website with tooks akin to a  digital ramp

Designing for All Abilities

Accessibility means everyone can use your product, no matter their abilities or preferences. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • Clear Colors: When selecting colors for your design, it's essential to consider users with visual impairments, including those with color blindness and low vision. Utilizing high-contrast color combinations can greatly improve readability and usability. For instance, a dark blue text on a light yellow background can be more discernible than blue on green. Tools like the Figma Plugin "Color Blind" can help designers simulate how their color choices appear to those with various types of color vision deficiencies. Additionally, consider the overall brightness and saturation, as these can also affect visibility for people with low vision.

  • Big Buttons, Happy Users: Large, well-spaced buttons are crucial not only for individuals with motor skill limitations but also for the vast number of users accessing sites on mobile devices. In a mobile-first approach, such design choices ensure that all users, regardless of device, can interact with ease—particularly important in scenarios like hurried interactions in public spaces, such as purchasing a train ticket on a smartphone. This design practice aligns with the principles of universal design, making applications more usable and accessible to everyone.

  • Clear Labels, Clear Communication: Every form field should be accompanied by a descriptive label, rather than relying on placeholder text, which can disappear and leave users unsure of the required input. By adhering to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), labels are associated programmatically with their respective form fields. This not only aids users who rely on assistive technologies such as screen readers but also enhances clarity for everyone. For designers, this practice helps prevent common development errors and supports the creation of faster, more reliable solutions, making designs universally accessible and easier to implement.

  • Effortless Navigation, No Getting Lost: A well-organized site with a clear menu structure, breadcrumbs, and descriptive section labels makes it easier for all users to navigate, particularly those who rely on assistive technologies to interpret page layouts. Implementing best practices in menu design, such as consistent navigation placement and logical menu item grouping, can guide users smoothly from one section to another, enhancing the overall user experience.

  • Mindful Motion, Less is More: While animations can enrich interaction, they can also pose challenges for users with vestibular disorders who are sensitive to motion on the screen. To accommodate these users, incorporate reduced motion settings in your design, which can be activated through media queries that respect the user's system preferences for reduced motion. This not only prevents discomfort but also provides users with control over their interaction experience, ensuring accessibility for those with motion sensitivities.

Team of developers  fine tunning their website so it's inclusive

Why Design with Everyone in Mind from the Start?

Integrating accessibility from the outset of the design process isn't merely about ticking boxes on compliance checklists like WCAG. It's a strategic and ethical commitment to creating experiences that everyone can enjoy, regardless of their abilities. Here's why embedding accessibility at the design stage is essential:

  • Empowerment Through Inclusivity: Designing with all users in mind empowers a diverse audience to interact seamlessly with your product. This inclusivity fosters a sense of belonging and enables more people to fully participate in the digital landscape, enhancing user satisfaction and engagement.

  • Enhanced User Loyalty and Trust: Products that are accessible by design reflect a brand's commitment to caring for all users. This conscientious approach builds trust and loyalty, as users who feel respected and valued are more likely to advocate for and remain loyal to your brand.

  • Broader Market Reach: Accessible designs meet the needs of the one billion people worldwide with disabilities, significantly expanding your potential audience and market reach. This not only aligns with ethical practices but also boosts business potential.

  • Legal and Ethical Obligations: Proactively designing for accessibility meets legal requirements and ethical obligations, ensuring that no user is excluded. It demonstrates a brand’s dedication to corporate social responsibility and commitment to equity and inclusion.

  • Cost Efficiency: Incorporating accessibility from the beginning of the design process helps avoid the high costs associated with retrofitting products for accessibility after they are launched. This approach reduces the need for costly redesigns and promotes smoother, more efficient development cycles.

By prioritizing accessibility early on, you ensure that your designs are not just compliant, but genuinely inclusive, creating a better experience for all users and securing enduring benefits for your brand.

Bridging the Gap Between Designers and Developers

A developer and designer comunicating

Accessibility is a collaborative mission that requires close cooperation between designers and developers to create universally usable products. Key strategies to enhance this collaboration include:

  • Unified Language: Establishing a common vocabulary, such as terms like "high contrast" and "screen reader friendly," ensures both teams are aligned in their objectives and methods.

  • Detailed Documentation: Designers should provide comprehensive guidelines that detail accessibility specifications. This clarity allows developers to implement designs more accurately and maintain accessibility standards.

  • Joint Testing: Engaging in combined prototyping and testing sessions helps both sides understand how accessibility features function in real scenarios, and adjust strategies based on user feedback.

  • Celebrating Successes: Acknowledging achievements in meeting accessibility standards reinforces the value of teamwork and encourages continued commitment to inclusive design.

These practices ensure a productive partnership between designers and developers, leading to more effective and inclusive digital products.

A developer and designer exchanging ideias

Conclusion

In my journey with Mediaweb, I've learned that accessibility is more than a feature—it's a fundamental aspect of how we operate and innovate. This understanding has reshaped how I approach design and development, and I make it a point to share every new insight with our team through our Knowledge Share meetings. These sessions ensure that we are all on the same page and continually aligning our practices with the latest standards in accessibility.

Accessibility is an ongoing process of learning and adaptation. As we advance, I remain committed to ensuring that our entire team is well-versed in these critical principles. This not only helps us meet our ethical and legal obligations but also enhances the inclusivity and quality of our projects.

By actively engaging in this continuous educational process, we foster a culture that values and prioritizes accessibility. This commitment is a key part of how we create products that truly cater to everyone, reflecting Mediaweb's dedication to excellence and inclusivity in every aspect of our work.

Stay tuned as we continue this series with a new guide focused on the developer's perspective, ensuring that our technical teams are equally equipped to meet these accessibility standards.