What Makes A Website Accessible — The Web Designer’s Perspective
Trends come and go; some never become something more than a fad, and some become permanent. One of the better trends in recent years is accessibility — a way to make any site usable for as many people as possible, no matter their disability. Impaired individuals often have problems using the web, but nowadays, designers are trying to eliminate such barriers. It doesn’t take much, but it makes the internet a much better place. But what makes a website accessible?
What makes a website accessible
Let’s begin with the basics. The World Wide Web Consortium actually released a document about Accessibility Guidelines, in which it all comes down to four main principles:
A site must be
- operable (user can understand it and access the information)
- perceivable (a user can consume various content like videos with the help of captions, etc.)
- understandable (a user can make sense of navigation)
- robust (various assistive devices must be able to understand it)
It sounds complex, but it’s not that hard to design a website in a more accessible way, especially if you think about it right from the start.
What can I do to make my website more accessible?
First of all, don’t forget about the color contrast. It can be tempting to use similar colors, but hard-to-read designs are a big no when it comes to accessibility. The WCAG (a big rulebook for accessibility) recommends having a minimum of 4:5:1 contrast ratio when it comes to text, and 7:1 contrast is the golden standard. And if you’re adamant that you can’t change your design, at least add an option to change the font color or the background to make it more visible to people who have difficulties reading.
Also, (and this is aimed mostly at content writers) try not to overburden your text with unnecessarily obscure words. Many of us
show off enrich texts with pompous synonyms, but the WCAG wants you to always write for people at a “lower secondary education level.” There are special copywriting apps that help you see when you’re going overboard — we use Grammarly, for example.
Second, don’t forget about typography. Type hierarchy can’t be overlooked: use various types of headers and try to make your text readable by segmenting it. Long chunks of text are hard to read, as well as never-ending sentences. The WCAG indicates that 80 must be a maximum amount of characters per line. Narrow blocks are always easier to read. Also, web designers have a distaste for justified text for a reason.
Images can and should be text-free. Instead, make use of live text and CSS. And don’t forget alt-texts — they allow users or assistive devices to understand what is being shown. Describe what is on the picture and never ignore this setting.
Accessibility is our responsibility
As you can see, making a website accessible is a task for everyone, from web designers to content writers and developers. Still, our recommendations are easily doable if you think about accessibility from the beginning.