The Benefits of Accessible UX Design

Pixel506 (Encora Authorized Partner) | October 13, 2021

User experience design is an important part of the creation of any product, software, or otherwise. And there’s another category that falls under UX design called accessibility. Accessibility tackles how a user will successfully navigate and access the product. In this article, we will explore the relationship between the two and how to design with accessibility in mind. 

What is UX Design

UX is described as a design method of user-centric problem-solving. The goal behind any product is to create something that solves a problem for a user. The user experience piece of a product’s design takes into consideration how a user interacts with the product. UX is, at its core, a human-centric way of solving problems through product design.

The user-centric problem solving creates an intuitive, user-friendly experience to enable a user’s intentions. To ensure a user-centric experience, the users’ preferences and desires for functionality contribute to the design of the experience or product. 

Why is UX important? The ability to provide a positive experience directly translates into revenues. A report from Forrester states that every $1 invested in UX results in a return of $100.

What is Accessibility

Accessibility is about whether a product or service can be used by ALL users equally. Accessibility has laws around it to assist people with disabilities so that they too have equal access to products and services. Designers have the task of trying to design as inclusive as possible, creating designs that work well for as many users as possible. There are laws and fines in place to penalize those that do not offer accessible products.

Accessibility Is Not to Be Confused With Usability

Both are parts of UX design, but they also have their differences. Usability tackles how the design is used by users and how to design a product that is easy to use, allowing users to quickly accomplish their goals or solve problems. But it does not address whether or not all users can access the product or service equally. 

Accessibility works on the universality of usability which is concerned with how well ALL users can access a product or service. It asks, can all users have an equal experience, including those with disabilities? In short, accessibility focuses exclusively on people with disabilities. 

Benefits of Accessibility Design

Not only does creating an accessible design agenda help all users better use a product, it also has benefits to the business that thinks in terms of accessibility. 

Better SEO Rankings

Web accessibility is an important factor in SEO because both your business and SEO want to get content to appropriate users. Technologies such as screen readers are easily discovered by SEO and provide an advantage to the website that employs them. 

Greater Audience

Creating a product that is designed with accessibility in mind means a wider audience. A WHO report showed that 15% of the world’s population will be excluded from a product or service if accessibility design is not taken into consideration. Greater accessibility will enhance the market population. As an example, a website that uses a screen reader will increase a business’ audience. Providing options for those with disabilities provides an inclusivity that increases brand awareness and engagement. 

Public Relations

Designing for all users is a great way to enhance a brand’s reputation of inclusivity. It is also a talking point for brand public relations. 

Common Types of Disabilities Include:

  • Hearing difficulties
  • Visual difficulties such as color blindness or impaired vision
  • Motor Skills or mobility difficulties. These are generally physical impediments to normal movements. 
  • Learning or cognitive disabilities like dyslexia or attention deficit may also affect a user’s ability to interact with a product or service. 

It should be noted that disabilities may arise temporarily in many users. For example, users may have difficulty accessing the internet for a short time period due to the environment they’re in, or they may have a condition that makes them unable to fully access a product the way they normally would, such as a seizure condition or broken arm. These should be considered as much as possible in creating the most inclusive UX. 

How to Create Accessible Design

So how can we design for all? How do we create UX that includes accessibility not as an afterthought, but as a part of the overall experience? The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) lays out standards for accessible design in its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The following points will help accommodate users with a diverse range of disabilities but are not exhaustive. 

  • When creating user personas in the design process, make sure to include personas with disabilities. This will help to design a product that is more inclusive.
  • Be careful with color. While you don’t want to not use color, do consider color choices carefully so that a color-blind person would still be able to use the product. High contrast can be helpful.
  • Consider using shapes (and make a visual note of their purpose) to help users to navigate products. 
  • Be thoughtful in your use of form fields. Use clear boundaries in forms to be filled out. This helps users that are physically impaired as well as those with certain cognitive disabilities.
  • Build accessible design patterns, such as menus, auto-fill, and others. Each pattern has a set of HTML semantics and ARIA attributes that tell screen reader users how to interact with a menu or auto-fill when engaging with a product. 
  • Avoid using hover menus. This is a difficult thing for those with impaired motor skills to use and could easily lead to frustration and an inability to use a product or service. 
  • Consider providing voice-over reading options for the visually impaired and transcripts for video or audio offerings for those who are hearing impaired. 
  • There are many more suggestions that can be found in the WCAG.

There are many ways that we can help make designs that are more inclusive to those with a wide range of disabilities. Considering individuals with disabilities is the first step toward creating accessible products and services. Everyone wins with inclusivity.

Key Takeaways

  • Although often confused with usability, accessibility is different. Usability tackles how the design is used by users and how to design a product that is easy to use and enables users to quickly accomplish their goals or solve problems
  • Accessibility is about whether a product or service can be used by ALL users equally. 
  • Accessibility benefits businesses who invest in it with a wider audience for the product/service, better SEO rankings, and good PR. 
  • There are many common types of disabilities that affect accessibility.
  • The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) lays out standards for accessible design in its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
  • To name a few key points, designers should consider color and drop-down menu functionality carefully as well, avoid hover menus. In general, they should seek to eliminate any design issues that would cause a person with a disability trouble accessing the product or service. 

About Encora

Fast-growing tech companies partner with Encora to outsource product development and drive growth. We take accessibility seriously and can answer any questions you might have about making your software accessible for a greater number of users.

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