An Intro to Accessibility and User Experience

It’s so easy to make your own website these days, but if you don’t have a background in coding, you might not be aware of the impact that accessibility and user experience have on your blog or business.

There is a lot of information out there, so where to start? Right here! I’m going to share some of my top tips for improving your website’s accessibility– and therefore the general user experience– through a series of guides which should be informative and easy-to-follow for web creators who don’t really code!

Web Accessibility vs. User Experience

Web accessibility is ensuring that anything you put onto the Internet is available and easily used by anyone who may encounter it. You’ve likely seen features from Twitter and Instagram which allow you to enter image descriptions for the visually impaired. Helping users with different sight abilities is one of the most common forms of accessibility online, but it doesn’t stop there. Think about other areas, like mobility, where your user may have difficultly moving a mouse, for example.

User experience is the practice of designing in a way that will be comfortable and helpful for the majority of users. For me, I think of accessibility as the foundation of user experience. If your website is accessible, you’re half way there!

The key to good user experience is reducing how much your user needs to think. You want to design things in a way that allows your user to make very quick decisions, allowing them to access the information that they need quickly. Good user experience is a win-win situation: your user is able to achieve what they want with very little friction, and in most cases what they want is what you want. For example: quickly converting a casual visitor into a longtime audience member or customer.

Improvements in Built-In Accessibility

I asked in a group that I am part of if anyone had any specific questions about accessibility and user experience, and someone asked me if technological advances have usurped the need for specific accessibility tools, such as screen readers.

The short answer is yes, but we still need to do our part to ensure that those tools can be used effectively. Most devices have built in voice tools for the visually impaired. And browsers have accessibility tools such as more intuitive text size changing. But most software still can’t accurately guess the contents– and, more importantly, the context– of an image. So it’s just as important as ever that we use descriptive text so the build-in accessibility tools can relay that information to as many users as possible.

To get a better idea of how visually impaired people use technology to browse online (and navigate in general), I highly recommend checking out Molly Burke’s YouTube channel, specifically this video on how she uses technology.

Where to Begin with Your Website?

I know it can be daunting to look at your own website from an accessibility perspective if you’ve never done it before. So I’ve put together a list of a few things you can check for right now:

Is there enough contrast between the colour of your background and the colour of your text?

Typography is one of the most important aspects of accessibility for everyone. Even fully sighted people will not be able to read badly contrasted text. For example: if you’re using a light grey font, or using white text on a fairly light background.

There are quite a few tools for checking contrast online. If your website already exists, try popping in the HEX values of your background colour and your text colour into the WebAIM Contrast Checker. If you’re designing something new and you’re dead set on a light pink background you can use Color Safe to find text colours that will work with your background colour.

Do your links and buttons have hover states?

When a user puts their mouse over a link or button on your website (on the desktop version, of course) what happens? Does the colour or text style change? It should! This confirms to the user that they have found a link and reduces the time it takes for them to decide if they want to click it.

If you’re trying to get your user to click something important– like the link to your services page or the submit button on your contact form– you want to make that decision happen as quickly as possible. It could be the difference between converting a customer or having a confused or bored visitor leave your website, never to return.

Are your similar elements consistent?

Another key to accessibility and user experience is consistency, consistency, consistency. Wherever possible, elements that provide the same function should look as similar as possible. This can mean:

  • Keeping the navigation consistent on each page of your website.
  • Using the same heading styles for blog posts and static pages.
  • Sticking to a maximum of three different fonts on a page.

Just doing the above is likely to get you on track with improving the accessibility and user experience of your website, which will benefit each and every user of your website in the long run!

I will be continuing to post about accessibility and user experience so be sure to check out the other posts in the category to learn more about it! And let me know if you have any specific questions!

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