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Accessibility for All: 6 Inclusive Design Principles for Your Website

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The internet has a website for everything.

Indeed, there are now 1.94 billion sites online!

Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t have a website for everyone.

Awkward displays, clunky buttons, unreadable text and so on all abound. One way or another, many websites exclude potential users.

Enter the rise of inclusivity in web design. This novel approach aims to rectify the problem. Interested in learning more about it?

Keep reading to learn all about inclusive design and how to incorporate it in your websites.

What is Inclusive Design?

Let’s begin with a definition.

Really, the clue is in the name!

Inclusive design means creating products and services that don’t exclude people from their use. It’s about designing to allow as many people as possible to use the site.

It isn’t only about catering for people with disabilities though.

That’s slightly different (and usually referred to in terms of ‘accessibility’). However, the ethos is much the same.

Inclusive design recognizes that we all experience physical and situational impairments on occasion. It thinks ahead to the potential problems and alters course accordingly.

Good examples include:

  • Putting clickable links far apart on mobile screens to cater for clumsy thumbs.
  • Ensuring mobile content can be worked with one-handed.
  • Including audio content for the visually impaired.
  • Using colors to maximize ease of use in bright sunlight.

Do these things and everyone’s a winner.

Users get a better experience on the site and can use it in almost any situation. It becomes useful to more people.

The website improves its metrics as a result. Dwell time and engagement improve. And, fundamentally, it benefits from an increased user base.

6 Top Inclusive Design Principles

Now we have a definition sorted, let’s turn to the key principles underpinning it.

With these in mind, you should be able to start incorporating them into your own web design work.

1. Understand Your Audience

The first part of inclusive design is knowing who you’re designing for.

It’s crucial to take the time to understand the target audience.

Don’t, and any design work you do will be tantamount to shooting from the hip. Make the effort to speak with those you’re trying to serve. Ask around, perform tests, run surveys, and chat with leaders in the field.

Taking this approach means your design work becomes far more targeted. There’s no more fumbling around in the dark for answers. To tailor a suit you need the person’s measurements. The same is true with web design.

2. Test Your Beliefs

There’s no room for assumptions in inclusive design.

You can be the most perceptive, empathic person in the world. But your experience will differ fundamentally from that of others. As a result, it’s vital to design in line with the actual needs of others, as opposed to expected needs.

This begins with addressing the assumptions you hold. Hold up a mirror to yourself and question your beliefs about the future user.

It’s important to acknowledge the fact you may be entirely incorrect.

3. Flexibility is Key

Flexibility is another foundational principle to inclusive design work.

Rigid design is the antithesis of inclusivity.

It’s the unbending rule that disallows people from entering something. There’s no wiggle room; no recognition of the importance of malleability.

Instead, the ability to mold and adapt to someone’s individual needs is key.

Designing a solution to work for everyone isn’t easy. Indeed, it’s nigh on impossible. As a result, there should be options, variety, and alternatives. Providing these is what it means to be flexible. It also means the website will open up to far greater numbers of people.

4. Design for the Upper & Lower Percentiles

Many people hear the word inclusive and think:

‘Let’s design for the majority’.

It’s understandable. However, like any bell curve, the majority falls in the middle. Prioritizing the masses entails excluding those on the outskirts. This is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.

Instead, think about how you could design for users with needs at the extreme ends of the spectrum. This is true inclusion.

Starting with extreme situations is a recipe for success in this realm. More work may be required. But failing to do it is akin to forgoing the wheelchair ramp to a building in order to save money.

This, for good reason, wouldn’t be allowed. Apply the same approach to your websites. Remember that everyone wins when you do.

Want help with this? Here’s how to make a website ADA compliant.

5. Use Colors Sensibly

We’ve mentioned the importance of colors in design work already.

However, it’s worth re-emphasizing.

It just makes a vital difference! And not just in terms of helping people with particular disabilities, such as color blindness.

No, everyone is helped in one way or another when the colors are chosen carefully. Colors make design-work ‘pop’. They’re an attractive and important aesthetic tool.

The aesthetic should never be chosen in lieu of functionality though. If the screen looks great but you can’t read the copy, then is it really worth it? Probably not.

Likewise, how does it respond in the sunlight? The pages may look great in darkened rooms. But in bright light, it might be impossible to read. Even slight issues of on-screen contrast can have a significant impact.

6. Size Matters

In inclusive design, size is just as important as color.

Think of an elderly user who is new to smartphones. They may not know to pinch the screen to zoom in and out. Likewise, mobile design may not even have that functionality.

If the text is too small, the information on the screen becomes illegible. Entire pages full of content for older people may become irrelevant!

The same in almost all other regards. From the size of buttons to the navigation bar and boxes, make sure the size is right.

Time to Wrap Up

There you have it: 6 inclusive design principles for your websites.

The internet is saturated with sites. However, through poor design, many of them are unusable in certain situations and/or for certain audiences.

Inclusivity in design intends to rectify this problem.

Hopefully, this post has highlighted how to make that happen!

Like this article? Read more about web design on the blog. Just search ‘web design’ to get started.