The internet is an activity-filled digital landscape. So many things happening simultaneously, making it quite challenging to focus. Whenever we design to contribute to this technological landscape, we do it meaningfully while never forgetting one essential mission- "Do the right thing, build it accessible."
Many design decisions exclude individuals with disabilities from accessing and fully experiencing the vast resources provided by the digital landscape of the internet. We should not just be ticking a compliance box but be inclusive while expanding our audience.
The lack of accessibility in design is pretty much like that story narrated by Saul (the Jewish character) from the comedic cult-classic, Coming To America.
“A man goes into a restaurant and sits down; he's served a bowl of soup. He says to the waiter.
Man: Waiter, come, taste the soup.
Waiter: Is there something wrong with the soup?
Man: Taste the soup.
Waiter: Is the soup too hot?
Man: Will you taste the soup?
Waiter: Is the soup too cold?
Man: Will you just taste the soup?
Waiter: Alright, I will taste the soup...where is the spoon?
Man: Aha! That's the question.”
When accessibility is ignored, we design without giving some people the means to experience the brilliance or deliciousness of the soup. Meaning loads of enthusiasts are left on the sidelines, barricaded. From users with visual impairments to those with motor disabilities and beyond. Here are a few ways we think you can influence your design to make them accessible.
Typography and Color Contrast
Typography and color are critical elements in design; they influence a great deal of user engagement. So, always opt for clear, easy-to-read fonts while considering the aesthetic appeal. Also, ensure that color choices contrast adequately. This will make content legible to users who have low vision or are color blind. Constantly use free contrast checker tools to validate your design choices. You can find some cool ones here.
Alt Texts and Aria Labels
These two rarely recognized heroes are responsible for screen-readers being able to narrate the story of your design to visually impaired users.
Always provide appropriate information whenever you see the opportunity to include content in the Alt Text field or implement Aria Labels (HTML that helps understand interactive elements). It goes a long way!
This is, by all means, the red carpet for users who can't use a mouse or engage with a touch screen. So, make sure your links, buttons, forms or even slideshow can be interacted with via the keyboard.
Captioning and Transcripts
This might not be something you do every day, but who knows? Almost everyone has a multimedia content channel these days. Provide captions for your videos and transcripts for audio content so that users that are deaf or hard of hearing can still be immersed in the content you have designed.
Responsive and Adaptable Design
We touched on this crown jewel in our Think Mobile article; it can not be over-emphasized. Your designed website or application should be fluid across screen sizes. It should adapt like a chameleon to the user's screen assistive needs.
We know you continue to see tips like these wherever you turn, but they are essential to creating a more inclusive digital landscape. You spending a few minutes absorbing these means we are even closer to empowering more designers to build with empathy.