Best Practices for Improving User Experience and Accessibility

Best Practices for Improving User Experience and Accessibility

Ensuring equal access to online content is critical in today's digital world. Therefore, user experience and accessibility are vital to inclusivity in website design and functionality. However, accessibility is not synonymous with usability. Thus, to have an optimal user experience, accessibility is essential. This blog post discusses best practices for improving accessibility and user experience.

What is User Accessibility?

User accessibility is the process of making websites accessible and easily usable for everyone, including those with disabilities. In addition to accommodating people with disabilities, ensuring user accessibility also helps make websites available and usable by a broader audience, such as mobile users and in locations with slow internet speeds.

Furthermore, accessibility focuses on how people with disabilities access and benefit from websites, systems, and applications. It is an integral part of web design and a critical component of the development process. Additionally, ensuring accessibility is ethical and, in some places, required by law.

Importance of User Accessibility & Optimal User Experience

Website accessibility is critical. One in four US adults lives with a disability. Over 1 billion people have a disability worldwide, and about 86 million individuals in the US may be prohibited or severely limited from websites that are not designed using accessibility practices. Therefore, making websites accessible to everyone ensures equal access to online content.

User accessibility is inclusive, and in some areas, it is mandated by law. For example, public sector organizations like government agencies, educational institutions, financial institutions, healthcare organizations, and retail businesses must adhere to accessibility laws and regulations. Additionally, other business sectors subject to accessibility laws include entertainment, legal services, utility companies, hotels, and telecommunications. Laws surrounding accessibility and user experience are established to ensure everyone has equal access to goods and services in a primarily digital world.

Best Practices for Improving User Accessibility

The World Wide Web Consortium W3C established Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG to promote enhanced accessibility. The guidelines are a benchmark for web designers and developers offering a structured approach to website creation. While there are four fundamental principles anchoring web accessibility: perceivability, operability, understanding, and robustness, there are some best practices to help web developers optimize accessibility and usability.

Intuitive Navigation

A logical, straightforward navigation structure enables users to quickly locate the information they seek. Thus, using clear labels and easily identifiable links and buttons helps with website navigation.

Mobile Responsiveness

Websites must include mobile-friendly designs. Therefore, sites should be fully optimized and adaptable for various screen sizes, including text, images, and navigation elements.

Loading Speed

Loading speed significantly impacts user experience. Assistive technologies can enhance accessibility and usability for individuals with slower internet speeds. Thus, leverage browser caching, minimize HTTP requests, and optimize images to help websites load promptly.

Engaging Content and Visuals

Easily readable text and engaging images with alternative text descriptions enhance site usability and user experience. Headings, lists, and consistent structure throughout the site also make content more engaging and easy to navigate with assistive technologies.

Adherence to WCAG Guidelines

Compliance with WCAG guidelines is vital for ensuring website accessibility. For example, using readable text and interactive elements navigable using a keyboard ensures information can be obtained easily.

Implementing ARIA Landmarks

ARIA landmarks refer to Employ Accessible Rich Internet Applications landmarks designed to enhance website navigation for users with screen readers. Landmarks are essential subsections of a web page and a crucial component of web development. Thereby, by creating landmarks, developers at ARIA make it easier for people using accessibility technology to access essential sections of content like navigation, main content, and page footers.

Keyboard Navigation

Some people prefer to navigate websites using a keyboard vs a mouse or pointing device. Thus, all interactive elements on an accessible website must be navigable using a keyboard. For example, making links, buttons, and forms functional without needing a mouse will allow users who rely only on keyboard navigation to use the website.

Inclusive Design

An inclusive design reaches beyond compliance. It involves adopting a philosophy of striving to understand and cater to how people interact with websites. This includes considering various abilities, devices, environments, and limitations many face and incorporating usability into web design.

Testing with Diverse Users

Developing an accessibility website optimized for usability testing with a broad range of diverse users is critical. Testing ensures the website isn't merely theoretically accessible but, in practice, usable by all. Furthermore, a diverse testing group allows developers to gather feedback and fine-tune sites for accessibility and usability.

Resources for Implementing User Accessibility

There are resources available for helping web developers and designers create accessible, user-friendly websites. From navigation to accessible forms and all the areas in between user accessibility and usability, everyone needs to have an equal opportunity to gain information and access services online.

Some resources for implementing user accessibility include:

  • The W3C WCAG Quick Reference Guide
  • The W3C Guide to Video Accessibility
  • Harvard Caption and Description Principles
  • Accessibility Checker
  • Functional Accessibility Evaluator
  • Web Access Evaluation Tool WAVE
  • Color Contrast Analyser CCA

Why Improve User Accessibility and Usability? Who Benefits?

Accessible online content is better for everyone and better for society. Ensuring everyone has access to information online is inclusive and benefits society because it allows more people to stay connected, be involved, and access goods and services.

Companies benefit because enhancing accessibility and usability makes financial sense. Accessible websites and online content attract a broad audience of potential customers. Online visibility extends to accessibility. Thus, accessible websites can produce higher rankings in search engine results pages, making accessibility a vital SEO tool. Furthermore, companies can save money by ensuring sites are accessible from the start instead of implementing accessibility as an afterthought through re-design.

Overall, everyone benefits when websites are optimized for accessibility and usability. Today's digital landscape requires everyone to navigate online content. However, ensuring web content is accessible and usable is an ethical, inclusive choice. By adhering to accessibility best practices, laws, and guidelines, companies create a welcoming online environment for all users.

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