Web designers are essentially translators with artistic and creative objectives. They take design concepts and translate them into a programming language that various software can understand. This language or code in turn becomes the basis for a specific computer or web function.
In this way, web designers drive the creation and function of the digital programs and applications we use daily. They are directly connected to making the platforms that will allow others to access content, order products, check financials, connect with friends, and much more. Since these functions are valuable to such a wide user base, inclusion is a prominent concern of web designers today.
Let’s dive into inclusive web design principles, how to integrate them, and why they ultimately benefit all users.
Inclusive web design goes beyond simply adhering to accessibility standards. Accessibility, according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), focuses on the nondiscriminatory user experience (UX) of people with disabilities. It ensures people with disabilities can equally access, navigate, and interact with web content. Inclusive design takes a more broad and overarching stance.
Inclusive web design, sometimes referred to as universal design or design for all, partners with the situational discrepancies of diversity to ensure people from all backgrounds can utilize web resources. It is founded on the principles of accessibility, usability, and diversity or inclusion. To reach all audiences, it takes into account physical or cognitive accessibility, computer access, computer literacy, culture, age, education, and more.
In action, these inclusive design principles have the power to benefit all end users. A great example is when Facebook focused on accessibility and usability by including video subtitles and captions for its video content in 2015. By 2016, according to Digiday, 85% of video views were happening with the sound off. Captioned videos not only helped users with auditory impairments but also users in myriad environments.
One way to start integrating inclusive design principles is to do an accessibility and usability audit of your website or project. This is a simple way to check for synergy between developers and their UX since it’s easy to lose connection with what a general end user’s experience will be while designing. There are even web accessibility audit checklists that can be downloaded for use if you are unsure where to start with assessing your design.
Testing your website or project with real end users is a vital next step to integrating an inclusive design. You must gather a diverse pool of users with varying abilities and backgrounds. Then focus on how your UX design is meeting user needs by analyzing their website journey. You can do this analysis through interviews, surveys, sitemaps, A/B testing, eye tracking, and other testing methods. Tests should reveal a non-biased picture of a site’s usability.
Once you have audited your site and tested it for inclusion, you will need to address any discrepancies. This can be as simple as redoing code to add contrasting colors or include more descriptive image text, or it can mean a complete overhaul of your website. If it seems daunting, consider utilizing a UX design course to gain hands-on experience designing code with UX at the forefront. Gaining additional learning is an excellent way to elevate your coding to be more inclusive.
Inclusive web design is useful to everyone. Intuitive design, contrasting icons, keyboard compatibility, voice-to-text, descriptive images or icons, and other coded elements serve every end user, regardless of their demographic. Essentially, inclusion should lead as the standard for designing universally beneficial web applications.
Inclusive design is not only useful to most users; it is essential to those with temporary or long-term disabilities. According to the World Health Organization, over 2 billion people in the world live with a disability. Individuals who rely on assistive technology can only access about 10% of the websites on the internet meaning 90% of websites don’t meet minimum WCGA requirements. Since inclusion is built on the principle of accessibility, simple inclusive design structures make a world of difference to the billions of users who currently can’t access common online content.
Inclusive design also benefits elderly users. According to the American Psychological Association, by 2060 the number of people over the age of 65 is expected to double to 98 million. Inclusive design can make technologies that help older adults — like banking applications, telehealth services, medicare websites, smart sensors, and more — accessible to this growing demographic. This benefits millions of users who may need navigation, visual, or auditory assistive technologies to access imperative online functions.
Web designers utilize code to create the digital interfaces and functions that we use daily. In this role, they’re responsible for making applications accessible to a large group of real end-users. Inclusive web design — guided by the principles of accessibility, usability, and diversity — has the power to do just that. You can integrate it by auditing and testing a site or project and then altering the code to fit the UX needs of a diverse user base.
Inclusive design principles in action benefit all users with more useful and easier-to-navigate functions. They are also essential to people with disabilities and older adults. In this way, inclusive design can elevate your code by making it more accessible and thereby valuable to your end-users.