If a user cannot see, hear, or use their hands effectively, how can your product serve them? Accessibility is about designing for everyone. Everyone, not just the typical user. It’s also about thinking beyond regulations and standards.
With the number of people with disabilities increasing in general, as well as the number of users accessing digital products on voice-activation software like Alexa and Google Assistant, designing for accessibility is no longer an option but a must. This blog post covers everything you need to know about designing inclusive products from start to finish—from accessible color schemes to inclusive user testing.
Colour and contrast
While color blindness alone affects 1 in 10 men and 1 in 100 women, the number of people with some visual impairment is far greater. They may have limited color vision, poor vision due to aging, or be in a low-light environment where seeing colors is difficult.
When designing your product’s color scheme, ask yourself how you would ensure a design is accessible to all types of color blindness. You do this by first ensuring the contrast ratio between your text and background is large enough.
The W3C recommends a minimum ratio of 1.5 between the brightness of the text and the background color, but in practice, it’s best to go higher. For example, a black-on-white combination has a ratio of 1.0, which is insufficient. On the other hand, a white-on-black combination has a ratio of 4.5—more than enough.
With the rise in Voice Assistants like Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa, more and more users are interacting with technology using their voice. While voice-activated technology is convenient and hands-free, it also presents an accessibility challenge: While everyone can see the visual interface, the voice interface is only accessible to people with normal hearing. Therefore, you must also make your product’s functionality and content accessible by other means.
First, include accessibility information in your Voice Assistant’s “Help” or “About” section. You can direct users to that information if they can’t hear it. You can also add an accessibility section to your product’s documentation. And finally, try to use plain language and avoid jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations as much as possible.
Labeling and navigation
Labels are an essential part of accessible design, especially for products that serve a large or diverse audience. Label all buttons and links, including navigational elements like tabs, menus, and headings. Use text-based controls and avoid using images or icons that aren’t descriptive.
Use standard, universally understood symbols wherever possible, like “Valid” and “Incomplete” instead of “Check mark” and “X mark.” Use color contrast effectively to make all of these elements stand out. Ensure you don’t rely on color alone to convey meaning. Instead, use color as an enhancement. Navigation should be discoverable. Place navigational elements in the expected place and intuitively label them. You can also use signifiers like arrows to indicate the path of navigation.
Beyond labeling and navigation, there are several other ways to make your product more accessible to keyboard users. To begin with, make sure your product is keyboard-navigable, even when the visual interface is visible. Place functionality on the “Insert” “Delete” “Home” and “End” “Page Up” and “Page Down” keys, and feature shortcuts to common actions and functions.
If you’re using a form, make sure it can be navigated using the tab key. And, if you’re using buttons in the interface, ensure they can be activated with the enter key. Beyond the basics, you can make your product easier to use with an assistive technology called a screen reader. A screen reader reads aloud whatever text is on a given screen and navigates the user through their interface with keyboard shortcuts.
Designing for accessibility is suitable for your bottom line and something you can feel proud of. When designing a product, think about who you’re designing it for and ensure everyone can use it. The most important thing is always to include accessibility as part of your design process.
This way, it will always be considered and won’t be an afterthought. And by following the tips outlined in this blog post, you’ll be well on your way to designing an inclusive product that appeals to everyone.