Usability in web design is about more than an easy-to-use UX and some pre-installed text-to-speech page readers. It’s about thinking across the unique groups of people who might visit your website and catering to their needs.
Today, we’ll look at usability in web design in a whole new way; and that means designing for everyone including the differently-abled. Creative Brand Design, a leading web design agency, cautions that this includes insisting your development team (at a minimum) apply agreed standards like the WCAG 2.1 framework or ADA.
Overall, these practical tips can help all your visitors enjoy the same standard of operability from your website.
1. High contrast websites
Why might you want to choose colours with a large amount of contrast between your background and your font colour? Well, it helps people who have sight issues or colour blindness, and it means that your text will still be visible in glare and in bright conditions. But more compellingly, it can aid comprehension when the average time on a page is 54 seconds. Lastly, it just makes the website easier to read overall. And that can boost visitor satisfaction and retention.
Think about choosing easy to read colours for fonts, images, links, buttons, captions and more. In general, you can’t go wrong with pairing white on a darker colour and black on a lighter one.
2. Font and readability
While pretty calligraphy fonts might look lovely to you, they can be hard for many people to read. This is particularly so if someone is using a screen magnifier to read your website text and is only seeing part of your copy at a time.
According to Penn State, “For online reading, sans-serif fonts (e.g. Arial, Verdana) are generally considered more legible than serif fonts (Times New Roman), narrow fonts or decorative fonts.” If you want to stand out and still have great readability, consider getting a custom sans-serif font created for your brand. And if that is too expensive, perhaps licence an unusual (but readable) font instead.
3. Designing for colour blindness
According to GetFeedback, “[Colour] blindness or [colour] vision deficiency (CVD) affects around 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women worldwide. This means that for every 100 users that visit your website or app, up to 8 people could actually experience the content much differently [than] you’d expect.” To help, ask your web design agency to add in icons or symbols for clarity and avoid these colour combinations:
- Green with red, brown, blue, black or grey
- Blue with purple or grey
- Light green with yellow
4. Text to speech website readers & magnifiers
Simple plugins can help differently-abled individuals use your website more smoothly. Tools like NaturalReader are easy widgets that you can enable to read out your copy. And offering built-in screen magnification can help less tech-savvy visitors easily read smaller text. You can also do a scan with an accessibility checker to get recommendations on any other usability in web design improvements suggested just for your website.
5. Alt-text on images
Installing a screen reader is great. However, it can’t interpret images. You need to tell it what to say. Adding alt text is how you do that. The added benefit is that search engines will now also know what that image means. Now, you don’t need to do this for any image that’s just decorative. But including an alt text line on any image that’s important to your body copy (and keyword ranking) is a great idea.
Just follow the recommendations for using this field properly and don’t stuff it full of keywords. In general, a few words of description in natural language speech is the best policy.
6. Simple UX
You want every visitor to find it easy to do what they want on your website. That means your navigation, menus and checkout processes need to be simple to use. Don’t add unnecessary elements like complicated animations, autoplay videos or banner carousels. Not only will this slow your website down, but people using screen readers and magnifiers will have a tough time navigating your site.
For great usability in web design, keep your interactive elements clean and easily locatable. Adhere to web design standards as much as you can for better conversions. And don’t move your menus or buttons to places customers won’t look for them.
7. Omnichannel support
It’s popular to bin the traditional phone support lines in favour of WhatsApp, Facebook or email. But that may be leaving out a huge section of the market that uses accessibility devices for support inquiries, is tech-phobic or can only use voice communication. While you might save on some overhead costs, cutting out support avenues can negatively impact your customer experience and your bottom line. But the upside to omnichannel support is huge.
According to HelpScout, “89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience.” And part of a great experience is being available anytime with all the info at hand to serve your clients where they want to engage.
8. Meeting standards
Since it’s not technically the law, why should you insist on usability in web design? Well, because of discrimination legislation. In the US, the UK and many other Western counties, laws exist to ensure that companies make reasonable adjustments for people who are differently-abled. And while no one has been sued over website accessibility in the UK (yet), it’s not the same in the US.
According to Web Usability, “Following a successful case in 2017 (Gil v. Winn-Dixie) a cottage industry has sprung up in the US bringing ADA Title III lawsuits against companies. […] The number of Title III lawsuits relating to website accessibility grew by 177% from 814 in 2017 to 2258 in 2018, according to Seyfarth.” So, it’s a good idea to adhere to the ADA and WCAG 2.1 standards to minimise your risk.
Usability in web design goes beyond making transactions easy. Overall, it’s about ensuring every visitor feels welcomed and catered to. Beyond adhering to established guidelines like ADA and WCAG 2.1, you can consider the differently-abled in your branding, typography and layout. In short, these tips can help you design a more inclusive digital future for your customers.
This is a sponsored post for Creative Brand Design, London.