4 Jun 2024 8 min read




Lead UX/UI Designer, Ultimate

Two laptops with sketches on

Accessibility and Website Design

We cannot overstate the importance of websites being accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. It allows all users to access content that is already available to everyone else and by making websites accessible, we’re ensuring all users have equal access to content online.

One of the main reasons for the importance of website accessibility is the growing number of people with disabilities. According to the World Health Organisation, 16% of the world’s population has a kind of disability. This translates to nearly 1.3 billion people who may need assistive tools and technologies to access online content.


The benefits of web accessibility

With such a large portion of the population having some sort of disability, businesses that consider accessibility online benefit from a broader, and often overlooked market. In 2019 The Click-Away Pound reported that 70% of disabled online shoppers are forced to click away from a website they find difficult to navigate. In the UK alone, inaccessible websites are thought to have cost retailers £17.1 billion in lost revenue!

Additionally, accessible websites can have a positive impact on company reputation, brand image and customer satisfaction, due to being easier to navigate… and there’s more. It is also possible to see improvements to SEO rankings due to algorithms favouring websites that comply with accessibility guidelines.


Imagine you’re on a train…

Accessibility isn’t just about permanent or even temporary disabilities. Have you ever tried accessing a website on a train? You might experience situational impairments – your movement can be restricted as the train vibrates, making it difficult to click on links or operate small buttons. Meanwhile background noise and interruptions can affect hearing and concentration. Even sunlight, particularly when the sun is low in spring and autumn, can make things difficult to read. You can’t stop many of these things from happening, but good accessible design can help reduce the effects.


How can you improve your website?

There are many quick and easy ways to improve a website’s accessibility, such as adding alternative text to images and creating captions for videos. However, to fully understand what a website needs to meet accessibility standards, an accessibility audit should be carried out using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

WCAG was developed by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to help make websites more accessible. These guidelines provide a set of standards for web developers and designers to follow when creating websites. WCAG outlines four main principles of website accessibility: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. These principles are designed to ensure that websites are accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

  • Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.This includes things like colour contrast, alt-tags for images and captions for videos. Basically allowing all users to consume your content.
  • Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable.This not only requires your website to function as intended with no bugs, but includes things like being able to navigate using keyboard controls and screen readers.
  • Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.This one is black and white but looks at content appearing and operating in predictable ways as well as ensuring text is readable and understandable. This includes not using unusual words or jargon that may not be familiar to the user.
  • Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.This involves looking at the compatibility with current and future tools/agents that aid in accessibility.

These guidelines are just that; guidelines. There are no right or wrong answers on how to be accessible and this is why UX and accessibility go hand-in-hand – they both take iterative approaches to improvements!

For more information on UX design that considers accessibility, read more here.