Designing for Accessibility - Part 2
As part of our blog spot series into accessibility, the GOSS Creative team bring you three new useful tips when it comes to designing for accessibility.
Last month in a previous blog post, the GOSS Creative team gave their opinion on what their top three tips were when it comes to designing for accessibility. To complete this blog post series on accessibility regulations and design, we are bringing things to a close with three more extra tips.
The new accessibility regulations set to come into force for all new public sector websites this month, and in another 12 months for all existing public sector websites, the time to implement accessible changes to you site has never been so important. Before we get started if you need a refresher on the new regulations and how they will affect your organisation's websites check out our previous accessibility blog in this series.
Layout web pages with consistency
When we think of the term "web accessibility", we often think of ways in which a website can become accessible to those with more obvious accessibility requirements such as those needing visual, hearing and physical assistance. However, web accessibility is no less important for people with cognitive disabilities such as autism, anxiety and dyslexia. One way in which you can address the needs of those with cognitive disabilities is through the consistent design of your web page layouts.
Ensuring your site's layouts are consistent may seem like an easy task but it is so often overlooked, especially during the design process when including links off to supplementary content can become a tempting prospect to help increase web traffic. Those with autism find sites with too much going on very difficult to navigate. Clutter and distractions should be minimised, and white space used to help direct the user's attention. Likewise, white space will also help your site maintain a clean and simple navigation even when users with physical or motor disabilities require the use of larger text sizes and buttons. Additionally, when including clickable elements, those with physical and motor disabilities require said elements to be large enough to click without the need for exact precision, but also with enough white space surrounding each element to prevent accidental clicking on other links.
To help those who suffer from anxiety, the consistency of web page layouts is also paramount. Those who suffer from anxiety will find actions with inconsistent outcomes very distressing. To prevent this, ensure that the use of actions with similar outcomes are consistent across your site. For example, before submitting a form ensure all forms end with the action "Submit" instead of one form ending with "Complete Form" and another ending with "Finish".
Sometimes images, audio and video speak louder than words
Implementing a consistent layout for your web pages will no doubt vastly help improve the accessibility of your site for those with autism and anxiety. For those with dyslexia, consistency in your web pages is a great start in ensuring these users are included, however to truly meet the requirements of a dyslexic user there are further steps your organisation may need to take. The most obvious way you can begin to fulfil the needs of a dyslexic user is through the user of appropriate text styling. Those with dyslexia find the use of underlined words, italics and words written in capitals difficult to process. Therefore, ensure any passages of text are consistently aligned to the left and fonts are sans-serif, a minimum size of 12pt or 14pt and maintain at least 1.5 line spaces between lines. Furthermore, when the use of text is necessary, overusing complex phrases and terminology can further confuse a dyslexic user. To avoid this, try to keep text passages brief, simple and to the point.
Words are not the only way to express meaning or instruction. As a publisher of web content, it can often be found that using the written word is the quickest and most convenient route to inform your users. However, as most of us have probably experienced at some point, reading text can be bit of a relentless chore, particularly for commonplace tasks such as requesting a new bin or paying council tax. Users will often find themselves re-reading the same sentences repeatedly in order to try and make sense of what it is they need to do. So just imagine how much more difficult this can be for those with dyslexia. Therefore, consider the use of images and diagrams to help support text and provide context to what a user needs to do. Likewise, and dependent on what resources your organisation has, offering audio or video content demonstrating how the process should be completed is an even better way to ensure dyslexic users fully understand and are able to accessibly use your site.
Don't forget accessibility also applies to processes and workflows
Whilst it is fundamental to ensure individual and collective web pages have the necessary accessibility elements implemented, making sure the behind-the-scenes processes and workflows meet accessibility regulations is just as important. Text, buttons and other content elements may not necessarily be a problem when considered in isolation, but when combined to form a larger process, this is when things can often become difficult for those dealing with anxiety.
For the most part, website processes often include a number of steps they take the user through. At any point during these multi-step processes users with anxiety can find themselves left feeling confused and unsupported when the process hasn't been thought out for users of all types of ability. One way in which you can begin to ensure your website and processes make those with anxiety feel at ease is by including help text against form fields and text jargon/acronyms. When the user hovers over said elements a description of the element appears to guide the user what to do or give further clarification. Furthermore, those with anxiety also need to feel like help is just a click away. When support channels are made difficult to access by being left out of processes and workflows, users with anxiety will be less likely to complete your web processes as a result.
On a similar note, anxiety sufferers need to know exactly what is going on and are unable to deal with uncertainty well. This applies when users submit forms or data. Try to make sure steps in a process are clearly outlined to the user. This helps anxious users clear up any ambiguity they may have over where they are within a process, and/or what is coming next. Likewise, providing users with the ability to view the answers they have given in a form prior to submitting, and informing users once they have submitted a form what will happen next with their data are some other ways you can improve your processes to ensure they are accessible to those dealing with anxiety.
So there you have it, three useful tips on how to design websites which meet the new accessibility regulations. And if you haven't had chance to read them yet, we also have an extra three tips on this subject in the previous accessibility blog post.
Accessibility is something that we all should be looking to implement within our websites. Championing this subject is a worthwhile task and ultimately makes your site and technology usable to people regardless of their abilities. We hope you have found our deep dive into this subject matter valuable. If you haven't already you can sign up to receive more content like this blog post straight to your inbox by using the form below.