Web design in the first decade of the 21st century revolved around making your web bold, eye-catching, colorful, and unusual.
Bright color palettes, sweeping scroll animations, and full desktop-oriented displays were all the rage, but as we continue into the 2000s, accessibility has taken center stage.
Since then, economic growth has shifted to online services in a big way and the environmental degradation that traditional in-person business structures caused is coming to light.
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Simplicity, minimalism, personalization, and ease of use are now central to designing a website that works well on both mobile and desktop, keeps users on the website, and adheres to modern accessibility laws to keep your company out of legal hot water.
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Inclusive web design is about two main ideals: accessibility, and inclusivity.
Nowadays, the modern website offers the broadest possible group of people that not only access your website from any platform they choose, but also have the ability to understand, easily navigate, and interact with your online portal from several different input styles.
The delicate balance of UX and UI plays a key role here, and taking this holistic approach is important so that members of any community, age group, or knowledge level can get what they need from your most basic services.
It’s important to consider the full range of impairments common in society, including:
Inclusion initiatives and inclusive design are not only recommended in public sector company culture but in many cases are government-sponsored.
The U.S. Access Board has written guidelines requiring electronic and information technology (EIT) and information and communication technology (ICT) to be accessible to those with a wide range of disabilities.
Examples of inclusive design are seen in everything from easy keyboard navigation to alt text on images for users that require auditory navigation.
These and other inclusion efforts can include:
For those who are visually impaired, having the ability to change the size of text on your website without altering the form of the website is very important.
In general, this should include an up to 200% increased size for content or elements text, and the function should be easily seen at the top or bottom of the website, or simply integrated within the browser.
Simple animations allow for easy navigation while allowing the reader to keep a special focus on the content.
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As an example, flashing colors are not recommended, while animated image galleries, scrollable elements within web pages, and any other visual effect that could be overwhelming should be used sparingly, with a way to remove them if necessary.
One common method employed today that allows for inclusive experiences for users is a simple “x”(escape) button that will remove or minimize a visual element should the user choose to do so.
One of the more basic means of accessibility present on the web is keyboard navigation which largely helps a range of people with motor disabilities operate a website without a precision input device like a touchpad or mouse.
This is where navigation becomes a critical part for the handicapable. Remember to include buttons like "skip to content" or "continue reading" for example, to truly make your site accessible.
Another good description of this can be seen in the Instagram post by a well-known designer below:
Alt-text is the text that is assigned to visual elements on your website, most commonly static pictures of photos that offer a visual aid to the accompanying text body.
Good alt text should be specific and succinct, start with words such as “headshot” or “illustration” instead of “image of” or “picture of”. Include text if it is part of the image, and if its not present on decorative visuals, such as brand graphics or page dividers.
Audible text or screen readers can help children who have not learned to read and can help adhere to disability-inclusive education for children with impairments.
Online educational services are already committed to helping disadvantaged students, and are coming up with evolving measures for students to have inclusive access and learn in the best way possible.
The use of audible alt text is one such method for inclusive education, that takes into account a variety of learning conditions, cognitive diversity, and more.
The color contrast of your website is not only important for the general user experience but critical to those with color blindness or other visual impairments.
This is known as contrast error and is easily avoidable by adhering to a color contrast ratio of 4.5:1 or lower and by running your website through a color contrast checker.
People are using the web for basic services, essential services, financial services, employee resource services, educational services, and online resources in higher volumes than ever before, so a stronger focus on inclusivity online and how your website uses color to relay information is critical.
Keep your audience's eye fatigue in mind!
HTML is not only the language of the internet and online services but also helps accessibility software by telling it what each element does for the website and for the reader.
This most often comes into play for screen readers which use these tags to help the visually impaired or blind with audible text or even braille devices but are equally important for average users as proper headers help to make longer content easier to digest.
Accurate links, or a meaningful linking strategy, is just making sure that your links are covering all relevant text.
For example, if you have a link that is meant to take the reader to a different part of the website to learn more about a complex idea, make sure the link covers not just “click here”, but “click here for more information on (insert text).”
The second link tells you where you are going, while the first link leaves you guessing, and this can be especially problematic for people using keyboard navigation or text readers.
Interlinking should hold special focus for any digital marketing strategy or social media marketing, so this inclusivity standard can only help your business’s economic development and growth, and digital marketing strategies.
While sticking to web accessibility standards can help your website stay out of legal trouble, there are many reasons to be mindful of disability-inclusive development when designing your website.
These standards can help your company rise above your competitors, become leaders in diversity, and offer the best customer experience possible.
Looking at this from a sheer numbers perspective, by not including large portions of your demographic, you are losing potential customers.
This means not only reaching out to people with disabilities, but including language, visuals, and other elements to enhance the inclusion of persons of color, educational backgrounds, genders, sexual orientation, socio-economic classes, and age groups.
There is no such thing as a one size fits all website but making sure you are taking this diversity into account and keeping accessibility in mind can only help expand your audience and provide digital accessibility to the majority of your audience, there are a variety of UX design tools you can use to help achieve a seamless design.
???????? Good inclusive web design will also make your website easily navigable and friendly to use for both average users and the handicapable.
If your website is clear, quick, easy to use, and follows the basics of inclusive design principles, you will leave an impression on your visitors that will keep them coming back, oftentimes over your competitors who may have a lack of inclusive features on their site.
An example of this is Netflix’s user interface which consistently ranks highest among the large streaming sites and contributes to them staying competitive even as most mainstream content is leaving Netflix for their owner’s own services.
This one is really simple: Google favors websites that offer good user experiences, inclusion efforts, and accessibility options.
When Google’s crawlers reach a website to index, there are a multitude of factors they look for, including:
Having accessibility measures on a website also plays a crucial role in getting Google to notice and rank your website, and is a factor that is often overlooked or mitigated by the majority of websites.
There are of course many other examples of how to reduce your bounce rate through SEO digital marketing strategies and which web design you should pay special focus to, but be sure to remember that usability and accessibility play a large role.
People like to feel included, and this is no different for the handicapable, people with atypical family structures or families with children, members of the LGBTQIA, people of color and various body types, or any other person of a minority.
When a visitor comes to your website and feels included through the ease of use, notices visual elements that mean something to them, or language that affirms their understanding, they will feel a connection that can give your brand an edge over a competitor trying to only appeal to the mass market.
Making your customer journey one that they will recognize and feel included and comforted by is the best way to get your brand to stick in their mind the next time they need your services or products.
They include your core values and principles, and you should look to connect with your audience on a personal basis with your digital marketing strategy.
Inclusive web design can go a long way in showing your diverse audience that you acknowledge their struggles and treat them equally, while keep your brand in mind.
The world is ever-changing and evolving, and most recently the inclusion of people from different creeds, body types, orientations, colors, cognitive diversity, and ability levels is having a huge social impact on where people shop.
Because of social media and reporting from individual members of society, once ignored social injustices are finally getting the recognition they deserve and this is an important part of understanding your company's role in the future of cultural tolerance and acceptance.
It is the right thing to do to make the world a better place for everyone and provide an inclusive experience for all human diversity.
Considering the above factors, inclusive web design with a holistic approach can only help to improve your sales and revenue.
As we have mentioned, inclusive web design broadens your customer base, improves your brand recognition, which in turn helps your page rank better online for more visibility, and gives your potential customers the confidence that will convert them from visitors to customers, to repeat clientele.
Taking these groups into account when designing strategic approaches to web design has never been more critical and will likely continue to change and evolve as further recognition continues to come to light.
We already know a bit about what the future of inclusive web design looks like because of the trends that have taken hold since 2020.
There are no two ways about it: the COVID-19 Pandemic shook the digital world as much as it did the physical, and rapidly advanced comfortability and ease of use online as more and more people took to alternative digital workspaces.
In this time of digital transformation, keep these aspects in mind.
Have you ever stared at your screen for so long that it feels like your eyes are trying to escape?
When it comes right down to it, looking at a computer or phone screen is staring directly into a flashlight, and your body will react negatively to this overstimulation.
Screentime is at an all-time high, and with the increased presence of digital workplaces and services like Teams, Slack, Google Meet, Zoom, and more, companies are taking notice.
Design elements like dark mode, in particular, have arrived in almost every conceivable way since the COVID-19 Pandemic arrived, darkening screens, saving batteries, and reducing the strain on eyes everywhere.
Whether you’re using individual apps like Gmail or Apple Notes, or entire operating systems like Windows 10 and 11 or Android, dark mode integration is everywhere.
In essence, it trades the typical white backgrounds of old for a darker or black background while simultaneously changing text to white and adjusting other elements to contrast well with the black background.
In addition to dark mode, software makers are adopting a smarter inclusive design approach that offers softer color palettes over the bright and vibrant colors of the 2010s.
Soft greens and blues, pastel pinks and oranges, warm browns, and faded yellows; all these colors are taking center stage on your devices.
Google’s late 2021 introduction of Android 12 with the 'Material You'theme which uses the background to select color themes for your apps and windows is the most recent large-scale softer color implementation.
Not only will this help to reduce eye strain and allow your visitors to comfortably browse your website but will also allow you to draw attention to elements that have a critical role like buttons that lead to pay funnels and other important information.
Accessibility features come in different varieties, from the simplest use of semantic HTML to integrated language changers, to embedding more video than before to cater to audiences with visual or learning disabilities.
Thinking outside the box should always be one of your business goals but is equally important in inclusive web design.
You need to always be thinking of new ways to make your website more inclusive, clear, and easy to navigate, but in the meantime, here are a couple of tips.
It’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to cater to a wider audience of visually impaired readers while changing almost nothing about your website.
Try to keep your maximum width to about 80 characters per line with a line-height of 1.5x or higher. Do not use justified text either. Stick to left-aligned, or when needed center-aligned.
Make sure to present the reader with form fields that have clear and consistent text entry boxes. A common mistake is to use placeholder text inside the field itself. If the reader is using alternate forms of input, it could cause problems. Instead, label each box above and to the left or center.
Go beyond the government-required accessibility features by including alternate forms of input directly into the website. A good place to start is by including a voice search for people with motor function disabilities or visual impairments.
Integrations like this are useful in inclusive societies and for your everyday customer journey since many may not understand how to navigate a traditional website.
While it is important to consider different setups and their ability to process heavy code, animations still are a good way to build an attractive website that gets your visitors to stick around.
Remember that it doesn’t have to be a lot of animation or movement to become eye-catching and memorable. Most large tech companies use animations as you scroll down the page of the latest phone or computer, and Microsoft leads most of their product pages with videos.
This helps people with cognitive or visual impairments accurately know where they are about to click.
Just remember to not overdo it and make sure that site performance is paramount. Website performance is still a key factor in making sure people dwell on your website, and if the animations are affecting a user’s ability to navigate or use your website, you should tone back the animation.
Here is our take on where to begin when you're getting started with your own animations.
Depending on the country, education programs are still looking at school re-opening strategies and how to accommodate a variety of learning conditions.
As the pandemic ebbs and flows, school closures have become more regular, meaning many education programs are shifting to digital strategies and inclusive education online.
???????? The pandemic exposed the weakness of current digital learning resources and the lack of safety measures for students, especially for vulnerable children.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)places a stronger focus on inclusive education and disability-inclusive education in today’s online educational services, and if your website offers educational services and digital learning resources, it is paramount to include them in your digital marketing strategy.
Key points to note are moving away from educational services that put a stronger focus on criteria and that instead put a stronger focus on the process of teaching using digital learning resources.
Addressing human differences and disadvantaged students that were left behind by standardization, engaging individuals whose needs may not be met, and keeping up to date on the changing environment of online learning.
Web design for the post-COVID-19 crisis brought to light the need for basic services and a holistic approach to website design as more varieties of people started using the web in large volumes.
With these topics in mind, we’d advise you to do an audit of your website and think about how you could improve the lives of demographics that are typically overlooked.
Consider not only people with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, or visual disabilities, but also people accessing your website from small screens, temporary or injury-related disabilities, people in noisy or bright environments, and people with older hardware or slower internet bandwidth.
Finally, never overlook people from the LGBTQIA, people of color, or people from non-nuclear family structures or families with children. Inclusive access to content is an important step when it comes to providing valuable customer service and showcasing your inclusive company policies.
Whatever your purposes, be it trying to drive traffic to your website or improve the UX of your site, using inclusive features is essential.
Use imagery and stories that people of non-traditional backgrounds or family structures can identify with, or simply understand that an inclusive society benefits from the acknowledgment of everyone.