As a UI/UX designer and a UX Technical mentor, I often advise my students on the importance of accessibility in design. And it’s not just about designing for people with disabilities. It’s about creating a more inclusive and user-friendly experience for everyone.
Recently, I was testing out a screen reader on a website, and I came across some “useless links.” As a sighted person, I didn’t think much of it, but as soon as the screen reader read out “read more,” I realized how frustrating it must be for people who rely on assistive technology to navigate websites.
This experience made me reflect on the importance of accessibility and the common mistakes that designers make while designing accessible products. In this article, I will be discussing some of these mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Not Paying Attention to Color Contrast
One of the most common mistakes that designers make is not paying attention to color contrast. Font and color with low contrast can cause problems for users with low vision or color blindness, including older generations, who can suffer from low vision sensitivity. This can also affect users who are neurodiverse or have issues such as dyslexia. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines recommend that the contrast ratio should be between 4.5 for normal text and 3:1 for large text. It’s important to keep in mind that good contrast doesn’t just benefit users with visual impairments, but it also makes it easier for everyone to read the text.
2. Using Label-Less Form Fields
Another mistake that designers make is using label-less form fields. Forms are meant to collect information, and sometimes they can be quite detailed, from collecting basic information to collecting sensitive information. Imagine filling out a form and the label disappears. You go back to check if you filled up the correct information before you hit submit, but you can’t recall anything. Having labels not only improves the readability of the form and the ability to scan the page quickly, but it also limits cognitive overload for the users. It improves the experience of visually impaired users who use screen reader technology to read screens for them. If the label disappears, then for those who use screen reader technology, they can no longer read the labels as they are not present.
3. Using Meaningless Click Text
Another mistake designers make is using meaningless click text. We’ve all seen “Click here” or “Read more.” But try imagining yourself using a screen reader. Adding links that are descriptive not only improves the experience for people who are disabled or using assistive technology, but it also improves the experience for average users. You are giving the user the ability to scan through the text quickly without having to use headings or intro text to find out where that link is going to take them.
4. Legible Typography
Legible typography is another important aspect of accessibility. Have you ever found yourself putting your phone closer so that you can read the content? The general rule of thumb is that if you are struggling to read something that you designed, the chances are that those using the design are going to struggle too. If you are designing for the web, you need to make sure that the text is readable no matter what device you are viewing it on. Never go below 16px base font.
5. Not Testing With Real Users Who Have Disabilities
Finally, a mistake that designers often make is not testing their designs with real users who have disabilities. It’s crucial to get feedback from people who have different abilities and perspectives to identify any barriers that they face when using your product. This can be done through user testing with real users or by using accessibility tools and software to simulate different disabilities.
In conclusion, designing for accessibility is not just about designing for people with disabilities. It’s about creating a more inclusive and user-friendly experience for everyone. By avoiding common mistakes such as not paying attention to color contrast, using label-less form fields, using meaningless click text, not using legible typography, and not testing with real users who have disabilities, designers can ensure that their products are accessible to everyone.
Designing accessible products is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. It expands your target audience, improves user satisfaction, and reduces the risk of legal issues. By following accessibility guidelines and testing with real users who have disabilities, designers can create products that are more accessible, user-friendly, and inclusive for everyone.