Friday | August 27, 2021
Website Accessibility: Clear and Consistent Layout and Design
As a designer or web developer, creating clear and consistent layouts should be your top priority. Your design should aim to remove barriers for your users regardless of physical or mental ability.
Doing that will enhance user experience and increase engagement — making your audience more likely to stay on your page and share your content. Having Certain limitations like color blindness, disabilities, or language preferences shouldn’t prevent your audience from entering.
Inclusive design is one of those things you can do to create a better environment and reap the benefits that digital inclusivity has to offer.
Today, I’m going to go through what it means to make your design clear and consistent, what the benefits are, and how you can incorporate these processes into your next project. It can feel overwhelming, as many of these may not come second nature to you, or you may be wondering where you can even start. But, don’t worry, that’s what I’m here for.
The process is as simple as looking at it in five different steps, or at least five things you need to know to create inclusive designs. What you’re looking at, who you’re helping, the benefits you’ll see, how to start, and the best way to do it. When you break it down like that – it doesn’t seem so hard, does it?
Know What it Looks Like
Creating a clear and consistent layout isn’t as hard as it sounds. However, suppose you’ve ever been told to over-haul your website for accessibility purposes. In that case, it can feel like a load has been dropped on your plate. Sometimes you’ll never even know where to start. Don’t panic – feeling overwhelmed at first is natural – but doing this kind of work, it’s much, much more straightforward than you’d think.
Good readability, simplicity, and predictable design make your website feel more instinctive, and your users will thank you. Therefore, you should aim to provide clear text with good contrast and easy-to-read copy. If you pair that up with easy-to-use buttons and navigation, you are basically halfway there.
Confusing layouts make it difficult for people to understand or find the information they need. As a result, they are much more likely to abandon you to find a better website. By eliminating the barriers that people of all ability levels encounter when surfing the web, you’ll retain more readers, and your site will do much better for it.
Know Who it Helps
If you thought this was just for people with disabilities or impairments, you’d be wrong. Instead, a clear and consistent layout and design benefit everyone — whether or not they think about it.
New visitors to your site will be deterred by a sloppy, hard-to-navigate design just as much as someone who struggles with it. People with less confidence navigating the web, for example, benefit from predictable design patterns that spell it out for them. But, on the other hand, people who are not patient in learning the workings of a design will more likely click out of your page if it doesn’t give them what they need immediately.
When it comes to people with disabilities, simplicity is essential — that’s easy to follow. But most of all, it helps you. You’re the one with the website, and you’re the one working on rankings and getting your website traction.
If you incorporate inclusive, clear design techniques, then you’ve already taken a big step to keeping people on your page. While the design choices you can make help your readers or viewers, it most of all makes your job easier down the line, rather than having to fix issues as they arise.
Know the Benefits
You probably already know some of the benefits. Still, there are countless things you’ll find when you’re making a more inclusive website.
You probably already know that it will help users find the information more accessible. But did you know you can use a clear layout design to direct your viewers’ attention to what you’d like them to read? For example, suppose you have the information you want them to find.
In that case, even if it’s not the purpose of their visit, a properly-designed site can draw the eye anywhere you need to look or get people to click where they need to click. Without the stress of having to click through a hundred pages or read through chunky blocks of text, your viewers will feel more comfortable getting through your information.
Clear visuals and strong design choices will make it easier for people with cognitive disabilities to navigate your site. Still, clear navigation and well-labeled elements will always help anyone navigate so much better through your site.
A clear and consistent layout and design will help improve your engine optimization efforts because of the enhanced user experience. Having a better structure will get people more engaged, stay longer, and return. As a result, your site’s rankings naturally boost and draw more people in. This is the most important benefit because it happens whether or not you realize it – in the background, even!
Know-How to Get Started
So, you understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how it will help you – but do you know how to start? You may have some ideas, but sometimes it’s hard to pick just ‘one’ starting point.
Most importantly, your site should be predictable. First and foremost – rely on your instincts as to where every button, blurb, and image should ultimately be. You may want to think outside of the box – but if your ‘box’ doesn’t make sense, your audience, your readership, and your clicks will suffer.
Clear and descriptive link text is excellent, but have you tried to ensure that related controls and content are kept together? Again, the more instinctive your design feels, the easier people will find the things they need and not rely on search functions that may or may not work.
Always make sure to design your website with a clear, flowing structure that your readers will appreciate, as they’ll instinctively know where to go and how to navigate the content. Likewise, your navigation menus, links, and other controls should be easy to find and identify, so they don’t get lost.
If you ever feel stuck in your design – try thinking about it this way: do you use calls to action to draw your readers’ attention to links, buttons, or things to buy? Are these calls to action clear, obvious, and eye-catching? Start there, and work your way out.
Know the Best Practices
There are many things you ‘could do, but when you’re just getting started – you can get bogged down with tips, tricks, and suggestions. However, if you keep to these practices, the rest of the work will feel more manageable than you’d expect – and even just these will keep your web design simple and easy to read.
- Keep your links limited, and differentiate your text.
- People should always know what they’re looking at: Don’t hide a link among text
- Headers should always be marked so people know what they’re getting into.
- Use highlighting on search terms.
- Provide easy and clear page-to-page navigation so no one feels lost.
You don’t need to overhaul your entire design from the beginning – assess where you’re at, and start working in better accessibility practices as you go. On your next project, it’ll start to feel a little like second nature. You’ll catch yourself thinking about them if you set up habits in advance.
Out of everything I’ve covered today, the most important things you can do to start creating more inclusive designs into your project are:
- Test it over and over again. Test new things, layouts, strategies, and receive feedback from people with different browsing habits.
- Test it on other browsers, check for functionality issues or loading times before you ever go live.
- The more you look at your work, the better off it will be for it – the more likely you are to find issues, to over-analyze, and catch something you otherwise might have missed.
Your design is just that, your design. You have created something for people to view, read information through, and get clicks from. So why wouldn’t you want it to flourish? Your web design skills are not in question – but sometimes function needs to come over the more cutting-edge design features or newest thing you learned to create.
An inclusive design doesn’t need to be an undertaking. It’s simply a set of habits you’ll make for yourself to train your brain to look out for little things it hadn’t considered before. Your designs can still be sleek and eye-catching while including people in the process.
If you want more information on web accessibility and why you should care, make sure you check out our blog. If you’re going to want to see more articles like this, and make sure you subscribe to our newsletter for notifications about new content so you don’t miss a single article!