Inclusive design has long been established in architecture, and industrial design and more recently these principles are being applied to web design.
Inclusive design is about considering the needs of everybody who will be engaging with your product before and during the design phase.
When speaking specifically about inclusive web design, it is about ensuring that the broadest audience possible that engages with your website can have a positive user experience, regardless of how they use it.
Fundamentally it is about considering who will be using the website and how they will use the site, to ensure a smooth user experience throughout the journey for all.
This includes not only people with various physical or mental disabilities, but it also includes your target demographic, users outside your target demographic, users from different cultures or countries and users browsing your website on various devices.
When considering inclusive design, some fundamental principles and guidelines need to be followed.
Let’s take a look at some of those fundamental principles.
1. Consider Your Audience
The first important principle is to know who your audience is and consider what their specific requirements might be. Inclusive design is about more than good intentions and hope. You need to understand the wider community and understand how everybody will interact with your site. You can achieve this with the help of test groups, taking advice from your team or advisors and even your social circles.
Great inclusive design should make the experience better for everybody.
2. Recognise Your Assumptions
It is essential to recognise all of the assumptions for success inclusive web design. We all make assumptions, but if we do not understand them and how they could impact others we could be setting ourselves up for failure.
Questioning the assumptions is a great way to take stock of what you think to be right about your users. For example, a fundamental assumption may be that your user is sitting at a desk, with a large screen, speakers and a keyboard. Questioning your assumptions involves asking what if this scenario is not real? How will the website function where a user is viewing the site from a smartphone or tablet with no sound?
You’re not going to be able to correctly get it right for every scenario, but the more you try to recognise your assumptions, the more inclusive your web design is likely to be.
3. Add Maximum Value
By considering and integrating inclusive design early in the project, your team will be able to better understand who will be using the site and how they will use it. This can ensure maximum value is added with features designed to improve the user experience for all. An example would be to add a show password feature, to ensure users have input their passwords correctly, adding captions to videos or audio to text.
4. Don’t Overemphasis the Data
While data is important to consider in design, it is also important to not go overboard with data, by placing too much emphasis on it. Data compiled will only be as good as the method of collecting it. And it is a good idea not to over analyse data. A good tip is to use the least amount of data as possible to make sound strategic decisions.
5. Consider All Possibilities
The primary purpose of considering all of the possibilities is to minimise errors, help users effectively navigate by correcting mistakes that they made and to engender trust. When users feel supported, treated with respect and not made to feel silly when using your website, confidence is increased and will result in a more favourable outcome for your business.
6. Be Accepting of User Mistakes
Although considering all of the possibilities minimises errors, users will still make mistakes when using your site. It is essential to gently support and guide users when they do make mistakes , to build confidence and trust in your company. This instils a sense of reliability within users, who will then engage more positively with your business now and in the future.
7. Offer Choice
One crucial fundamental to be ever mindful of is the control users are afforded when engaging with your website. Users should be able to access and engage with your content in their chosen way.
Offer choice by providing different ways for users to complete tasks. By providing alternative means to complete tasks, you will be able to tailor solutions specific to users’ current circumstances or abilities.
How to Measure Your Inclusiveness?
To effectively measure your website’s inclusiveness, you first need to take into account everybody who will be using your site. This is where personas can help. Think about the people who are going to be using your website and try to imagine their traits or limitations.
Common attributes that should be considered when defining personas are things like age, gender, pain points, goals, and limitations. Barclays has compiled an extensive list of personas that you can use to help define your likely audience and understand some of the various traits that your users will have.
It is estimated that around 20% of the population has some form of temporary or permanent disability. It is difficult to overlook such a sizeable sector of the community by not considering and factoring in inclusive web design.