8 Tips for Creating an Inclusive Website Design

You’ve probably heard the term inclusivity used a lot these days. It’s more than just a buzzword: inclusivity fosters a positive environment for all, empowering individuals from all walks of life. Its principles can — and should — be applied to web design, as well.

Inclusive Web Design is the Right (and Smart) Thing to Do

Designing an inclusive website is a matter of social responsibility and legal compliance…and it makes smart business sense, as well. Inclusive web design isn’t just geared toward people with disabilities; it enhances the overall user experience (UX), ensures your website remains relevant and competitive, and contributes to the broader goal of creating an inclusive online environment.

Key reasons inclusivity in web design is important include:

  1. Equal Access. The internet has become an integral part of modern life, and everyone should have equal access to the information and services available online. Web accessibility ensures that people with disabilities can use and interact with websites as effectively as those without disabilities.
  2. Legal Requirements. In many countries, there are legal requirements and regulations that mandate web accessibility. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in legal consequences and financial penalties.
  3. Ethical Considerations. Inclusivity is an ethical imperative. It ensures that all individuals, regardless of their abilities, can participate fully in society. Excluding people with disabilities from digital experiences is discriminatory.
  4. Expanding Your Audience. Creating an accessible website broadens your potential audience. By making your site usable to individuals with disabilities, you tap into a large and diverse market segment that might otherwise be excluded.
  5. Improved User Experience. Web accessibility improvements often result in a better UX for everyone, not just those with disabilities. Clearer navigation, well-structured content, and adaptable designs benefit all users.
  6. SEO Benefits. Many accessibility practices align with SEO best practices. Search engines value websites with well-structured content, which can improve your site's ranking.
  7. Reputation and Brand Image. An accessible website enhances your brand's image and reputation. Demonstrating a commitment to inclusivity can build trust and goodwill among your audience.
  8. Future-Proofing. As technology evolves, so do assistive technologies and user needs. Designing with inclusivity in mind ensures your website remains relevant and usable as these changes occur.
  9. Innovation. Focusing on accessibility can drive innovation in design and development. Solving accessibility challenges often leads to creative solutions that can benefit other areas of your website.
  10. Compliance with Web Standards. Building an accessible website often means adhering to established web standards and best practices. This helps ensure your site's long-term sustainability and compatibility with evolving technologies.
  11. Avoiding Redesign Costs. Retrofitting accessibility features onto an existing website can be costly and time-consuming. Incorporating accessibility from the outset is often more efficient and cost-effective.
  12. Meeting User Expectations. As awareness of web accessibility grows, users increasingly expect websites to be accessible. Failing to meet these expectations can lead to user frustration and abandonment.

How to Design a Website That Everyone Will Want to Visit

The following elements will help ensure your website is inclusive and accessible to all.

  1. Clear and Consistent Navigation.

    Ensure that your website’s navigation is clear and consistent across all pages through simple language, concise sentences, descriptive headings, and organized menus. Using bulleted lists to break up long paragraphs, applying the same formatting to all interactive elements, and including multiple formats such as text, audio, and icons help guarantee that everyone can navigate and engage with your site’s information effectively.

    NetQube Marketplace PortfolioNetQube's portfolio page image of their new site on a desktop, tablet, and smart phone.
  1. Flexible Text Size and Responsive Design.

    Individuals have varying preferences when it comes to text size: some prefer larger fonts for easier reading, while others like to fit more content on their screens through smaller text. Allowing users to adjust text size and use browser zoom functions is a surefire way to make your website accessible to a wide range of users. It ensures your content is legible on smaller screens and across multiple devices with different screen sizes and resolutions. A responsive design that adapts to various screen sizes enhances the usability for users with varying visual and cognitive abilities.

  1. High Contrast and Readability.

    High contrast and readability are essential in ensuring your web content is easy to understand. Because search engines value content that is easily readable and provides a better user experience, it can also improve your overall SEO ranking. Opt for a color scheme with good contrast to make text and other elements easily readable. Using tools such as contrast checkers throughout the design process can ensure the content is readable and passes the ADA contrast requirements. Providing options for users to customize font size and color preferences can also enhance the readability and user experience.

    Horizon House Connect PortfolioAfter image of the new Horizon House Connect website
  1. Keyboard Navigation.

    Some users rely on keyboard navigation instead of using a mouse or trackpad. They may have alternative input devices, such as specialized keyboards or switches, or maybe they simply prefer using keyboard shortcuts for faster and more efficient navigation — especially for tasks like filling out forms, scrolling, or opening new links in tabs. Implementing keyboard navigation on your site helps individuals interact with your site effortlessly, enhancing its usability and reach.

  1. Captioned Media.

    Video and audio content should always include captions, subtitles, or transcripts. These can help clarify spoken content, allow users to engage with content using both their eyes and their ears, and promote inclusivity by accommodating a broader audience. Captioned media benefits users with hearing impairments, as well as those unfamiliar with the language spoken (such as non-native speakers) and anyone who prefers to consume content in a quiet environment or without audio, such as in a public space.

  1. Form Accessibility.

    Making online forms and interactive elements user-friendly for screen readers and keyboard users is crucial. Clear labels, error messages, and logical tab order facilitate smooth interaction for all users. Ensuring forms are mobile-friendly, use clear and concise language, utilize autofill and autocomplete attributes, and accommodate multiple languages will improve accessibility for a wide range of users. Foremost Media’s custom form builder will help you collect specific information about your user’s needs and can be designed to ensure accessibility.

  1. Alternative Text for Images

    Providing descriptive alt text for images ensures that users who are blind or visually impaired can understand the content and context of the images displayed on your website. Screen readers rely on alt text to describe images to users who are unable to see them, providing context for visual content and making it easier for users to comprehend the message or information being conveyed. It’s especially important for images that are used as links or buttons, eliminating potential confusion by letting users know where the links lead.

  1. Stay Informed and Updated.

    Web accessibility standards and best practices evolve over time. Stay informed about the latest guidelines, technologies, and tools related to inclusive design. Regularly audit your website for accessibility issues and make necessary updates to incorporate new features and improvements that keep up with changing technology and guidelines.

    Web accessibility is a shared responsibility, and it's crucial to involve all team members, from designers and developers to content creators, in creating an inclusive online experience. Accessibility should be integrated into the entire web development process, not treated as an afterthought. In return, you’ll ensure your website benefits all users, resulting in a positive impact on user engagement and satisfaction. 

    If you ever need assistance in designing an inclusive website, contact a Foremost Media team member today!