Designing for Accessibility Means Better Websites for Everyone

By Claire Napier

Because it appears to affect relatively few people, web accessibility isn’t often top-of-mind during the design and coding process. I’ve found, however, that considering accessibility earlier in the process can help improve the web experience for all users.

Earlier in my career, I was more focused on the way a site appeared than how the code was organized. When I started incorporating accessibility guidelines into my work, I discovered sites could be built more efficiently without sacrificing visual appeal.

There are many advantages to designing an accessible website. Most importantly, it is highly beneficial to site navigation. Sometimes the most visually logical way to create navigation makes for unnecessarily complicated code. Because accessible menus generally operate on less code, site users experience no lag time when waiting for a hover state or a dropdown menu to appear.

Accessible websites make your site more visible to search engines because images with text require a live text equivalent. Additionally, because they follow standard coding protocols, accessible websites are easier to manage and update.

Focusing on web accessibility earlier in the process means all content is properly coded, leading to simpler sites with cleaner typography. The result: Websites that work better for all users because both the design and production were considered, together, early in the process.

Learn More About Accessible Web Design

An introduction to accessibility:

http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/accessibility.php

Website accessibility checklist:

http://www.webaim.org/standards/wcag/checklist

A guide to creating accessible image-based navigation:

http://simplebits.com/notebook/2003/09/30/accessible_imagetab_rollovers.html

College Web Pages Are ‘Widely Inaccessible’ to People With Disabilities

http://chronicle.com

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