Every decision you make about your online presence comes with consequences, and the frontline of your brand—your website—could be failing at inclusivity. It’s estimated that by 2050, one-fifth of the world’s population will have an accessibility need (that’s roughly 1.9 billion people), which means that it’s more important than ever to ask the right questions and take the right steps to make sure your website is accessible and represents your goal of being an inclusive brand.
Missing the Mark on Inclusivity
Plenty of brands fall short on achieving compliance, despite claiming to be inclusive. Take Glossier, for example, which is a direct-to-consumer cosmetics company that was sued for having an inaccessible website, despite championing itself as inclusive of everyone, regardless of nationality, race, and gender.
Glossier isn’t the only retailer that has been sued for not being compliant with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which enforces nondiscrimination policies for public spaces and brick-and-mortar operations, such as hotels, movie theaters, grocery stores, and banks. At the time the ADA was signed into law, websites weren’t a consideration, but with various courts now ruling—with the widely accepted Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in mind—that websites are the gateway to physical locations and public spaces, Title III lawsuits have been on the rise. And the industry getting hit the hardest? Online retailers, who saw a 29-percent increase in accessibility lawsuits in 2017.
Delivering on the Promise
There are plenty of ways you can ensure that your brand is delivering on its mission of inclusivity, starting with incorporating inclusive design into your development lifecycle. What is design inclusivity?
According to the British Standards Institute, inclusive design is “the design of mainstream products and/or services that are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible ... without the need for special adaptation or specialised design.” And on its Website Accessibility Initiative site, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) states that inclusivity involves “designing products, such as websites, to be usable by everyone to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation.” In short, inclusive design is about delivering the best user experience possible for everyone, regardless of age, disability, or impairment.
In our three-part blog series on mobile app accessibility, we offer guidance, tips, and six important design techniques for mastering inclusive design. You can learn more about these techniques by following these links:
- Part 1: Screen size and color contrast
- Part 2: Touch targets and mobile touchscreen gestures
- Part 3: Layout consistency and data entry
Although it might seem like inclusive design is all about placing accessibility above aesthetic, this actually couldn’t be further from the truth.
Eliminating the Misconceptions
Inclusive design doesn’t mean limiting or hindering the design process or final product. In fact, inclusive design actually makes development and UX teams think more deeply and meaningfully about how a website or app is designed. Instead of haphazardly posting a random stock photograph on a page, the design team can start to think about what is in the photograph, how it relates to the page content, where it should fit into the copy, and why it’s being used in order to put it in the right place and to write the best alt tags and descriptive text for assistive technology.
Designing with accessibility and inclusivity in mind also means you don’t have to retrofit your website after a lawsuit or complaint. These small, but meaningful, changes to how teams design and develop a website can make a huge difference in delivering a better-quality and more cohesive product, not to mention ensuring everyone has the best experience possible.
The Three Questions to Ask
Here are the vital questions to ask yourself to determine whether your brand is truly inclusive or whether it’s just a promise you haven’t delivered on yet:
Does my website consider user diversity?
It’s important to ensure that you remove bias, barriers, and challenges from every step of the design process when creating your website. Ask for feedback and recruit stakeholders from the disability community to ensure that your designs are both usable and accessible to every user.
Does my website provide equal access to everyone?
Roughly 85 percent of websites are still not fully accessible. Make sure that your website or app provides an easy way for everyone, regardless of ability, to contact your customer service or accessibility team for support questions and concerns.
Does my website meet the standards set by WCAG?
WCAG is widely accepted for a reason, and you need to ensure that the static and dynamic functions of your website are fully accessible according to these standards. For example, are your icons and labels inclusive? Do you provide alt tags and accurate descriptions where necessary? Also, be sure to set up training for your teams so that everyone is on board and fully trained in WCAG guidelines.
Proactively ensuring that your digital and online presence is inclusive not only shows that your brand is delivering on its mission and business goals, but it also shows that you care about each user and every interaction your users have with your product or service. Curious whether your website conforms to accessibility guidelines? Check your site now for free with our Automated Accessibility Testing Tool.