Designing for accessibility is very important and is a factor that should be considered when building online and offline products so that they can be used easily, not just by the fully able, but also by those people with disabilities. It’s often assumed that building accessible products is prohibitively expensive but that’s often not the case and the truth is that a more accessible product often provides a better user experience for both fully able as well as the disabled.
Design for accessibility
Around 14% of the population considers themselves to have a disability? That means that roughly 1 in 7 of your potential customers needs you to consider accessibility. If you don’t cater for this large percentage of people please consider how many people will be disengaged straight away and will not use your product, let alone pay for it.
Then there are other problems that people face that they don’t consider to be “disabilities” but which certainly impair their ability to make easy use of all products. Colour blindness, for example, affects nearly 10% of all people. Organizations for the blind say that 4% or more of a population will have trouble seeing properly. Elderly people make up over 20% of the population in many countries and this number is increasing; those people may not be disabled but often have mobility and other sensory challenges to overcome.
That means that potentially half of the audience may have an accessibility challenge that they need you to overcome for them. That’s half, 1 in 2 of your potential customers. Can you afford to turn them away, based on poor design decisions?
Don’t lose out
Accessibility’s not just an issue faced by the disabled. The top-of-the-range website may need the latest computing equipment, browsers and high speed broadband capacity. Yet, not everyone has those things.
Older smartphones and PDAs often don’t support image rendering properly, you need to test for this before releasing a product if you can. Also don’t forget to test your product in all modern day browsers as a minimum requirement before releasing a product. Make sure your site is compatible with as many browsers as you can feasibly test in – Chrome, Safari, Firefox, IE and Opera are the top 5, don’t leave any out. IE is a tricky one – test as far back as you feel is necessary, for your target audience. The chrome browser has some great development testing options and features that justify a whole blog post, I will go into this in a future dedicated blog post.
People with very low internet speeds try and remove pictorial (image) content unless they really need it so that they can get content today rather than next year. So how does the product function and look without displaying image content? Test this.
Page loading speeds, leaving a customer wait more than 3 seconds to load a page will lose you 50% of cutomers, as they will move elsewhere. Extensive research has been carried out on this so web page optimisations- Google Pagespeed Checker is a great free tool, type in your web page URL then let Google tell you what you need to do to speed up page loading times, it also does a mobile check for you as well, which is nice. So it goes without saying your product should be accessible for mobile users as well the good old reliable desktop. Mobile sites are now increased in Google page ranking if people are searching for you on a mobile device. Mobile first responsive web presence is key to winning more customers searching for you with Google tools.
Flash can ruin everything for everyone. Not only does it require endless updates but it causes browsers to crash on a monotonous basis. We like what Flash can do, but rather like Steve Jobs most of us don’t like how it does it. Don’t use Flash for the web.
If you have training videos with voice overs, what about all those people especially those in the office environment without speakers or headphones, it goes without saying all the deaf people, they won’t HEAR ANYTHING. You must include subtitles or better still design training videos with subtitles first then add the voice over if necessary as an added bonus, its a much cheaper and more accessible way to begin an online training program in my opinion, especially if budgets are tight. Voice overs can be very expensive!
If half your audience can’t convince you that you need to design for accessibility; nothing will. The one thing is certain – if you don’t cater for those people, someone else will. And when they do; you’re going to lose not just their business but the business of that other 50% of your audience too – because their friends, family, colleagues, etc. will be making a switch and we all like to do the same things in the same familiar way if we can.
Just to reiterate accessibility design doesn’t have to be expensive, if anything good accessibility design will engage a wider audience, give high retention levels, gain you new customers, save you money, and win you more business. WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN & WIN.
Please don’t ignore customer first approach regarding accessibility design and testing.