Accessibility and inclusivity have become a widespread focus among businesses. That's why so many organizations have been shifting their marketing and website designs to ensure that millions of people from all different walks of life can easily navigate their websites and see a little bit of themselves within their favorite brands.
The world we live in is full of diverse people. Yet, it is often narrowed down to a limited set of experiences that are only usable and relatable to a small subset of target audiences. For example, 25% of adults in the US have a disability or impairment. An inclusive, accessibility-based design offers several customizable solutions for this problem.
Brands need a strategic approach that considers the needs of various audiences before an asset is created instead of an afterthought. Designing for inclusivity and accessibility opens up brands and experiences to more people with a wide range of abilities and reflects audiences more accurately. Organizations that don't consider accessibility and inclusivity in the process of asset creation are alienating a large portion of their audience from the very beginning.
What do inclusivity and accessibility have to do with UX?
Reaching out and marketing to members of diverse demographics is only part of the battle for becoming an inclusive brand. Once audiences make it to your website, the tenets of inclusivity and accessibility are put to the test. And positive user experiences hinge on usability.
Considering diverse audiences is part of creating a positive user experience for anyone who visits your website. Users should be greeted with a streamlined experience that empowers them with accessible design elements. In addition to a simple and aesthetic interface, visitors to your website should be able to easily identify how to complete a particular task on your page with little effort.
Hiring someone with experience that meets accessibility compliance standards can be fairly affordable. And fortunately, designing for inclusivity and accessibility isn't that different from creating practical, aesthetically pleasing interface designs if you use the right tools. The interface should bridge customers to the products and information they need without having to search through multiple pages and layers to find what they are looking for. In short, your design should be to make it easy for people to become customers.
Many organizations don't have the resources necessary to design assets that are accessible to everyone, so they have to look outside of their companies to find talent to increase their website's inclusivity. According to recent surveys, the average web developer has less than five years of experience, so finding developers and designers with modern inclusivity standards in mind is much easier than in the past.
How to design for inclusivity and accessibility
Designing for inclusion and accessibility means considering the different ways that users access web pages and who can access them. Some examples of accessibility include:
- An appealing and readable design for readers who are color blind
- Integrating voice prompts for those with limited hearing ability
- Easy navigation for the mobility-impaired
There are many different ways people want to interact and get involved with brands, so organizations must recognize this and provide their audiences with accessible designs that look good, are easy to use, and make everyone feel welcome.
On the other hand, inclusivity means using imagery representing various people and family structures and inclusive messaging. This helps to form a truly welcoming environment that anyone can relate to. Let's take a closer look at both.
An accessible design approach ensures that everyone can interact with it. This means a couple of things to developers and designers. First, it means that the website or application works across several types of devices and browsers. But it also means including individuals with short and long-term disabilities and limitations in various socioeconomic situations.
The fact of the matter is, your typical online customer isn't always the wealthy investor or the tech-savvy Millennial. The onset of the pandemic forced many to shift towards online shopping and other online experiences. Plus, people 65 and over will outnumber the youngest generations for the first time within the next ten years or less.
As of right now, about half of baby boomers, one of the populations most vulnerable to disease, choose online merchants to avoid infection. This shift to digital experiences is expected to stick, too, since convenience and high-quality customer service are easily realized with online connectivity.
Additionally, to ensure that accessibility is included in your interface design:
- Make sure that all text is legible, particularly on mobile.
- Include options for captions, transcripts, and alt tags for all media.
- Ensure that your design can be easily navigated with a mouse, keyboard, and finger.
- Use animations that tell stories without requiring users to read.
- Develop easy-to-read code that is responsive on mobile.
Not all people come from the same backgrounds, look the same, or have the same values as their friends and neighbors. That's why general messaging that assumes a certain version of reality isn't inviting to many consumers.
Consider the following statistics from a recent survey conducted in the United States:
- 71% of LGBTQ+ consumers said they are likelier to interact with brands that use messaging and imagery that authentically represents their sexual orientation.
- 69% of African-American consumers said they are more likely to buy from companies whose advertising reflects their ethnicity positively.
- 64% of all respondents said that they would interact with ads that they would consider inclusive.
But inclusivity means so much more than accurately reflecting race, sexual orientation, and financial status. It means representing diverse groups of people so that they can make a connection with your brand.
To ensure that inclusivity is central to your brand:
- Use language and messaging that is respectful and leaves room for people to self-identify.
- Use imagery that reflects the world we live in and the people who live in it accurately.
- Ensure that a variety of situations and relationships that are present in life are represented.
- Refrain from using jargon or cultural references that alienate groups of people who won't get it.
- Put the needs of your consumers at the center of your marketing and website design instead of a profits-over-people approach.
Every decision that brands make can lower the barriers faced to participating and feeling included in society. When carried out incorrectly, these decisions also have the power to create even more barriers to products and services. Brands and organizations with an online presence face many people daily, and creating access and inclusion to environments and experiences is the socially responsible thing to do.
"Normal" and "average" come in many shapes and colors, and one-dimensional imagery is not relatable to most consumers. That's why it's so important to customize your media, messaging, and imagery to reflect the reality of your consumers.