Once upon a time, web design was a simple business. All you had to do was ensure that the design looked good in Internet Explorer or Netscape, and your job was pretty much done. Very arrogantly and mistakenly – by today’s standards – some designers even took it upon themselves to mandate which browser the user should or should not be using.
With most of their background based around the paper based publishing world, for many designers at the time, the visual design of screen based media, was not only a primary concern, but the only concern.
That approach created a terrible legacy which is still sometimes experienced today, where the site content is often given secondary importance to eye candy and window dressing.
Things have moved on, and changed considerably. Users have a multitude of different devices and browsers to choose from, so there is a real challenge to create a design that will work consistently on any device and browser combination. The challenge involved in meeting the task of ensuring total browser compatibility, unfortunately often leads to designers forgetting to ensure overall user compatibility. In other words, where accessibility should be given utmost importance, it is often forgotten entirely or merely added in as an afterthought.
The below quick list, is conveniently split by the intended user group within an ICT project. It should be read and used from the top down whenever working on a project, and from the bottom up once the project is launched, for the remainder of the deliverable’s life cycle, on a weekly basis.
Project Manager and Strategy
- Set realistic goals
Set realistic goals and outcomes. Do not start discounting accessibility requirement upon learning about them. Even if something is not possible to get 100%, thinking about how to fix it or work out alternatives, will yield better results. It will also make the end users’ life easier, as long as the online resource remains available; well beyond the time you are done working on the project. lifetime of the project. If you wish to have things done right within time and budget, give ICT accessibility due consideration from day one.
- Make accessibility part of your strategy, not just a project outcome
Website accessibility should be embedded into your overall strategy, and define what you want that strategic approach to achieve from accessibility. Most definitely it must not just be tacked on as a project requirement or outcome – it should help inform the project and be part of how you approach work.
- Define your risks
Assess your risks, and what are the outcomes from not pursuing best practice in terms of your project risk assessments.
- Execute semantic markup.
Your CMS / code should execute semantic markup from your templates. This helps bring out the meaning, of the information in webpages and web applications rather than merely to alter its presentation or look.
- Don’t hardcode styles/html that is hard to maintain
This is self-explanatory, but hardcoded styles quickly start overriding themselves and are difficult to maintain. Perform styling in CSS and JS, not inline and within the text.
- Use tables correctly
Tables are for tabular data not design layout.
UI / UX Designers
- Be mindful of different devices present and future (stick to industry standards including accessibility)
No matter what the site’s purpose is, don’t forget it may be used across a plethora of devices, from phones to wide-screen monitors, and tablets to gaming consoles. Pay particular attention to forms, menus and do not disable pinch and zoom, and other accessibility features, even in responsive sites.
Ensure there is enough contrast to read or see the message you want to bring across. Avoid having text overlap complex photo images.
- Don’t forget assistive technologies
It’s an easy step to skip, but do try and test your designs by using assistive technologies. Do not try to duplicate existing assistive technology solutions, but ensure compatibility and work with these tools, not against them.
- Structure your content.
Before importing your content from word into the web CMS, best to mark it up and structure it with headings, paragraphs and lists.
- Stop putting text in images
It may look pretty, but try and separate text from images.
- Be succinct, and explain technical terms and acronyms.
Stick to a point, and when you need to use more technical phrasing, make sure everyone understands and explain it yourself in simpler terms.
- MITA – What is Website Accessibility?
- MITA – Accessibility statement template
- FITA Certification Services
- FITA accessibility guidelines and supporting materials
- How disabled users access the Internet
- Ue Color With Care
- How to Make Your Website More Mobile-Friendly
- MITA – Top 10 common accessibility issues