10 principles of inclusive web design

Inclusive design is well established in architecture and industrial design and the principles that apply to these disciplines are equally relevant on the web. It’s people that your website engages with, not technologies, so a user-centred approach is fundamental.

Inclusive design is where innovation and imagination flourish. Meeting the needs of the widest variety of people does not inhibit creativity. It opens our minds and inspires excellence.

In her article in .net magazine, Sandi Wassmer of Copious explains the ten principles for inclusive web design an overview of which is listed below:

  1. Equitable – Be welcoming, don’t discriminate and engage with people. Create different user experiences and make certain they have equally valuable outcomes. Aesthetics matter.
  2. Flexible – Provide options. Think who, how, why, what, where and when people will be using your website. Make sure there is choice for diverse users and maintain device independence.
  3. Straightforward – Be obvious and not ambiguous. Make sure your website’s features add value, not complexity. Remember, good design is as little design as possible.
  4. Perceptible – Don’t assume anything. Make sure your website’s purpose is clear, its content, structure and sequence are meaningful and convey information to all of the senses.
  5. Informative – Make sure people know where they are on your website and provide ways for them to find what they’re looking for. Be timely, predictable, uncomplicated and precise.
  6. Preventative – Provide easy to follow instructions and gently guide users in interacting with your website. Help them to minimise errors when submitting data, through well considered form design.
  7. Tolerant – Handle errors respectfully and indicate precisely what the error is, where it is and how to fix it. Remember to let people know the outcome.
  8. Effortless – Don’t make demands or place restrictions on your users. People should not have to work or think hard to find what they want on your website. Ensure it can be used efficiently and effectively.
  9. Accommodating – Be approachable, uncluttered and give people room to manoeuvre. Make sure that your website is unobtrusive and can be accessed by different devices of all shapes and sizes.
  10. Consistent – Follow standards, guidelines, conventions and best practices. Provide a familiar environment with memorable functionality.

With different devices, configurations, browsers, personal settings and assistive technologies, and no agreement on how to achieve interoperability, web builders must do their best to accommodate the diverse ways people access the internet. Building with this in mind will ensure your visitors have a quality experience.

Inclusive design enables us to create great, meaningful, on-brand internet experiences for the widest audience possible. However, inclusive design is also a new way of thinking, and its overarching aims may not mirror those of your organisation or clients. Change takes time, so you may not be able to do everything at once. If you just start thinking about accessibility and plan your projects with users in mind, you’ll be on the right path. There will be trade-offs and tough decisions, but this is where inclusive design really comes to the fore. It challenges us to hone our craft and fosters real creativity and innovation.

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