7 Great Ways to Design Accessible Layouts that Emphasize Your UX

There are 42 million people living with a disability in the United States. On any given day, a person diagnosed with a disability can land on your website. With that said, is your website accessible enough to accommodate them?

If not, you could risk alienating potential customers and subscribers. To avoid this outcome, you should use accessible website layouts. The good news is that designing accessible layouts doesn't have to be difficult.

In this guide, we'll cover several great ways to design accessible layouts that maximize your website's user experience (UX).

1. Check for WCAG Compliance

Creating accessible layouts that prioritize user experience (UX) and adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is fundamental for ensuring your website or application is inclusive to everyone, including people with disabilities.

Begin by immersing yourself in the WCAG guidelines, which form a robust framework for essential elements and accessible design. 

These guidelines include factors such as:

  • Perceivable

  • Operable

  • Understandable

  • Robust

Next, leverage a WCAG compliance checker (via online tools or browser extensions) to validate your designs. 

For example, accessiBe meticulously analyzes your website, identifying accessibility barriers and recommending actionable improvements.

By combining your understanding of WCAG principles with the insights gained from compliance checkers, you can create digital experiences that aren't only user-friendly but also genuinely inclusive. 

That way, you can embrace the diversity of all users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

2. Implement Clear and Consistent Navigation

Designing accessible layouts isn't just a matter of compliance. It's a fundamental aspect of creating a website that caters to everyone. 

Accessibility guarantees that individuals with disabilities can navigate and interact with your content seamlessly. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by implementing clear and consistent navigation. 

Take LeatherCult, a leading brand in leather clothing, for instance. They understand the importance of accessibility and have prioritized clean navigation as a core element of their website design. 

LeatherCult organizes its navigation by demographics, with related product types and sub-categories. The simple categorization makes it effortless for users to find the specific leather products they want. 

This strategic approach not only benefits their customers by providing a user-friendly experience but also contributes to the brand's overall success by increasing user engagement and satisfaction. 

3. Prioritize Readable and Clear Typography

Typography is the style of text‌ on any web page or document. Readable typography refers to text that's easily scannable, even by people with visual impairments. 

The most readable fonts are:

  • Times New Roman

  • Open Sans

  • Helvetica

  • Verdana

  • Georgia

  • Roboto

  • Arial

Using the right fonts is only half the battle. You'll still need to make sure that your fonts are the right size. 

 Also, don't forget to set the perfect contrast (read: color contrast ratios) between text and background colors. Why? Setting readable fonts at the proper size means nothing if you pair white text with bright backgrounds.

People with blue-yellow color blindness lose out on the experience of your website when you don't prioritize color contrast guidelines

4. Use Contextual Labels

If your website uses forms for inclusive staff training, you'll have to make them accessible to people using screen readers and assistive technologies. One of the best ways to do this is by using contextual and descriptive labels.

These labels provide clear instructions for users, tell them what each field should contain, and make it easier to fill out forms. Many websites use placeholder text in form fields. 

However, this can be confusing to read if someone is using a screen reader. Providing context in form design is essential for accommodating and empowering people with vision impairment. 

5. Implement Keyboard Accessibility

Not everyone can use a mouse or a touch screen. People with vision impairment typically use screen readers and keyboard commands to navigate a website. With keyboard accessibility, anyone can navigate your website with the "Tab" key.

The easiest way to check if your website is keyboard accessible is to press the "Tab" key and see if the cursor is moving in a logical order. If your website isn't keyboard accessible, you should consider changing your theme or website code.

6. Add Alternative Text to Images

Alternative text (alt text) describes what an image is about. It's used mainly for stock photos, as opposed to artwork. When a person using a screen reader navigates throughout your website, they need to be able to process and understand all supporting images.

Without alt text, this is next to impossible. Alt text is also ideal for search engine optimization (SEO) and SEO tools can help you. Search engines like Google and Bing use "spiders" to crawl on web pages to determine their intent. 

Spiders aren't able to process images and rely on alt text to add context to them. By integrating alt text, you can kill two birds with one stone. You can make your website more accessible and improve its SEO. 

7. Add Captions and Transcripts for Videos

If you're adding video and audio content to your website, you'll also need to integrate captions and transcripts to accommodate people with disabilities. 

Closed captions (CC) allow people with disabilities to interact with your videos. Screen readers can process transcripts to help people parse through your audio content. 

Fortunately, there's a wide variety of tools that make it easy to generate captions and transcripts. If you upload your videos to YouTube, it'll automatically generate captions for your videos. 

On the other hand, you can use a transcription service to transcribe your audio files. 

Final Words

There are many ways to design accessible layouts with your website's UX in mind. It's important to be mindful that many people in the US population live with a disability. 

Making your website accessible accommodates all kinds of website users, which is both ethical and helpful in expanding your company's online presence. 

Use the strategies in this guide to make it easy to change your website's layout and maintain WCAG compliance and accessibility standards.

Author Bio

Ian David started his career in brick-and-mortar retail management, which quickly included eCommerce and digital marketing as well. He is an avid reader and a self-taught expert in SEO and content marketing. He writes for several publications on a variety of digital marketing topics. Recently, his focus has been on using influencer and affiliate marketing to drive more conversions.