What does it mean to have an inclusive website?
It means your site considers the needs of the widest variety of users throughout the entire design process.
You can find inclusive practices most commonly in architectural design, but it's becoming increasingly relevant online, as well. After all, it's people that are interacting with your website. Being mindful of their varying needs is keeping them at the forefront, which is absolutely fundamental to website design. Here are some basic principles to abide by:
1. Be simple and Intuitive
You need to ensure every element on your site is adding value, not complexity. No one wants to feel like they have to actively work to understand how to use your site. Restraint is so important. Edit ruthlessly. When we add animations to certain elements on a site, it has the purpose of drawing the users eye down the page in an intuitive way. These animations can make (visually engaging) or break (distracting) the users experience.
2. Be informative
From the very moment a user enters your site, you need to be starting a conversation with them. Continuing this dialog throughout their journey, informing them so they can make choices on how they navigate your site from a position of power. Knowledge is power!
3. Know your audience
To ensure you're being inclusive for all your users, it makes sense that you'll need to know who your users are in the first place. We've outlined exactly how to go about learning this in our previous post Finding your Target Audience.
4. Be equitable
Equitable does not mean equal. When designing a site across different devices for different users, web designers aren't looking to have it be exactly the same. We purposely make changes to the user experience so it's enjoyable and seamless for all. This is where QA testing comes in.
5. Be accommodating
Just like in the physical world, online you'll need to be accessible and accommodating. Accessible = comfortable. You'll want to make people feel relaxed and at home in your online space. While door width and ramp access aren't factors to consider for your website, how you utilize the space on your pages is important. If there is too much white space and not enough content, a user might be confused and think your site isn't loading properly. If you've packed your page with too much, it can look daunting and scare users away. If you know your audience contains a demographic that is visually impaired, you'll need to consider that when choosing font styles and sizes.
According to the the International Dyslexia Association, it's currently estimated that 15-20% of the world population has some degree of dyslexia. Therefore, it's best to follow the text and layout guidelines as outlined in this handy guide:
6. Be consistent
There are standards and guidelines which govern our industry. It's important for us to know them, as it gives our users consistency. When anyone visits a website, there are certain features and functions (menu navigation, links) that they come to expect. We need to know these rules so we can understand when to honor them and when it's okay to break them.