10 ways to make your website more accessible (and why you should).

12 Minutes

Creating an inclusive web is not just a best practice for web developers; it has legal and moral implications for enterprises. While it is often discussed in the context of design decisions such as colour contrast, readability, and navigation for specific physical disabilities, accessible websites tend to provide a better and more enjoyable experience to all users.

97.4% – The percentage of U.S-based web pages that aren’t accessible to the disabled community.

Web Accessibility Annual Report, 2021

Read along to learn more about why you should be ensuring more access for a wider range of people when it comes to your site as well as the top 10 best practices for designing a website that prioritizes inclusivity and accessibility.

Accessible UX vs inclusive UX.

So what’s the difference between accessibility and inclusivity when it comes to user experience? Accessible UX aims to provide all people with an equivalent experience when they encounter a service or product. Inclusive UX, on the other hand, takes into account the complete spectrum of human variety, including ability, language, culture, gender, age, and other aspects of individual variation. 

Usually, when we think of accessibility, we think of a certain type of permanent disability, such as deafness or blindness. But there are other kinds of disabilities we need to take into account.

Fig. 1 – Microsoft Inclusive 101 Guidebook

When designing, you should think about people who fit into all three of these categories—permanent, temporary, and situational. This broader focus includes those with permanent disabilities, such as deafness or blindness, but also disabilities that may seem unconventional, such as an ESL student or maybe even someone under heavy stress who might struggle to follow a convoluted checkout process. 

By thinking about an inclusive user experience, we create digital spaces for everyone to participate in. And, by doing so, we better the experience for everyone by making information quicker and easier to understand and interact with.

Gimme a P, gimme an O, gimme a…

To create guidelines for what makes an accessible website, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created four accessibility principles to follow: Perceivable, Operable, Understood, and Robust. Within each of these, there are three levels you can choose from: 

Level A: This is the easiest level to achieve without making much of an impact on your site’s design or structure. If you can’t make your website meet this standard, you should probably address the accessibility barriers that it has.

Level AA: Higher than A, this is usually considered the best balance of accessibility and design for website accessibility standards. The WCAG 2.0 AA is recognized by countries like Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, and India as a legal standard.

Level AAA: This level has a more strict set of standards to achieve on your site and is something that should be strived for if accessibility is top of your must-have list. For some, this isn’t possible since some of their content can’t satisfy the requirements. Ie, animations.

Break it down.

Now, let’s dive into what each principle means and how your site can be built to meet the guidelines.


Information and user interface components need to be easy to understand.

All your content must be presented in a way that can be:

accessed by the majority of users, including those with visual, auditory, or other disabilities.perceived by a wider range of users, including those with color blindness or impaired vision.perceived by the widest range of users, including those with more severe disabilities. For example, sign language interpretation should be provided for all audio content.

Tips for success:

  • Text alternatives: Give text alternatives for any non-text content, such as ALT text on images, so that it can be interpreted by users in various ways, such as large print, braille, text-to-speech or screen readers, symbols, or simpler language.
  • Time-based media: Provide alternatives for time-based media such as sliders, videos, and audio. For example, you could have a video running but also the transcript available below.
  • Adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
  • Distinguishable: Make it easier for people to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.


User interface components and navigation must be usable by users with a variety of abilities.

All content must be presented in a way that can be:

operated by the majority of users, including those with visual, auditory, or other types of disabilities.operated by a wider range of users, including those with visual or cognitive disabilities.operated by the widest range of users, including those with more severe disabilities.

Tips for success:

  • Keyboard accessible: Make all functionality available from a keyboard. This is one of the most important principles of web accessibility as it works across disability types and technologies.
  • Enough time: Provide users enough time to read and use content.
  • Seizures: Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
  • Navigable: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.


Both the content and the user interface’s functionality need to be clear.

All content must be presented in a way that can be: 

understood by the majority of users, including those with cognitive disabilities. For example, instructions should be clear and concise.understood by a wider range of users, including those with limited literacy or who speak languages other than the primary language of delivery. For example, abbreviations and acronyms should be defined.understood by the widest range of users, including those with more severe cognitive disabilities.

Tips for success:

  • Readable: Make text content readable and understandable to the reading and cognitive level of a sixth grader.
  • Predictable: Make website pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Input assistance: Help users avoid and correct mistakes.


Content must be robust enough to be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

All content must be presented in a way that is compatible with: 

the majority of users, including assistive technologies. For example, all HTML code should be well-formed and valid.a wider range of users, including assistive technologies. For example, all content should be accessible without relying on any specific technology.the widest range of users, including assistive technologies. For example, all content should be accessible using a wide variety of technologies and devices.

Tips for success:

  • Maximize compatibility: Ensure user agents, including assistive technologies, are compatible with present and future browsers.

Crafting a digital experience for all.

So, now that you know the different levels of accessibility, how do you incorporate it into your design? Here are a few ways that your site can be built to be more accessible and inclusive. These are by no means the whole list but they’re ones that we’ve found make the most difference when it comes to building a more digestible and explorable site.

1. Create a clear order of information

This might be obvious but regardless of how you interact with a product or service, you will need to be aware of the intended order in which things should be experienced. While there is plenty of room for creativity, sometimes that might create an unclear path for people to interact with your content structure and information won’t come across as intended. This can lead to confusion and frustration for users who use assistive technologies. 

Twirling tips:

  • Use a linear & logical layout
  • Use headings (h1, h2, h3, etc.) to create a logical hierarchy for your content
  • Use consistent text alignments and layouts

2. Make sure your content is squeaky clear 

Using language that’s easy to read and understand is a benefit for users with cognitive disabilities, as well as those who may not be fluent in the language. 

Twirling tips:

  • Make sure your content is easy to digest, both in wording and design.
  • Unless otherwise required (eg. science or tech-heavy text for a specific audience), use plain language and break content into manageable sections with headings and subheadings for easy readability. 

3. Up the colour contrast 

Colour contrast impacts the readability and legibility of your content, making it difficult for some of your users, particularly low-vision or colour-blind users, to interact with your site. To meet the standard for accessibility, make sure you’re thinking about the colours that best suit the brand you’re working with and the scale in which they’re being used. 

Twirling tips:

  • Make sure you test your product’s colour palette for contrast issues.
  • When using text on images, make sure the text is legible. Check if there is enough contrast between the background and the text (pro tip: add an overlay layer in between) and add text as a separate asset rather than as part of an image
  • Avoid using pure white on pure black and vice versa. These intense light levels lead to screen fatigue by overstimulating the eyes.
  • Ditto for using overly bright and saturated colours.

4. Add cues to your visuals

Using only one of our senses to transmit info can lead to users missing important information. For example, if a form’s fields are unlabelled, you might fill the whole thing out only to realize you’ve done it wrong but can’t remember which field held which data. This leads to unintentional mistakes, user frustration, and a loss of customers. 

Twirling tips:

  • Use a combination of icons, colours and descriptive test for feedback statuses.
  • Add labels to your input fields and forms.
  • Add another visual indicator, such as different fill options or shape weights to differentiate active vs. inactive input fields.
  • Underline your links.
  • Add colour + patterns or icons in your graphs, charts, and additional quantitative data.
  • Use a progress bar for large flows that include multiple steps.

5. A picture is worth a thousand words

Well, you might not get that many to work with but alt text does serve as a textual alternative for images and is crucial for visually impaired users and others using screen readers as aids. It conveys the image’s purpose and content for easy content digestibility. 

Twirling tips:

  • All images on your website should include descriptive alt text.
  • Keep alt text concise but descriptive.

6. They’re not calls to ambiguousness 

For CTAs, we know that less is usually more when it comes to creating text for buttons. “Learn More” and “Read More” have been the go-to for websites for a long time. Then came the witty and pithy one-worders that don’t make sense without context. Both can lead to confusion and frustration for your users who are using screen readers or other options. 

Twirling tips:

  • Avoid ambiguous CTAs or unlabeled buttons, such as emojis on their own.
  • Make sure to do a usability test to check your site’s accessibility.
  • Work with writers and content designers to optimize the text on your site.

7. Make sure you give buttons enough space 

Touch targets, or actionable items like buttons, are screen areas that respond to user input. If they’re too small or too close to one another, you’ll frustrate people or cause them to trigger interactions they don’t intend to.

Twirling tips:

  • Create a minimum touch target area based on the platform you’re designing for. 
  • Make sure your small actionable items have enough area around them, at least 8px.

8. Put your people in the driver’s seat

Your users should always know what the next step is when moving through your app or site. No surprises like updating or refreshing the page unless necessary. Unexpected behaviours, like accidentally submitting a form, audio playing automatically, or buying something early, can cause stress or confusion while trying to complete a task. Giving users control over their interaction leads to easier navigation and a positive experience.

Twirling tips:

  • Try to avoid time-dependent features. If you can’t, make sure the remaining time is visible and obvious. Provide an option to extend.
  • Don’t change a screen’s context without user confirmation.
  • Don’t automatically update content. If needed, give your users an option to pause or stop.
  • Don’t play autoplay audio and give users control over volume and sound.
  • Don’t trap your users in a flow without a clear closing action.

9. Avoid too much flash

This is probably obvious but for accessibility reasons, it’s important to avoid using extra dynamic and/or flashing animations. At worst, these elements can cause migraines, seizures, or other visual-based problems for people with photosensitive or sensory issues and disorders. At the very least, they can be distracting to your users who are trying to complete tasks on your site.

Twirling tips:

  • If you can, opt for static content, or minimal animations.
  • For flashing elements, the flash rate is 3 times per second or less. These elements should cover no more than 5% of the screen.
  • Always have a photosensitivity warning for users in advance.

10. For all people, on all devices

Responsive design ensures that your website is usable on a variety of devices, from desktop computers to smartphones and tablets. A well-designed responsive layout helps users with motor and visual impairments interact with your content effectively, as it adapts to different screen sizes and orientations.

Twirling tips:

  • Make sure your site’s design is tested to ensure it’s usable on a variety of devices.
  • If necessary, create secondary imagery to be used on smaller screens.

Be a team player.

Everyone should be on the same page when it comes to building sites, apps, and other products with accessible design in mind. You need to ensure you’re aligned with your team on how accessible you want the site to be. To ensure the design is implemented properly, things such as the full scope of content, technical considerations, and testing in different environments need to be taken into account.

Don’t just meet the baseline requirements.

Designing an accessible website is more than just meeting legal requirements. It’s about establishing a welcoming, all-inclusive digital environment. You can make sure that your website is accessible to all visitors, regardless of their ability, by putting these 10 best practices into effect. Prioritizing web accessibility results in a more user-friendly and inclusive online community, which ultimately benefits everyone. This is not merely the correct thing to do.