One of the guiding rules of design found across the internet is that any and every website online should be open to anyone who visits them. Accessible website design is a set of principles that aims to promote this idea, making web sites accessible to all users regardless of the way they use the internet or even their physical or technical abilities.
Understanding the importance of this principle requires a certain amount of consideration for hypothetical situations. Perhaps the most critical of all of these is considering the needs of people who visit your website; will they perceive it in the same way as you? Will they be able to use all the features that you rely upon?
This is where accessible website design differs from the abstract ideal of creative design – the practical considerations of the potential end user.
Consider for example, how the death or hearing impaired will interact with your website if you make audio information a central part of your design. By the same token, as appealing as it might be to run wild with minor variations of color on your page elements, to the color blind user it will likely appear completely unreadable.
Simple steps such as the introduction of redundancy measures to website design elements can help users of any ability access your website. For example, rather than relying exclusively on audio cues it is more than possible to include text descriptions or image. You could also offer different versions of your site for those who might have trouble seeing it – a complex page showingcasing all of the clever design elements and a simpler page containing the information but not possibly confusing or unreadable designs.
At the heart of it, accessible website design is based upon the principles of universalism that form the idealistic side of the web – that information should be available to all people regardless of any other consideration. However there are sound economic reasons as well; with a world wide audience, the capabilities of people who come to a website are far from completely predictable.
When you consider that 10 to 20% of the population in most country will have some of physical disability, it is very possible that by indulging inaccessible design your website can miss out on a substantial portion of the potential customer audience. Depending on your sites content, this could be devastating, particularly when you include the number of users whose abilities have deteriorated with age.
Additionally, accessible website design is a large matter of making a straightforward website which contains all relevant information and can be easily navigated – where extraterrestrial and potentially confusing aspects are excised. This can hamper the possibilities of creative design but if done well, can be the perfect complement to a complicated website filled with complex design elements.
For example, a simple website can help make the site accessible to users on different types of electronic device, using different software or users in less than ideal (noisy, bright, dark, etc) environments – or sometimes most important, users low bandwidth issues .