Universal Design: Creating Web Experiences For Everyone.

January 26, 2024

Written by:

Hayley Roberts, UX Research & Design Manager

What Is Universal Design?

Universal design is all about creating environments and products that are accessible to everyone, regardless of their age, ability or background. If you imagine going into a physical shop, think about all the thought that has gone into the design and layout of that shop; how you get through the door, the width of the aisles, the categorisation of products, the height of the shelves, the visibility of price. We’re not all the same and some people will have special requirements. For example, there will be people who want to visit the shop that are in a wheelchair and the shop will have adjustments made that allow them to shop at ease. It’s exactly the same in the digital world, but often because someone is sitting behind a computer screen or mobile device and we can’t see them this, unfortunately, gets forgotten or isn’t given the consideration it needs. 


Why is it important to create web experiences for everyone?

It is increasingly important that we create web experiences for everyone due to the internet playing an integral role in most of our daily lives. No one wants to feel alienated or unable to complete a task online and it is our responsibility as designers and developers to create inclusive designs that eliminate barriers and accommodate a wide range of users. 


How can we create web experiences for everyone?

There are many processes that we can put into place to ensure that users and their needs are put at the forefront of our design. In this article we’ll go through some of the most important considerations.


Accessible Design

People’s disabilities don’t go away online! Designers and Developers have guidelines they can follow to ensure that the websites we build are accessible to all. These include rules on some of the following:


Typography & Colour Contrast – ensuring that colour contrasts on text and background colours are great enough to allow someone with impaired vision to be able to comfortably read them. There are also minimum type sizes we should adhere to so that text isn’t too small to read.


Alternative Text For Images And Multimedia – images and videos look nice on a page and can help complement your messaging, but not everyone will be able to see or hear them. There could be users that are using a screen reader and therefore we must give these pieces of media text descriptions, subtitles or ‘alt text’ to communicate what we are showing the users.


Keyboard Accessibility – Users should be able to fully navigate through a website using a keyboard. This is for users who may have difficulty operating a mouse or other pointing devices. 


Layout And User Journey

We need to treat websites like they are a physical space that someone is navigating around. They should be able to find what they’re looking for and be able to complete certain tasks or actions with ease. Websites should be planned carefully and the user interface designed in a way that makes the website a pleasant experience for the user.


Reduce Cognitive Load

Websites should be efficient to use and not require too much thought to complete an action. We shouldn’t overload users with information and there should be a clear journey mapped out that ideally you want them to take. Designers shouldn’t try and reinvent the wheel too much when it comes to standard elements as users just expect them to work in a certain way.  


Responsive Design

This is something that should be a given, that a website responds to the device it is being viewed on whether that is mobile, tablet or desktop without compromising the user experience. When someone is out and about using their mobile, they might use a website differently from how they would if they were sitting at their computer and therefore we must consider this in design.


We should all be committed to creating inclusive and accessible digital experiences that can be enjoyed by everyone. Technology continues to advance and the importance of this will only grow to ensure that the internet remains a tool that empowers and connects all users, whatever their ability and background.


Hayley Roberts


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