How Bad Accessibility is Creating Barriers for Your Users

The effectiveness of a website depends to a great extent on its accessibility. There is a range of factors that prevent a website from being properly accessible.

Keeping the end user in mind, it’s critical to test the product at every stage of its development to consider whether it is accessible enough to appeal to a broad user demographic.

1) Some Common Barriers to User Accessibility

Barriers to usability can vary greatly depending on the individual user.

In designing the product, the first step is to ensure that there are no basic impediments to a given user test case on your site. Gartner analyst, Nick Jones, recommends that you, “Test usability as well as functionality, because poor usability contributes to bad reviews in app stores and social media.”

“Call-to-action” buttons – the buttons your users click on to perform key functions on your site – need to be effectively designated and situated. Call-to-action buttons that are overly small, or crowded amongst text or images, make it hard for the average user to process where they should go next.

As well, each page on your site needs to have a title and overview so that it’s clear at a glance what the page contains. This will help prevent users from clicking back and forth from one section to another, which results from their inability to find what they need.

2) Provide Accessibility Testing for Users With Disabilities

An important method of preventing barriers to accessibility is to provide accessibility testing for your product for users with disabilities. These can range from vision or hearing impairment to dyslexia to motor impairments. According to one source, as many as 40% of the population can be affected by one or more mild to severe disabilities, which means that your user demographic almost certainly contains some segment of users with disabilities.

Accessibility testing should be done at an early stage of the development of the product, ideally the beta stage or earlier, so that basic accessibility issues can be ironed out before the final version of the product hits the market.

As well, Gartner recommends: “Continue testing after apps and websites have been released, because events such as the arrival of new platform versions or devices could break existing applications.”

The benefits of accessibility testing are endless.

In addition to deepening your understanding of how users with disabilities interact with your product, you will increase the number of visitors to your site and generate positive publicity for your company. Additionally, because changes that benefit users with disabilities usually improve usability for all users, you will be providing a usability benefit to all your customers.

3) Accessibility Testing Should be both Automatic and Manual

Different kinds of accessibility testing have different strengths. Automatic accessibility testing, which is run by a software program, checks your site for any basic errors, but will typically locate only about 60% of issues.

It’s recommended that you perform this kind of testing first, but supplement it with manual accessibility testing, which, if performed by an expert, should locate any remaining problems. Manual accessibility testing is necessary but can be expensive and time-consuming, which is why it is best to run automatic accessibility testing first.

4) Look for Other Impediments to Usability

Both prior to and during usability testing, which should be performed after accessibility testing, consider ways to make your product as intuitive and simple as possible. Users should be able to see the outcome of each step or process on your website before they begin it. For sign-up or other web forms, offer an estimated length of time it will take users to complete the form before they begin. Additionally, make sure to list any documents or information they will need to have handy.

Barriers to usability begin with the question of accessibility, and solving these problems early on will save your company a great deal of time and energy. The more universally accessible your product is, the less likely your customers will be to encounter problems with usability – which can only bode well for your site.

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Jessica Miller
Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.
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