Interface Design: Universal Usability and Accessibility

@Kevin | Development

(This post was originally posted on my old social media blog

Time to dive back into interface design and topic that a lot of people usually don’t think about when designing a website or application, universal usability and accessibility. The World Wide Web Consortium developed guidelines for accessibility called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 which helps develop strategies, guidelines, and resources to help make the Web accessible to people with disabilities. These guidelines are wide ranging and also cover practices that will help people not only with disabilities but people that might have older technology and slower connections.

(Check out the list of guidelines here).

Now when most of us design a site or application these items aren’t really taken into consideration because we are thinking about “the average user” which when you think about it might be a little discriminatory. If you built a building thinking about the “average user” you wouldn’t be able to open your doors for business. However when it comes to web design we can turn a blind eye to other user’s needs. (Pun not intended.)

So how can you design with these standards in mind?

Besides following the guidelines listed in the previous document there are tools available to help you make sure your site is compliant with W3C recommendations.

My favorite tool to use is the web developer tool bar for firefox, which you can download here.

The add on written by Chris Pederick is one of the most useful add ons for firefox. The tool bar allows you to validate your site design against:

-validate your css
-validate your feed
-validate html
-validate links
-validate section 508
-validate WAI

By checking your page against these validation tools you can help configure your page to meet a lot of the standards listed by the W3C.