We all visit websites for similar reasons regardless of the technology we use to interact with it. A person who is visually impaired will use a bank’s website to pay a bill with the same intent as someone who doesn’t use assistive technology. A person using their mobile device requires the same functionality of someone using their desktop. Just as a good site design will have considered the requirements of different screens, good site design needs to consider a variety of users’ needs and accessibility issues. This is called Web Accessibility.
We were at WordCamp Atlanta recently and attended a talk about the inherent challenges of using accessibility tools and understanding how to make user experiences better regardless of ability.
Consider navigation. Large, complex menus can be daunting to navigate without a mouse. A visitor will have to click through your menu every time she navigates to a new page. A better experience allows users to skip links with assistive technology as they prefer and improve the experience of the site. This is important for more than altruistic reasons. Users who can engage with your content are more likely to use your content. Sites that are usable are visited, the ultimate reason for creating a website in the first place.
In Atlanta, we learned about two great tools userway.org and the WPAccessibility plugin, we can use to add a variety of accessibility features with a minimum of setup. We can include these tools in all new projects and use them to help remediate existing sites.
Users with varying abilities are more similar than we think and websites with good designs will consider every user from the beginning. Keeping every user, regardless of ability, in mind when designing and developing a website improves usability for every user.