In the United States alone, the web design services industry has grown by about 6.2% per year since 2017 — faster than the economy overall.
Whether you operate in a specific niche or offer general web design services, you need every competitive advantage to stand out. And if you’re ignoring digital accessibility, know this: At least some of your competitors aren’t making the same mistake.
There’s a growing consensus among business leaders that accessibility is important, for several key reasons:
- Web accessibility lawsuits continue to rise almost every year. Those suits are typically filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or California’s Unruh Act.
- More consumers care about brand social values. An inaccessible website sends a message that the business doesn’t care about users with disabilities — which can be disastrous for the brand.
- The best practices of inclusive design lead to better content that reaches a wider audience. About 26% of U.S. adults live with at least one disability; from a business perspective, it doesn’t make sense to leave those customers out of the conversation.
As a web designer, you can expect more customers to ask about accessibility in the near future (especially if the Department of Justice finalizes a long-awaited rule to establish technical requirements for ADA compliance).
To grow your business, you’ll need to answer those questions. Here’s what you’ll need to know.
Web accessibility begins with user-first web design
Developers share the responsibility, but if a website’s basic design isn’t created with accessibility in mind, there’s no secret back-end fix.
The choices that designers make (and guide their clients towards) have an enormous impact on the finished website’s accessibility. For example:
- Ignoring color contrast can make text unreadable for people with low vision, color vision deficiencies, and other vision disabilities.
- Leaving out image alternative text (also called alt text) at the design stage can prevent non-visual users from understanding the purpose of non-text content.
- Using color alone to convey meaning may prevent users from understanding how the website works. For example, a big, flat green button might mean “go" to a visual user, but to a screen reader user, it’s just a button.
- Non-intuitive navigation elements may leave readers confused when they’re looking for specific content. That’s especially true for users with attention disorders and other cognitive conditions.
- If the design’s features change when viewed on a mobile device or any other small viewport, the design isn’t truly responsive. It may present additional issues for people who use assistive technologies (AT).
The bottom line: Every web designer has a responsibility to think about accessibility. The internet needs to work for every type of person — not just an “ideal" user who navigates visually while using a mouse and keyboard.
Digital accessibility has a rulebook with principles and best practices
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (W3C) is published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It’s widely considered to be the international rulebook for digital accessibility, and the Justice Department has recommended using WCAG to test content for ADA compliance.
If your agency follows WCAG and tests its work with the guidelines, you can use that as a selling point to your clients. By discussing accessibility with confidence, you’re showcasing your commitment to clean, inclusive design.
Accessibility-first services can help you stand out from other web design firms
Part of the joy of web design is the variety of the work. As you learn about accessibility, you’ll learn that different types of websites create different challenges — but WCAG is an excellent resource for finding techniques to meet those challenges.
Of course, the best place to start is with your agency’s own website. Take a few simple steps:
- Review the four core principles of WCAG, which are essential for understanding the purpose and goal of each WCAG requirement.
- Test your content against WCAG’s Level A/AA success criteria. Learn about the differences between WCAG levels.
- Use a combination of automated and manual tests. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility provides a free automated website analysis, which can identify many of the most common accessibility barriers.
- Publish an accessibility statement. Learn why every website should have an accessibility statement.
- Get your entire team on board. Build accessibility into your design process and get into the habit of asking questions about whether features will work for people with disabilities.
- Start discussing accessibility with your clients. Remember, every business has a legal and ethical responsibility to provide accessible content — and the business benefits of accessibility are substantial.
To learn the basics of digital accessibility, download our free eBook: Essential Guide to ADA Compliance for Websites.
And if you’re ready to build an accessibility-first culture, we’re ready to help. Send us a message to connect with a certified accessibility expert.