By Melissa Boyle

Why making digital products accessible improves the experience for all

February 8th, 2023
3 min read

Let’s say you were opening a coffee shop, you’d want it to be welcoming of everyone right? If a customer came in a wheelchair, pram or using a walking aid, you’d want them to be able to get in, move around, order and enjoy.

You might even offer to bring their order down to them to avoid the multi-tasking nature of balancing a coffee or a tray while manoeuvring around tables, chairs, the sugar stand and other customers – yup, I’ve been there with a pram and let me tell you it’s hard graft.

That’s pretty standard for an in-person experience and you’d be embarrassed if your lovely coffee shop didn’t have wheelchair or pram access. So why should we treat people any differently online when they use our digital experiences?

The answer is dear readers we shouldn’t. In saying that I know only too well the pressures of delivering digital products; managing stakeholders, timelines, budgets and the multiple disciplines that are involved along the way. It’s easy to get lost in features, snagging and keeping stakeholders happy and before you know it your good intentions of having an inclusive site moves down the priority list.

How do you get the balance between accessibility and delivery right?

The answer lies within the process, you see accessibility shouldn’t be viewed as an add on or something that can be done later when we find a bit more time. Accessibility should be baked into the design and development process. With a few adjustments it becomes second nature and improves experiences for everyone, not just those with permanent impairments.

Let’s consider a few scenarios:

  • Increasing contrast helps those with low vision but it can also help people who are in strong sunlight or if they are on battery saving mode on their mobile and contrast is reduced.

  • Increasing the size of the tap target area can help those with motor impairments but can also help a new parent who’s cradling an upset child in one hand and searching the web for remedies in the other.

  • Providing text alternatives for blind users using screen readers can also be useful to those in poor connection areas.

  • Providing captions on videos isn’t only useful to deaf users but for commuters on loud public transport or in spaces where they need to watch videos on mute.

The list goes on but you get the jist.

Another Brucey Bonus to having an accessible product is that it improves your websites SEO rating – similar to assistive technology – web crawlers need a helping hand in identifying page structure, relationships, and visual elements.

The purple pound

Not only should we all be striving to achieve a great online experience for all potential customers, but by not including accessibility throughout your process you run the risk of turning away potential customers who are disabled.

Outside temporary or situational impairments current figures tell us that 14.1 million people in the UK are considered disabled, that’s a whopping 1 in 5 people or 20% of your potential addressable market. Data from Purple relating to The Purple Pound (the spending power of disabled households), states that the online spending power of disabled people is over £16 billion, despite this research also shows that 73% of potential disabled customers experience barriers on more than a quarter of websites they visit.

Book an accessibility audit

Digital accessibility is one of my favourite things to talk about so if you have any questions or just want a chat to one of our team get in touch with us or book in an accessibility audit for one of our experts to measure the accessibility of your online experiences.

Melissa Boyle.
Melissa Boyle

UX Director

With over a decade in digital agency work, I've served multinational brands, government entities, SMEs, and charities, enhancing their digital presence to boost business growth and enhance user experiences.