UX Design Accessibility Work & Wellbeing

4 ways your business can solve ethical issues with UX design

By Andrew Douglas, Group creative director



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June 6, 2023 | 8 min read

Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought; Andrew Douglas and Angela Rosales of Appnovation explain how to integrate ethical design thinking so you can tackle web accessibility like never before.

People walking up and down ramps

For integrated, ethical UX design, you need personas, user testing, templates and external audits. / Franzie Allen Miranda

Just like any incredible user experience (UX), you need to start somewhere. Web accessibility is an important, business-enhancing factor in how well your website functions, how engaged your users will be and how effectively you convert your audience into happy customers.

These four approaches inform how we guide our clients to take an ethical design mindset and put customer-centric thinking at the core of website building.

1. Take your personas to the next level

You’re probably already familiar with brand personas. They’re a standard feature for any business-building strategy and a core feature in how to build websites that will resonate with your intended audience. But they’re just the beginning.

There is a need for permanent and non-permanent disabilities to be represented to positively impact the greatest number of users. An integrated approach with accessibility-focused personas helps ensure your website is designed with this in mind from the very beginning.

At Appnovation, we work with our design team to ensure our solutions include the most up-to-date design considerations and that their creation and implementation are fully baked into their entire process.

2. Audit with impact through first-hand experiences

Accessibility user testing by persons with lived experience of a disability is a key method to ensure accessibility compliance and quality assurance (QA).

When it comes to an ethical design mindset and truly grasping the importance of accessibility, building opportunities for everyone in your business to have close, real-life experience of what it’s like to use your website with a disability can supercharge your team’s awareness and empathy.

Reading about accessibility and truly experiencing it are completely different. They can be key to creating a true sense of ownership and a full realization of why web accessibility is so important.

  • Audit your video content with the sound off to test closed captioning

  • Use a color blindness filter to test contrasts and color usage throughout your site

  • Try navigating through features using an assistive tool or site reader

  • Use your site with a keyboard only for a sense of how users with motor difficulties experience your site

This type of real-world feel is crucial to get a true sense of what it’s like to use your set and is invaluable to fostering an authentic, involved mindset around accessibility.

3. Make it easier with templates and automatic processes

Many of the factors that impact accessibility feel invisible. Usually, that’s intentional, but with so much of the work happening behind the scenes, it can be tricky to track it accurately and make sure it’s working.

As sites become increasingly image- and video-heavy, the closed captioning, alt text and other descriptions that make them readable to assistive devices become more important than ever.

But the process of sourcing visuals, particularly for larger global brands with offices in multiple countries, is varied and can make ensuring that videos and images show up accompanied by their required accessibility information can be difficult, if not impossible.

Creating processes to operationalize when an image is ‘final’, being sure to include that it’s not only the approval of the image itself but of the copy and alt text that should come with it, is a major step to making accessible web development smoother for everyone involved.

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4. Get a second- and third-party opinion

Over time, it’s understandable (and to be expected) that our natural biases will creep into our own ways of thinking and affect how we view the effectiveness of our work. While it’s not realistic to easily eliminate bias, accepting that they’ll occur and finding proactive approaches to address them is easier than you might think.

Internal audit and review processes are an integral part of business and should remain. But for factors as important, and commonly misunderstood, as web accessibility, this is where bringing in a second opinion from an expert third-party audit can have an incredible impact.

On top of that, clients can sometimes, and understandably, be driven by internal business opinions or other emotional factors (“my CEO said everything has to be green!”) at the cost of accessibility needs, UX best practices, or a combination of both.

An external audit can not only be an effective way for both us and our clients to view our work together with a fresh eye but can help give an independent voice of reason for why decisions are being made the way they are.

Adrian Alleyne, global vice-president at Appnovation says: “It’s a fine balance of being passionately interested in the success of our clients but at the same time knowing how to take a balanced view from an external mindset as well.

“As much as we’d all like to believe we can always put ourselves into our customers’ (and clients’) shoes, a third-party audit or independent review is an invaluable tool we use to get an entirely neutral and unbiased view on what we’re building.”

While approvals are always ultimately up to the client when it comes to signing off on web accessibility conformance (particularly for clients with regulatory requirements) a third-party audit gives an extra sense of security that everyone can confidently sign off on the work.

UX Design Accessibility Work & Wellbeing

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Appnovation is a global full-service digital consultancy. We seamlessly integrate strategy, user experience, development, deployment, training and support, allowing...

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