How to design for accessibility and create marketing materials that include everyone

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Posted by - Sylvie Johnson
02/03/2020

What constitutes great design? Often it’s a high level of functionality that makes the user’s journey easy. So easy that the user doesn’t even realise how easy it is. Great design is so good it’s unconscious – for the user. And, when you use great design in marketing you have a powerful sales tool. It leads your target audience, encourages them, helps them – and provides them with a great user experience. The best businesses know this.

However, what if we told you that you could be missing out on a big segment of your target audience? Or worse, alienating them completely – because they can’t access your marketing materials. They meet a stumbling block – and can’t get past it. All because unconsciously you’ve designed inaccessible marketing materials.

In this blog post, we will dive into some proactive ways you can drive exclusivity out of your marketing materials – for a truly inclusive marketing experience.

Streamline your website design

Good web design is so much more than impressive graphics and immersive experiences. It’s about great functionality – for everyone.

When designing for an inclusive audience, think about the range of disabilities present in your audience. Of course, we can’t design for each and every possibility as some solutions may contradict each other. However, having a good knowledge of best practice can help you largely improve your website’s accessibility – meaning that more people in your audience can use it.

Best practice for web design is rooted in functionality – and simplicity for the user.An action button is always an action button. A hyperlink is always a hyperlink. The menu bar always sits in the same place. Text is always organised in the same structure. Simply, don’t make the user work so hard. Provide them with a consistent structure and don’t bombard them with options, call-to-actions and confusing layouts.

A group of people running through oversized binocular. With the title -Review your content

Improve your SEO

SEO tasks are great for improving accessibility. Not only a “let’s climb the ranks of Google” task, best practice SEO makes your website more accessible for a wider audience. Here’s a couple of examples of how…

Alt tags for screen readers

A well-written alt tag will describe in-depth what your image is. Take a look at the example below.

Team of 10 graphic designers & marketers smiling outside Starbots Creative Design & Marketing Studio
An example of a well written alt tag

<img src=”starbots-team.png” alt=”Team of 10 graphic designers & marketers smiling outside Starbots Creative Design & Marketing Studio”>

A screen reader relays the alt tag text to a visually-impaired user. Also, think of those with situational accessibility issues – like having slow internet, where images don’t load. Alt tags provide an important alternative.

Header tags for structure

Header tags aren’t just for pointing out keywords to Google and giving visual structure. In fact, they tell screen readers what order to read content in.

SEO for accessibility

Overall, remember Google’s business model basics. As a service, it wants to provide the very best information to a wide audience. Formatting your website with good SEO does more than tick boxes – it provides a great experience to more people.

Review your content

George Orwell famously said, “Never use a long word where a short word will do” – and this is often true. Especially if accessibility is important to your marketing materials.

Whether it’s a brochure, web page or social media post, consider your language. Are you overcomplicating the message for your user?

Simplifying your language can help dyslexic and dyspraxic users – but again, it’s largely better for everyone. Everyone has a better experience. That’s why the “keep it simple” approach is loved by copywriters.

For a great real-life example, take a look at Monzo. Their tone of voice guide is all about “Plain English”. Not only is this a refreshing approach in the financial industry but it opens its banking services up to include a much larger and varied audience.

Always question your design

The basics of good design are vital – to a certain extent. From visual hierarchy to balance, a lot of these principles will guide the design of marketing materials.

However, be conscious of certain limitations. For example, colour. Remember not everyone sees the world as you do. Be aware of users who are colourblind – and instead focus on contrast. After all, it is estimated over 4.5% of the UK population is colourblind so there is a fair chance your audience could include a colourblind user.

Illustration of a person sitting at a computer screen from the viewpoint of the computer screen

Give the user control

Video and animation is widely popular as a marketing material – and with good reason. Prompting high engagement, moving media sits high in the digital marketing world. It is powerful at informing, entertaining and educating your audience. But are you sure your whole audience feels the same?

Going past accessibility, we need to think about responsibility. As user-centric marketers, are we really focusing on what’s best for our users?

Safety and accessibility are closely linked – and you need to ask if your marketing materials are safe. This means content that considers photosensitive epilepsy – and other physical conditions. Mozilla explains:

“Web technologies that use video, gifs, animated SVGs, Canvas, and CSS or JavaScript animations are all capable of content that can induce seizures or other incapacitating physical reactions. Certain visual patterns, especially stripes, can also cause physical reactions even though they are not animated.”

Now, we aren’t saying don’t use videos and animations. But carefully consider how you use them. On websites, auto-play is a general no-no. Adapt content for social media platforms that do auto-play (this example by Twitter demonstrates the danger – which was condemned by an epilepsy charity). Be conscious of using videos in presentations, pitches and talks.

And above all? Give the user control over what content they consume. Pushing it on them is not only a shady marketing tactic – but it could be potentially dangerous.

Let’s do better marketing

Accessibility is a huge topic – with many different angles. From physical to mental, to permanent to temporary – there is a plethora of conditions, situations and obstacles that “disable” us. And that’s why this topic is so important. When we presume that our users – our target audience – is “able” all the time not only do we waste time and money on marketing materials that can’t be used. But we also exclude. And whatever the discussion, exclusion is always wrong.

Simply, we want to do better marketing – because we want to do better! And by changing our approach we can do this.

Accessibility, inclusivity & the user: in-depth

Would you like to learn more about accessibility in design?

Download our in-depth thought leadership piece below. We explore everything from using creative skills to broadening tester groups – to improve accessibility in design.

What is Digital Scribbles?

Have you ever had a dream project you’d love to embark on… but never got the chance? Digital Scribbles is the place where we stretch our creative legs – giving us the chance to push past our everyday boundaries.

We challenge our team with exciting concepts – and together, we bring them to life. From creating new brands to designing editorial pieces, Digital Scribbles is where we show our true potential as graphic designers, digital designers, content creators, copywriters and marketers. Take a look at our creative design portfolio here.