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Universal Designs – There’s More to UI/UX than You Know!

January 19th, 2022 . 6 minutes read
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Hi there,

I’m a designer in the software industry for many years. I have seen all sorts of designs throughout my career, from the best ones to the worst ones.

The one thing I have learned from my experience is that many people confuse Universal Design with accessibility, and I used to be one of those. It took me a while to understand it. Let me brief you on what I have understood over the years-

Universal design is inclusive of accessibility, but not solely focused on it. Rather, Universal Design expands the definition of accessibility by including all persons, not only persons with disabilities.

An important step is to change how one perceives what needs to be done to make content accessible. Think of the mobile user, for example, how can content be delivered to fit their needs? A shift in thinking about addressing these concerns from the context of accessibility towards the context of access is necessary.

I’m going to talk throughout this blog about what it means by a Universal Design, how accessibility plays a role in web designing, and what points are to be remembered to create a good design. So, let’s dive in-

What is a Universal Design?

Universal design is the composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.

It’s a fundamental condition of good design. If one environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits from it.

7 Principles of Universal Designs!

The 7 Principles of Universal Design were developed in 1997 by a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, led by the late Ronald Mace in the North Carolina State University.

The purpose of these principles is to guide the design of environments, products and communications.

According to the Center for Universal Design at NCSU, the Principles apply to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments.

Let’s see what these principles are-

  1. Equitable use: The design should have diverse abilities to make it marketable to the customers.
  2. Flexibility: A design should contain a wide range of personal preferences and choices of methods to provide flexibility in using it.
  3. Simple & intuitive: Make sure your design is super easy to understand by the lowest of minds.
  4. Perceptible information: The design should render all the necessary information efficiently to the user, irrespective of the ambience and users’ sensory abilities. It should be able to express itself. 
  5. Tolerance for error: The design should be able to reduce risks and the adverse consequences of unintended actions.
  6. Low physical effort: The user should be able to navigate through the design with minimal effort and exhaustion.
  7. Size and space for approach: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

That said, you have read it till here, which means you are a designer or want to be one, then you must have heard about the term ‘accessibility’ in web designs. Haven’t you? Well, let’s see what it means-

What is Accessibility in UX/UI Designing?

We define a great user experience as a combination of better usability, great graphic design and easy accessibility. 

Accessibility is the concept of whether a product or service is usable by everyone—however they encounter it.

The laws of accessibility exist to allow users of all abilities to understand, use and enjoy the web. A great example of an accessible design would be any content or functionality that is fully available to and usable by people with disabilities.

As designers, it is our responsibility to make sure we design in a way that is usable to all users irrespective of their situation, abilities, or context. Every designer should try to accommodate all potential users in many contexts of use anyway. To do so has firm benefits—notably better designs for all. 

Universal design is a plan and the way we measure that plan is accessibility.

These are the three factors that rate your design in terms of accessibility-

  • Completion– Whether the task is achievable in the way user expects.
  • Efficiency– The minimum possible time it takes for the user to navigate through what’s he looking for and carry out the process.
  • Satisfaction– Is the entire experience from start to end delightful?

Accessibility is all about removing barriers and providing the benefits of technology for everyone.

Why accessibility is important in web designs?

Today, everything we see and wherever we see, it is connected to the web and the internet in one way or another. Whether it’s education, employment, government, commerce, health care, recreation, or else, every field now have an online presence.

Therefore, it becomes important to see to it that what we see on the web is easy to understand and navigate to everyone. This, in turn, ensures equal exploring opportunities for people with disabilities so that they can participate actively in society.

An accessible website is often one of the easiest ways to do business with people who cannot read print material, who face difficulty going to a physical store or mall, etc. Furthermore, what you do for accessibility overlaps with other best practices such as mobile web design, usability, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Here are some quick tips to make your design better accessible-

  • Keep your navigation predictable, as every icon you use and how you use it matters a great deal.
  • Make your text big, bold, organized, and most importantly, easier to read.
  • Avoid content that can trigger unfriendly reactions from someone. Your design should be safe for every user’s eyes.
  • To make it accessible to everyone, make your design compatible with keyboard alone and even without one.

Wrap up

What we see is what we analyze. How well can we see makes all the difference and how easy it is to see is what makes a design a good one. And that’s where a designer plays the part.

“A good design is easier to see, to understand, and to use by everyone, and above all, it speaks for itself!”

Remember you might want to add appealing colors, captivating animations, and illustrations to make YOUR design stand out, which is completely okay, but when you are working for a company – you should not forget that the only sole objective behind the design is to deliver an awesome user experience. And as long as it is easy-to-understand, accessible-to-all and self-expressible, YOU ARE GOOD TO GO!

Happy designing!

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Author: Ankit Pareek
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