The importance of being accessible

Make your website work for all users, and everyone, including your business, will benefit.

By Zoe Lester

Accessibility is not just a legal requirement, it’s an essential part of best practice design. It increases usability, lets more people use your service, helps with mobile web design, and benefits SEO.

But there’s more to it than simply using legible font sizes, linear layouts and the right colours. You might find you need to design in a completely different way, for example some users with motor disabilities may prefer keyboard use only. Other times guidelines might seem contradictory. For example, using bright contrasts is advised for those with low vision, while some users on the autistic spectrum prefer low contrasts.In other words, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Instead, take time to understand the challenges facing different users, adapt your designs accordingly, test extensively, and make the best compromises to suit your customers.

To help you do this, check out these handy guidelines from the team at on how to design for different accessibility needs.

Designing for users of screen readers


  • describe images and provide transcripts for video
  • follow a linear, logical layout
  • structure content using HTML5
  • build for keyboard use only
  • write descriptive links and heading – for example, Contact us


  • only show information in an image or video
  • spread content all over a page
  • rely on text size and placement for structure
  • force mouse or screen use
  • write uninformative links and heading – for example, Click here

designing for screen readers


Designing for users on the autistic spectrum


  • write in plain English
  • use simple sentences and bullets
  • make buttons descriptive – for example, Attach files
  • build simple and consistent layouts


  • use bright contrasting colours
  • use figures of speech and idioms
  • create a wall of text
  • make buttons vague and unpredictable – for example, Click here
  • build complex and cluttered layouts

Designing for users on the autistic spectrum


Designing for users with physical or motor disabilities


  • make large clickable actions
  • give form fields space
  • design for keyboard or speech only use
  • design with mobile and touch screen in mind
  • provide shortcuts


  • demand precision
  • bunch interactions together
  • make dynamic content that requires a lot of mouse movement
  • have short time out windows
  • tire users with lots of typing and scrolling

Designing for users with physical or motor disabilities


Designing for users who are D/deaf or hard of hearing


  • write in plain English
  • use subtitles or provide transcripts for video
  • use a linear, logical layout
  • break up content with sub-headings, images and videos
  • let users ask for their preferred communication support when booking appointments


  • use complicated words or figures of speech
  • put content in audio or video only
  • make complex layouts and menus
  • make users read long blocks of content
  • don’t make telephone the only means of contact for users

Designing for users who are D/deaf or hard of hearing

Designing for users with dyslexia


  • use images and diagrams to support text
  • align text to the left and keep a consistent layout
  • consider producing materials in other formats (for example, audio and video)
  • keep content short, clear and simple
  • let users change the contrast between background and text


  • use large blocks of heavy text
  • underline words, use italics or write capitals
  • force users to remember things from previous pages – give reminders and prompts
  • rely on accurate spelling – use autocorrect or provide suggestions
  • put too much information in one place

designing for users with dyslexia


The content for the posters came from the accessibility team in Home Office Digital. Led by accessibility leads Emily Ball and James Buller, they are a group of twelve, each specialising on these conditions: blind and visual impairment, dyslexia, autism and ADHD, D/deaf and hard of hearing, mental health and motor disabilities.

Creative Commons Logo

The full range of posters

Find out more about universal design principles:

Part 1 in the series: Seven Crucial lessons for mobile banking
Part 3 in the series: How to design responsibly

Read more:

Learn more about universal design principles

Recent Articles

25. March 2019

Top five things to do after Customer Experience Benchmarking

Keep reaping rewards after you’ve finished benchmarking your Customer Experience
Read More
28. February 2019

Benchmark your way to Customer Experience success in three steps

Spot opportunities for growth and rapidly drive change across your business
Read More

Be Inspired

Subscribe to our Newtletter for a monthly round up of news and views on Service Design. Plus get our exclusive white paper on Customer Value Models for Retail.

Got a project in mind?

Get in touch and tell us what you’re thinking.

Drop us a line

020 3515 1030

Visit us

4 Wellesley Terrace
London N1 7NA