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Website Usability + Web Accessibility: 2024 Best Practices in Web Design

Dave Gibson

Creating a website that not only attracts but also retains users requires a blend of innovative design, intuitive navigation, and inclusivity. As the digital realm becomes increasingly central to our lives, ensuring that websites are accessible and user-friendly is not just a courtesy—it's a legal requirement. Not just in the US but abroad as well. The integration of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliance into website usability practices doesn't merely serve to widen access; it significantly enriches the user experience for all, leading to higher engagement and conversion rates.

Principles of Website Usability - Crafting Better User Experiences

  • Usability is the bread and butter of a positive web experience. It's about making your site intuitive, efficient, and satisfying to use. Key principles include:
  • Simplicity: Design with clarity and avoid unnecessary complexity.
  • Consistency: Use familiar conventions and ensure a consistent experience throughout.
  • Navigation: Offer easy-to-use navigation tools that allow users to find what they need quickly.\
  • Feedback: Provide immediate feedback for user actions to guide and reassure.
  • Error Handling: Design forgiving interfaces that prevent errors and offer easy resolutions when they occur.

Principles of Website Accessibility - Ensuring Inclusion for All

  • Accessibility ensures that websites are usable by people with a wide range of abilities. This includes those navigating with screen readers, keyboard-only users, and those requiring adjustable text sizes. Core principles involve:
  • Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
  • Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable.
  • Understandable: Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable.
  • Robust: Content must be robust enough to be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

Elevating User Experience Through Accessibility + Usability

Accessibility and usability share a common goal: to facilitate a seamless and positive experience for all users. Accessibility focuses on removing barriers that might hinder interaction with or access to websites by people with a range of disabilities. Usability, on the other hand, is about designing websites that are efficient, effective, and satisfying to use for the broadest audience possible. When these two areas converge, the result is a website that is not only universally accessible but also more appealing and easier to navigate for all users, regardless of ability.

Navigational Clarity and Efficiency
A website's navigation structure is its backbone. Clear, logical navigation is essential for users to efficiently move through a site and find what they need with the least effort. WCAG compliance ensures that navigation is intuitive for everyone by requiring descriptive labels for links, consistent navigation mechanisms, and multiple ways to find content. These requirements, while designed to support users with disabilities, inherently make sites more user-friendly for everyone by simplifying navigation and reducing the cognitive load on all users.

Content Clarity and Readability
At the heart of any website is its content. Making this content accessible and easy to comprehend is crucial. WCAG guidelines emphasize text alternatives for non-text content, captions for multimedia, and clear language. These accommodations ensure that information is perceivable and understandable to users with visual, auditory, and cognitive limitations. For the broader audience, this focus on clarity and readability means content that is easier to digest and retain, contributing to a more engaging user experience and encouraging longer site visits.

Responsive and Adaptive Design
A responsive website automatically adjusts to fit the screen it's being viewed on, providing an optimal viewing experience across a range of devices. WCAG compliance advocates for responsive design to ensure that content is accessible on mobile devices, which is also where a significant portion of web traffic originates. This adaptive approach not only meets the needs of users with disabilities who may rely on mobile devices for their accessibility features but also caters to the growing number of users who prefer smartphones and tablets for web browsing.

Enhanced Search Engine & AI Optimization (SEO)
The principles of WCAG compliance, such as providing alt text for images, ensuring content can be navigated using a keyboard, and using headings to structure content logically, help both search engine bots as well as AI bots to efficiently index the content of your website. Websites that are accessible and user-friendly are favored by search engines and are likely to rank higher in search results. This visibility leads to increased traffic, providing more opportunities for engagement and conversion today on our traditional search engines and also what’s next in an AI dominated landscape.

Additional Benefits of WCAG Website Compliance for Accessibility

Reduced Legal Exposure
In a global digital world one must not only pay attention to domestic laws, but also laws in other countries where your website can be accessed from. 

In the US, while most attention to date has been placed on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for commercial websites, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act for .gov sites, state laws in California and New York are having an increased impact on businesses. New York in particular is becoming a hot-bed for litigation in 2024 - since they do allow for damages.

But what most are unaware of are the laws in other countries. I’ve recently written a thorough review of international digital accessibility laws that expose US companies - and the one yet to hit will be the European Accessibility Act which will take effect Spring of 2025. This looks to be the next GDPR.

Expanded Market Reach
Accessibility opens your website to millions of users with disabilities and the growing demographic of seniors who may face similar challenges as those with disabilities. This expanded audience can significantly increase your site's engagement and potential customer base.

Don’t forget Seniors. The Baby Boomers are our first digital Seniors and not only is this cohort massive in size, it's also massive in wealth. 

Demonstrating DEI Commitment
A website that exemplifies accessibility and usability shows a commitment to DEI, attracting not just a broader spectrum of customers but also talent who values inclusivity.

It's the right thing to do
Web accessibility is a human right, and by making your website or app accessible, you are respecting the dignity, equality, and inclusion of people with disabilities - as well as Seniors. You are also demonstrating your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), which is increasingly important for customers, employees, and stakeholders.


Integrating WCAG compliance into website usability practices is a strategic approach that benefits not only users with disabilities but all users. It fosters an inclusive digital environment where everyone can navigate, understand, and interact with content effortlessly. For businesses, this broader accessibility can translate into increased user satisfaction, higher engagement rates, and improved conversion metrics. In embracing these principles, websites can ensure they are not only compliant with accessibility standards but are also positioned as leaders in providing exceptional digital experiences for all users.