4 Must-Have Design Principles to Achieve Web Content Accessibility and Compliance

In 1999, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created an internationally recognised standard called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines define how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities.

Today, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are used all over the world by content creators, developers, accessibility testers, and anyone who wishes to ensure the digital experience.

Put simply, web content accessibility is making sure your website is accessible for all users.


Why are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines universally accepted?


The WCAG still provides an actionable framework for creating or remediating websites to be accessible.

It’s specific and technical, with supplemental documentation that outlines methods and techniques that would be considered to pass or fail the minimum accessibility expectations of each checkpoint.


What do the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines include?


There are 12 guidelines, which provide the basic framework and goals that set a benchmark to make web content more accessible to users with different disabilities.

There are also four principles of web content accessibility guidelines: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.

This is also sometimes abbreviated to POUR.

Let’s dive into these principles in more detail.


1. Perceivable:

Information and user interface have to be presented in a way that users can perceive.

If all of your website’s information and its user interface (e.g. interactive links, text boxes, buttons, and so on) are presented in ways that all users can sense and understand, then your site will pass the perceivable design principle.

Here are some of the web content accessibility guidelines to ensure your site is perceivable:

Text Alternatives (also known as alt-text): This is where you provide text alternatives for any non-text content. For example, describing in words what is in an image on your site, so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, or symbols.

Adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.

Distinguishable: Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.


2. Operable

User interface and navigation must be operable. This means it can’t contain an interaction that a user can’t perform.

Here are some of the operable guidelines:

Keyboard Accessible: Make your site’s functionality available from a keyboard.

Seizures and Physical Reactions: Do not design content in a way that will cause seizures or physical reactions.

Navigable: Include ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.


3. Understandable

Information and the operation of a user interface must be understandable, so users can understand both the content and the functionality of your website.

Here are some of the web content accessibility guidelines to ensure your site is understandable:

Readable: Ensure text is readable and understandable.

Predictable: Make sure your web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.

Input Assistance: Help users avoid and correct mistakes.


4. Robust

Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a range of users, including assistive technologies.

The robust guideline is:

Compatible: Maximise compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.


How can I achieve the guidelines of each design principle?


These guidelines are assessed alongside success criteria. For each success criterion, WCAG also lists examples of how to achieve the guidance in practice. These are known as “sufficient techniques”.

The success criteria are classified into three levels of conformance: level A, AA, and AAA. Level A achieves the most basic accessibility compliance, with level AAA achieving the “gold star” of web content accessibility.

Let’s have a look at each level of conformance.


Level A: Make your site accessible to some users

Level A generally focuses on basic steps that can be taken to avoid the most obvious violations of the accessibility principles.

For example, Section 1.4.1 Use of Color is a level-A success criterion. It outlines that sites must not use color as the only means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element.

So in order to meet this criterion, when you change the font colour on your website to illustrate a hyperlink, you could underline it or put it in another font style altogether, so someone with visual impairments can more easily decipher colour.

Level AA: Make your site accessible to most users

Web content accessibility guidelines level AA meet all of the success criteria for level A, as well as some extras.

For example of the success criterion in the WCAG, under Guideline 1.4.4: Resize text, achieving level AA requires websites to also “text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality.”

Under Guildine 2.4.6: Headings and Labels, to achieve level AA, “headings and labels describe topic or purpose.”

In Australia, organisations are expected to meet Level AA compliance. This means that your organisation should aim to meet either WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliance; or WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliance.


Level AAA: Your site is accessible to all users

Level AAA is the “holy grail” of web content accessibility. This includes level A and AA criteria, as well as extra criteria like Guideline 1.2.6: Sign Language (Prerecorded), “sign language interpretation is provided for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media.”


Ready to ensure your site meets the web content accessibility standards?

Providing website accessibility needs to be at the forefront when updating or revamping your website.

Web accessibility could provide financial benefits in the form of cost savings, including lower maintenance costs, a reduced requirement to provide web alternatives, saving your organisation hundreds of hours every week on customer service time.

While you may put website accessibility on the back burner, you are neglecting your core audience. Making your site accessible to people with disabilities may also attract other users too, because web accessibility helps more than just those who need it – those on mobile, older users, and users with low-bandwidth connections (plus automatically optimising site content for search) will also get to experience your website, and get the info they need quickly.

Best of all, you don’t need to commit to a full website redesign. You simply need a few tweaks to ensure your website is accessible to more users, and watch as your organisation benefits.

And this is just a phone call away…


Web123 has partnered with AudioEye to provide the digital accessibility tools, services, and expertise you need to build universally accessible web and mobile experiences.

Book your free Accessibility Compliance Audit with one of our friendly Web123 website experts so you can see how small changes can make a big difference to those who use your website.

Call us on 1800 932 123 today.

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