If you are like my mom, or like many folks over the age of 50-60 out there, the thought of shopping online or completing any task online is a dreadful one. Often times, anything that requires more than few minutes of attention and usability creates a mental block in those who are not used to navigating online. If you are blind or disabled, your needs would be met by one of two methods: phone assistance or in-person services. But what if you couldn’t? What if your only option was using a website or a mobile application. Seems almost insignificant right? What are the odds of that happening? Well in the past 2 years these odds have become astronomically high. To the point where usability compliance went from an afterthought to a huge spike in lawsuits for non compliance.
Web designers are starting to have a big impact on how people live their lives. Websites and mobile apps are becoming more and more important for everything from communication, shopping, to even interacting with others. When you think about it that way, the design decisions designers make can really help shape someone’s life.
In recent years because of the pandemic many elderly or disabled people are forced to utilize internet apps and websites as the primary means of communication, shopping and interaction. How does that change the way web designers approach projects?
Does this “new normal” change how brands intent to interact with its’ customers?
Yes, it should.
With countries around the world imposing some degree of hiatus or restrictions, pandemic-related sales have increased since. With the closing of many physical stores and other locations, such as banks, hospitals and government offices in recent times most transactions can only be accomplished online. This has resulted in an increased demand for websites designed to apply to all devices that are able make use of internet or wireless connection. Where before having a website was often times a great luxury, now has become a dire necessity.
The responsibility of web design have never been tougher. Take a look at these stats:
– Websites are now used more than any other form of media to find information and make decisions about brands, products and services. It’s the new “superhighway” that connects people with businesses in every industry. – Bizrate Research
– Almost half of all internet users start their search on Google or Bing by typing one word into the search box – most often a brand name like Nike or Coca Cola – followed by three words from what they want to buy, such as shoes or soft drinks.– Google/Nielsen study
New normal brings new user personas.
The pandemic has driven many previously low-users into an otherwise familiar world of technology. The problem is: Many sites and UX designers only address web accessibility as a government requirement, spending little time thinking about how design affects people differently. Slapping a generic compliance banner agreement on the site and putting zero thought as to what actually happens with those users that depend on it.
With governments shutdown – the elderly and those in isolation for long periods of time fully stopped their visits to retail stores. Without in-store shopping, these new personas have turned to e-commerce – often for the first time.
Last year’s survey carried out by Statista and released in August 2020 showed that the use of online shopping in those aged over 65 in the UK jumped to 65% in 2020, up from 54% the year before. The numbers are drastically increasing, now, that we are slowly realizing that this will be the new way of operating daily.
So what should web accessibility look like in 2021 and beyond? How do designers adapt?
Brands often create profiles of different potential customer groups to help them know how to reach these people. Most of the time designers do not design for elderly or disabled, yet these are now huge groups of customers who are now much more likely to shop online. And they should be able to do so with the same ease of individuals without accessibility challenges.
Imagine having to navigate uber eats for the first time. Imagine using .gov website, which are notorious for poor UX and confusion, if you are partially blind or have limited mobility of your hands…it is a nightmare!
Almost over night, the pandemic birthed a new wave of online customers and user personas. Brands must now start to seriously consider how accessibility affects them.
Digital accessibility should change from a generic sticker compliance to an important business reality.
One of the most important considerations for web designers moving forward will be accessibility.
Grocery stores should go back to the drawing board and design a website that caters to these new customer types who don’t have as much independence.
All companies should be mindful of the importance of design–in particular, web and mobile development–for people with disabilities. Older generations now make up a significant portion of the internet’s customer base. COVID-19 has changed the social demographics of web users, so investing in accessible experiences will pay dividends.
For a list of web accessibility evaluation and to learn more about the compliances policies please visit: https://www.w3.org/WAI/ER/tools/