Embracing The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 & 2.1) with a solid WCAG checklist could be your golden ticket to web design success. Web design has become a highly sought-after and lucrative career choice, merging technical prowess with boundless creativity. 

Demands on web designers have grown and evolved, with a staggeringly high percentage of websites falling short of accessibility standards. And in turn, creating barriers for user experience (UX) of people with disabilities. We’ve created an 18-point WCAG checklist to help unlock 4 fundamental principles of inclusion in accessible web design.

WCAG guidelines checklist: why it matters & why you need it

If you’re unfamiliar with WCAG 2.1 and WCAG 2.2, they’re the critical and universal principles of inclusive and accessible web and app design. A go-to WCAG guidelines checklist can help ensure maximal usability of digital assets, especially for people with disabilities. Referencing the fundamental principles in a WCAG 2.1 AA checklist promotes optimal hygiene of inclusive design. It’s a resource to help overcome accessibility challenges from the start by integrating meaningful user experiences, so digital navigation is fluid and frictionless for anyone.

1 in 4 people in the United States have a disability, with users facing barriers to accessing digital content. These hurdles prevent them from gaining the benefits and opportunities offered online. And that’s where the WCAG comes into play, and a tool like a WCAG guidelines checklist is invaluable.

Let’s take a look at how web designers can embrace WCAG to unlock unexpected levels of creativity and innovation with inclusion. 

WCAG guidelines checklist: accessibility expertise for web designers

Depth of knowledge and understanding of the WCAG can vary among web designers. Some know and integrate WCAG principles proactively into their design process, staying up to date with the latest guidelines, techniques, and best practices. All this to ensure their designs are inclusive to a broad user and audience range.

But not every web designer has the in-depth insight and understanding of WCAG fundamentals. Digital accessibility may not have been central to their training or experience. So, some designers may have knowledge gaps or a lack of awareness about specific web accessibility guidelines and techniques.

With a WCAG guidelines checklist, web designers will feel more confident to push the boundaries of creative design without sacrificing aesthetics or functionality. 

WCAG guidelines checklist to supercharge web accessibility

Web designers need accessibility to meet innovation. Their ultimate goal and role is to design websites that captivate and include all users. That’s why we’ve crafted a dynamic WCAG guidelines checklist tailored specifically for you—the accessibility-minded, visionary web designer.

Why create an ultimate WCAG guidelines checklist for web designers?

Because designers are often the starting and ongoing point of contact for changes and maintenance to a website, alongside developers and content managers. For that reason alone, we know that any designer will benefit from enhancing UX with a touch of innovative inclusion.

An overall and general great starting place to learn more about the ‘gold standard for web accessibility’ is the official WCAG documentation itself. See the key WCAG Success Criteria for Designers for specific insights for web designers. And now, without further ado…

The 18-point WCAG guidelines checklist: unlocking WCAG’s “POUR” acronym

By using our WCAG checklist as a go-to resource, web designers can make a difference in the UX of everyone online. The WCAG abides by four core digital accessibility principles as standards and assessment grounds of a website’s universal usability and UX. The acronym POUR – perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust, are the four key traits of a website that’s designed inclusively. By granting access and a fair playing field to anyone online, designers foster inclusion, adhering to these four principles strategically.

Let’s start with a list of some of the more common and well-known accessibility best practices to integrate, enhancing the digital journey and UX of individuals of all abilities. This way, you can see their direct application on how perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust websites can and should be created with inclusive design. Apply the 18 WCAG guidelines checklist points and get ahead of other designers with a leg up on inclusive web design.

Unleash perceivability: so we can all see, hear, & experience your website

1. Alt text – bring your visuals to life with descriptive alternative text for images, videos, and audio. Give screen readers, keyboard navigation software, braille displays, and any assistive tech tools the chance to deliver the value of visuals to any user, whether visually impaired, blind, or with cognitive disabilities.

2. Color contrast – amp up the color contrast between foreground and background elements, making text, ideas, and valuable insights pop like superheroes in action for better engagement and overall results. 

3. Logical & clear headings & page structure – assemble a league of clear and consistent headings to guide users through your content with ease. Remember, inclusive navigation has to be intuitive, logical, and structured. Break up each web page with body, headings and sufficient spacing, coherent and frictionless flow of visuals, simple but strategically clear content, and working links. Use strong, direct, and correct wording for functional content with links, buttons, and interactive media. 

4. Captions & transcripts – equip your multimedia content with powerful captions and transcripts to ensure everyone can access the information, whether hearing impaired, coping with ADHD, or dyslexia.

5. Keyboard navigation – empower users to navigate your website using their keyboard alone, so no motor impairments or physical disabilities pose barriers.

Ignite operability: give users the freedom to engage & navigate easily

6. Give assistive tech the foundation it needs – transform your website into a playground of accessibility, ensuring all functionality is accessible via keyboard input, voice command, braille display, and other assistive tech. HTML tags and code are critical here, and same goes for ARIA labels. Provide simple, instructive, and direct messages in clear language for buttons and links.

7. Harness the power of touch and gestures – enabling users to effortlessly interact with your site on their mobile devices, regardless of physical, learning, or motor disabilities.

8. Implement smooth and seamless scrolling and navigation – take users on a smooth journey through your content, so everything from mobile to desktop UX are fun and easy, navigable, and as effortless and engaging as possible. Give everyone the gift of enjoying your online experience as fully as you can.

9. The gift of time – allow anyone engaging on your website to read and interact with your content at their own pace. Going back to the list above, this can be especially valuable for the inclusion of people with learning disabilities, hearing or visual impairments, or someone with motor challenges. Equip your website with transcripts, recorded video, and the integration of a sleek accessibility widget

With leading AI-powered accessibility solutions, websites can cost-effectively deliver on-demand features for unique disability profiles and needs in just one touch or click.

Drive understandability:

10. Words: use them wisely and sparingly, but strategically – use concise, easily comprehensible language. Keep content and all copy free of jargon, so messages are clear, direct, and don’t contain fluff. Minimize questions regarding semantics and meaning of your ideas. Anyone from second language readers, students, and of course your target audience should be able to understand every word of the content. Think, then write. And if you’re working collaboratively with content writers, make sure they are aware of the importance of concision and clarity to amplify inclusion.

11. Hierarchies: structuring the content into collateral that makes sense – organize your content in a logical and hierarchical manner, leading users through a clear, smooth digital adventure they can easily follow. Start with a simple & straightforward but engaging title that delivers the purpose of your content. Then gradually build the hierarchy with headings (h1, h2, h3, etc), along with body text, integration of visuals, buttons, interactive media, inclusion of functional links, and more. Make it easy to understand and move through your website, because assistive tech will also find it easier to do so if a human can.

12. Forms: keep it simple so anyone can submit them – provide users with easy to fill forms, guiding them to successful completion with clarity and precision. Every form field should clearly state what it requires. Also error messages should help guide users correct incorrectly completed form fields. So if there’s a typo, misuse of characters, or it’s a field that should be free of numeric symbols, tell users with tooltips and pop-ups.  Assistive tech can more easily understand and relay what users should do. 

Also, ensure you program forms correctly. This makes a huge difference in flowing through the process manually and easily. And when someone has finally completed a form, make the submit button clear as day and easy to click through or tap. 

13. Give clear instructions – listen, we can’t emphasize this enough, but tell your website visitors what to do in the exact words they’ll understand so they can gain the full UX of your website. Give them tooltips, helping users conquer complex interactions – with confidence. The more instructional micro-copy you can provide to walk users through processes like cart checkouts, submission of forms, and interacting with clickbait, the chances are higher you’ll increase leads, sales, traffic, and ultimately improve UX.

14. Stop, hide or pause – flash or animation should be able to do any of these with a quick disablement or user settings adjustment. Why? A. because the WCAG says so, but B. because they’re reasoning behind the guideline is to consider and include those with conditions like epilepsy, other motion sensitivity conditions, or anyone coping with ADHD and a range of learning disabilities. 

The ability to control animation has an impact on diverse communities of users. Seizures can be triggered by flash and/or video animation, and other conditions can make it critical for users to avoid overwhelming or distracting motion effects. 

Embrace robustness:

15. Keep technology up to date – ensure your website supports the latest web browsers and assistive technologies overall. Look at the most common needs of your target audience. If it’s mobile device UX that’s in high demand, give them a sense of your innovative and sleek touch with responsive and inclusive web design that’ll capture anyone’s attention. Think about what you want your audience to experience, and deliver the UX with the right technology.

16. Secure, strategic programming & code – validate your code to eliminate vulnerabilities and ensure your website remains unbreakable. Bugs, security breaches, and any vulnerabilities will put you at risk and potentially hinder your business and accessibility.

17. Harness the power of responsive design – allowing your website to adapt seamlessly to different devices and screen sizes. Remember that smartphones and tablets are doing so much of our online search when we’re on the go. People with disabilities are no exception, so giving them a chance to buy in and engage with your offering only extends your revenue and growth potential further. 

18. Test, test, test – continuously test and optimize accessibility features, unleashing your full potential to create a digital experience that stands the test of time. 

Remember: there’s AI-powered automated testing that can be done with scanners and accessibility checkers. Along with other tools that identify and remediate digital accessibility violations automatically to help ensure ADA web compliance, and adherence to WCAG guidelines. And then there are also manual, hands-on accessibility testing audits performed by experts. Along with actual accessibility testing with individuals who have specific conditions, impairments, and disabilities. 

Blending the best of human and machine will likely deliver the optimal outcome, so consider using a combo of automated testing and human assessment for top results.

Spark creativity in web design

6 ways web designers can amplify inclusion & web accessibility

Yes, we have our good intentions to deliver the above 18-point WCAG guidelines checklist to help web designers tackle accessibility head-on and run full speed ahead. But we also know that digital accessibility is an inexhaustible field. 

The speed of technology’s evolution means UX must evolve in parallel. And it’s a designer’s job to break down barriers of websites just as much as developers, writers, and programmers.

Staying on top of the accessible web design game means more than just adopting the aforementioned checklist. You might need some professional development training or courses, or maybe even consulting time with a digital accessibility expert. What’s certain is that the journey to a designer’s optimal understanding of accessibility for websites doesn’t start and end with the checklist above, or the tips below. But it’s a start and helps.

So to add to the mix of guidelines, here are 5 great ways to get ahead of the competition to always be both innovative and inclusive with web design. As technology develops and new WCAG checklists evolve, you too can develop your niche to be an innovator of accessible web design. Like any career, only the most skilled, aware, and knowledgeable can truly get and stay ahead, so huddle in. Here are some words to the wise.

1. Invest in A11Y’s accessible design course

“Accessible Design: The Basics” is a program designed to demystify the world of accessibility. Specifically tailored for web designers, this course is led by industry experts, offering practical techniques to ensure websites are accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities. Learn how to implement the above WCAG guidelines checklist and dozens more, optimize navigation for screen readers, create accessible forms, and more. 

2. Speak to accessibility experts on social media & networking groups

Consider talking to accessibility experts who are well-versed in guidelines such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Accessibility experts understand that accessibility and creativity can coexist harmoniously, and can provide support with finding innovative solutions to accessible design. They should also be knowledgeable about the nuances, best practices, and evolving standards of digital accessibility.  

Reach out and engage in online communities that foster inclusive web design – on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Reddit. Plus connect F2F at networking events and build your network consistently and consult whenever you can.

3. Find inspiration from accessible website designs

When creating an accessible website, it’s essential to consider various impairments such as visual, auditory, motor, cognitive, and speech limitations. HubSpot’s article features a valuable list of accessible websites that can serve as inspiration for design work. These websites demonstrate successful implementations of accessibility features, showcasing how inclusive design can enhance the user experience for all individuals. 

4. Listen to web accessibility podcasts

Listening to web accessibility podcasts can be incredibly beneficial for web designers, providing numerous benefits and tips to enhance their skills and knowledge in this evolving field. By tuning into these podcasts, web designers can stay up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques, ensuring their designs align with current accessibility standards. These podcasts often feature real-world case studies, providing valuable examples and strategies to address common accessibility challenges.

5. Participate in accessibility events

Keep an eye out for conferences, seminars, and events focusing on accessibility. Attend accessibility-related meet-ups to network with industry experts and stay updated on the latest developments. These opportunities can help web designers stay at the forefront of industry trends and deepen expertise in building creative, accessible digital experiences. 

6. Practice, practice, practice

It isn’t enough to simply read about accessibility guidelines and techniques; they must be put into practice. It must also become a way of thinking. Building accessibility into web design is vital and web designers have an array of techniques and strategies at their disposal to ensure that websites are accessible to all users. Experiment with accessibility web design techniques to meet WCAG requirements while maintaining that creative edge.   

UserWay: fostering & promoting accessibility in design

UserWay’s AI-powered solution is the secret sauce to creating accessible, WCAG-driven websites. Our accessibility solution aligns your web design with the latest version of WCAG, making it a powerful compass for building aesthetically pleasing and inclusive websites for everyone. 

Have questions? 

Talk to one of our accessibility experts today. 

FAQS

Why is accessible design critical for web design & how a WCAG checklist help?

Accessible design promotes inclusivity by removing barriers and providing equal access to information and services. It allows people of all abilities to easily navigate, interact, and engage with digital content, empowering them to participate fully in the online world. 

Will learning about WCAG help me in my web design career with a tool like a WCAG guidelines checklist?

Absolutely! As digital accessibility becomes increasingly important, businesses and organizations are on the hunt for web designers who have expertise in creating accessible websites. By demonstrating your knowledge and ability to design with accessibility in mind, you can differentiate yourself from competitors and position yourself as an asset in the industry. With our 18-point WCAG guidelines checklist you can reference tips and best practices to get you started.

Where do I incorporate WCAG principles in design, and will adhering to the POUR acronym with your WCAG guidelines checklist help? 

WCAG has bountiful resources to keep you up to speed on accessible web design parameters and techniques. 

Accessibility shouldn’t be an add-on or separate process, but an essential part of web design. 

By incorporating accessibility from the start of the design process, you not only save valuable time and resources, you bypass costly retrofits down the line. And yes, our checklist will give you a head start, but you’ll need to stay up to date constantly and follow the checklist. Plus don’t overlook the 5 tips we suggested to continuously develop your career as  a web designer that truly values and fosters inclusion.