Summary: Website redesigns and corporate rebranding exercises are the perfect opportunity to start thinking about digital accessibility. As you kick off a new creative lifecycle, Design Evaluations from Level Access help you identify and eliminate accessibility barriers in the design phase, saving time and money in development. As businesses and consumers increasingly shift to digital channels, brands are more focused on digital design and user experience (UX). However, when it comes to crafting exceptional digital experiences, accessibility is often an afterthought—layered onto finished digital assets as a box-checking exercise, once everything is designed and development is underway.Brands with experience designing for digital channels understand the flaw in this approach. And the most inclusive brands know that the best way to ensure an accessible digital experience is to design it that way from the outset. It’s called “shifting left”—a philosophy of work based on the fact that the earlier you think about accessibility, the faster and more efficiently you can improve it. Of course, if you’ve already built your website or app, it may be frustrating to hear about the benefits of building in accessibility from day one. But it’s never too late to fix things: digital redesigns and corporate rebranding initiatives offer the perfect opportunity to incorporate accessibility earlier in your processes.

Strike while the iron’s hot

During a website redesign, and in larger rebranding initiatives, designers are asking themselves fundamental questions about the look and feel of their brand and branded experiences. These are questions like:

  • What color palette are we using?
  • What font will suit the experience best?
  • How do we structure and place our content so it tells the right story?
  • How does a user move through our content journey to their desired action?

Each of these key questions provides an excellent opportunity to take a digital experience from bland to bold. But they also have the potential to expand that digital experience to a wider audience, including people with disabilities and others with web accessibility needs. Immediate accessibility improvements can be made in the course of a rebrand or redesign by adding some extra context to each key question. For example:

  • What color palette are we using? And does it provide for sufficient color contrast between elements and their backgrounds?
  • What font will suit the experience best? And does it help users with reading disabilities to distinguish between characters easily?
  • How do we structure and place our content so it tells the right story? And is our heading structure nested correctly to enable users with visual impairments to follow it correctly with their screen readers?
  • How does a user move through our content journey to their desired action? And will that user flow operate for keyboard users, tabbing through an experience without a mouse or pointing device?

The above is by no means an exhaustive list, but it represents the kind of questioning necessary to determine whether you’re designing for the broadest audience possible, including those among the 61 million U.S. adults with a disability who are impacted most by web accessibility. Now, you’ve moved beyond “will this look good” to “will this work well,” ensuring you not only attract, but retain that broader audience once you launch your redesign / rebrand. By reviewing designs through an accessibility lens, you’re actually enhancing the experience design for everyone. After all, better color contrast, more readable fonts, and logically structured content make for better experiences for all users—period.

A designer’s secret weapon

As the old saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” To assess the accessibility of designs, you first need to know what key questions to ask, but you may not have the depth of knowledge around accessibility guidelines to be able to analyze designs appropriately to find the answers. And even if you or your teammates do have in-depth knowledge of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and accessibility best practices for optimal user experience, it’s always helpful to have a second opinion from an outside expert.Level Access’ offering, Design Evaluations, provides exactly that expertise. Design Evaluations are a fast, reliable solution for creative teams in the middle of high-priority design projects, like a rebrand or redesign, and in need of agile, actionable feedback. But they can also be useful anytime a new webpage or design element is being added to your site. This offering is by designers, for designers. We evaluate digital designs and design elements to save brands time and money by helping you identify and fix accessibility issues before designs are sent for development.And no matter what the project, there’s an evaluation option to fit your goals:

  1. Digital Brand Evaluations: for incorporating accessible design into the foundations of digital brand styling (color and contrast, typography, core functional elements such as buttons, etc.). This option supports teams undertaking rebranding projects and reviewing specific elements of their brand identity.
  2. Interface Design Evaluations: for incorporating accessibility requirements into everyday design practices (newly designed screens, views, pages, etc.). This option supports teams adding to, updating, or completely overhauling the design of their digital products, like websites and mobile apps.

Based on a design rule library created by Accessible UX expert Karen Hawkins, Design Evaluations help confirm designs’ adherence to WCAG success criteria. Our evaluators review:

  • Color palettes
  • Typography
  • Fundamental elements
  • Comps
  • Wireframes
  • Component or pattern libraries

Evaluation results are easily accessed and understood in our all-in-one platform, where we provide a clear report on issues with actionable guidance on how to resolve them, plus general guidance to help design teams embed best practices into their workflows. And the benefits will accrue over time as designers become more aware of the issues and how to resolve them.

Take the next step

Making your digital properties fully accessible to all requires careful consideration about the way they’re designed and built. Design Evaluations from Level Access empower designers to address potential accessibility issues from wherever they’re at, making the whole development lifecycle faster and more efficient, and improving digital accessibility for everyone.Learn more about the power of this market-leading, unique capability, and how it can accelerate accessibility for your organization by accessing our on-demand webinar.