How Web Accessibility and Design Work Together

Read time: 7 minutes

With everyone — from businesses and freelancers to bloggers and influencers — starting to create a website for themselves, it’s become increasingly harder to “separate yourself from the pack.” 

A lot of people invest thousands of dollars and hours looking for ways to make themselves stand out, with a lot of that work focused on online marketing. 

Numerous web owners look for ways to best portray themselves online, all in an effort to bring more people to their website, gain attention, and generate outcomes that are beneficial to their business.

But what happens after people land on your website is just as important as landing on the website itself, and that’s where design comes into play.

Engaging and impactful design can be the difference between someone staying on your website or leaving for something else, and many website owners know this.

They’ll then pour even more time and money into making sure the design is both eye-catching and properly portrays the visual identity of the website owner. Typical words thrown around during discovery sessions include “modern,” “edgy,” and “clean,” as business owners work to find the right combination that’ll help keep users on their website. 

One word that doesn’t stand out as much?


In our efforts to better stand out with our audience, many users have forgotten how important accessibility is to a high-quality website. 

Sadly, it’s not surprising. 

“Accessibility” and “design” are often seen as separate concepts, with many people throwing around a common adage that has steered people away from accessible design:

“Accessible design is ugly.”

Addressing a Common Myth

Frankly speaking, we can’t blame people too much for seeing accessible design as ugly.

(Even if we disagree with it.)

When it comes to strong accessible design, many of the implementations are hard to notice for most users. Whenever people see an “ugly” design that’s meant to be accessible, it’s usually because that design wasn’t executed properly.

Sadly, these designs are also what’s pointed out the most, lending towards the myth that “accessible design is ugly.” 

The truth about accessible design, and why many are hesitant to commit to it, is that it has a lot of technicalities and requirements that some designers view as “limiting.” 

Many designers love the freedom to create clever designs (guided by their client’s vision and goals, of course) that can engage the user and keep them on the site. And with many website owners wanting a particular approach for their site’s design (and that depends on goals, audience, and more), this already limits what a designer can create.

So when you introduce accessibility, you can imagine how “constrained” some of these designers might feel. 

Although some of that feeling is true — there are certain guidelines within the WCAG 2.1 that must be adhered to — accessible design is a lot more flexible than many may think. 

Accessibility + Design = Beautiful?

If you’re unsure of what beautiful and accessible design looks like, you don’t need to look far.

Simply check out the websites for Apple and The White House, and you’ll see two different approaches to how accessible design can be beautiful.

Let’s start with Apple.

Apple is known for its clean and simple design (design concepts that many people love in general). From its packaging to its product, there aren’t many “loud” things about Apple, and that’s on purpose. 

Apple believes that the product should do “most of the talking,” and they’ve really delivered on that belief. 

Apple homepage
Large, concise text and simple visuals are a staple of the online Apple brand.

This same idea is brought over to the Apple website, and you’ll quickly notice just how simple, clean, and visual it is. It’s what a lot of website owners would love for their own website.

And when you start to mess around with it, you can see why:

  • Resizable screen adjustments.
  • Keyboard navigation.
  • Simple and short copy.
  • Large text.

Sure, these may be basic implementations in regards to web accessibility, but Apple does it well and ensures the designs stay within its branding. 

With that said, Apple has seen its fair share of web accessibility issues and isn’t the “perfect” blend of accessible and minimalist design. But there are things we can learn from their shortcomings, and these are great things to keep in mind as you shift your attention to your own website. 

Now let’s turn to The White House website.

If you’ve seen news about the Biden Administration’s commitment to a more inclusive White House website experience, we’re not surprised.

Coming into his first year as president, an early talking point was his administration’s recommitment to creating an accessible online space, and they did so with great success.

The website nails all of the basics:

  • An easy to use and navigate structure.
  • Clear understanding of where links will take you.
  • Keyboard navigation.
  • Proper contrast between text and background.

Everything you’d expect from an accessible website is available for users.

But along with that, the website also offers high contrast mode (aka dark mode) and the ability to toggle large font sizes, both created to help make the content on the website easier to consume.

They’ve even considered their Spanish-speaking visitors, as the White House website offers a fully translated version of the website that visitors can use if Spanish is their primary language.

The White House homepage
Notice how the accessibility and Spanish options blend in with the beautiful design of the homepage.

Oh, and on top of all of that, the website is beautifully designed, and it’s the perfect rebuttal to the “accessible design is ugly” myth that is pervasive in the design world. 

Now to be fair, we are pointing at two websites that are tied to two of the most recognizable brands in the world, so it isn’t necessarily surprising to see that these websites have accessible features and practice implemented on the site.

They have the resources for it.

The better question for you is:

“How can my business implement some of these accessible practices to our site?”

What You Can Do

Although your business may not have the same budget as Apple or The White House, the fortunate thing for you is that implementing accessible practices can be quite easy. 

Our best advice for those that are just starting to do this?

Start small, and work your way up. 

One of the best ways to start implementing accessibility practices into your website is to focus on your content, and we’ve created an entire guide tailored specifically for that process.

But if you want to implement more radical change, take some time to examine the design, structure, and user experience of your website. 

Are you able to toggle through every clickable option on your website by keyboard?

Is there proper contrast between your text and the background? 

Are you relying on a legible font that’s properly sized? 

Asking these questions and more can offer guidance on how you can implement web accessibility into your website. 

And when your website adopts a more accessible design, you’ll be surprised by just how beautiful it’ll be…and who else will benefit from it other than people with disabilities. 

Looking for more ways to incorporate accessible design into your website? 

Why not check out the Unity Insights Newsletter?

Every two weeks, we share with you:

  1. A tip on web development, design, and accessibility.
  2. That week’s blog post, which dives deeper into the aforementioned topics.
  3. An interesting read from the internet…about the internet
  4. Any updates, specials, and promotional items from us! 

Plus, we always give you the opportunity to write back to us and let us know if you liked the newsletter or if you preferred something different. We take this feedback seriously, and you may even see your request addressed in the next newsletter!

We make sure that every newsletter sent is done so with the purpose of making your website better. 

With so many newsletters producing “spammy” and overly promotional content, we want to make sure that what you get from us offers the value you actually want from a newsletter…

…without taking too long to read.

Learn more about our newsletter at the “Unity Insights Newsletter” below and see if it makes sense for you and your morning routine! 

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