Universal Design

Universal design is a useful idea to help guide the design of web content to fit the needs of your audience. This post outlines what universal design is and how you can use this idea to help create a website that is well considered and useful to your audience.

What is Universal Design?

Universal design is the design of products and environments to make them accessible to all people regardless of age, ability or other factors.

It includes ideas of how aesthetic design choices can be paired with adaptability and accessibility to make something usable by everyone to the greatest extent possible.

The term “universal design” was coined by architect Ronald Mace to describe this idea that all products and environments should be designed to be appropriately usable by all. Mace with a team of researchers at North Carolina State University came up with 7 Principles of Universal Design as follows:

  1. Equitable Use – that the design is useful to people with diverse abilities
  2. Flexibility in Use – that the design accommodates a wide range of preferences and abilities
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use – that the design is easy to understand regardless of experience and ability
  4. Perceptible Information – that the design is easy to understand regardless of the conditions around the user or their sensory abilities
  5. Tolerance for Error – that the design limits chance of misusing or breaking the design in someway
  6. Low Physical Effort – that the design can be used comfortably and efficiently with minimum effort
  7. Size and Space for Approach and Use – that the design can be used regardless of the user’s mobility and there is space to use the design

Considerations for online content

  • Web accessibility forms a big part of universal design for the web, you can find out more at Accessibility: It Helps Everyone.
  • Make sure your website is easy to navigate with a well-structured navigation menu.
  • Use taxonomies such as Categories and Tags to help your audience find relevant content.
  • Make sure there is a good level of contrast between the text and background of your website. Check out the Contrast Rebellion manifesto to find good and bad examples of contrast.
  • Is your website and content responsive? Is it easy to navigate and read regardless of whether the audience uses a phone or laptop to access your website? Make sure to check how your website looks on different devices.

*This guide was derived from the Coventry.Domains support documentation with permission of the Coventry.Domains team.