Modern web development is becoming increasingly clever. We can accomplish way more with way less, and it’s only getting easier. However, increased capability can often invite increased convolution if not adequately anticipated. That’s why honing your website with intuitive and easy-to-understand navigability is a must in this day and age.
The novelty of having any presence at all on the web has worn off. Now, audiences expect and need more out of websites.
It’s vital to assess the neurological landscape of your audience and its behavior with your website. Equipping the appearance of your site to accommodate as many possible different sensory conditions is a significant step in endearing your audience to you.
Understanding neurodiversity and its role in your website’s graphical layout and design is one of the first things you need to ask yourself when considering how to improve your site.
Neurodiversity alludes to the homogenization of different users’ neurological differences and needs. However, in a digital context, it refers more to the sensory input needs of users that utilize a site.
For example, a dyslexic user may benefit from being presented with a different input layout than a non-dyslexic user. Likewise, users with ADD/ADHD may have a more enjoyable journey on a website if it follows a structured path where the elements of the page can guide them toward one of two destinations.
The object, of course, is to achieve an inclusive online environment that is accessible to all, no matter how different each user is.
Understanding and empathizing with your audience is key. If you can learn what the most significant and prominent challenges within your entire audience are, you’ll have a good idea as to what could be the most impactful updates to your site to make it more approachable for them.
The goal you want to aim for is achieving a symbiotic relationship with three fundamental qualities of your site — making the site accessible to all, universally understandable, and easily usable.
You’ll want to undergo testing of different on-page elements and measure the user activity on different areas of the page and the duration of user sessions in certain areas of the site. From that, you’ll be able to discern what patterns people repeat on your site. It could cue you in on what elements need to be included or redesigned to appeal more broadly to more users.
Experiment with including different mediums of content on the site to appeal to different users, such as long-form written content or video. Over time, you’ll have a better understanding of what your audience responds well to based on the density of activity.
Let’s run through a few of the more common categories of website functionality that neurodiverse users often need:
Seizure Protection: Nullifying flashes and desaturating colors to calm down the tones of the site can help prevent unwanted seizures.
ADHD Focus: Providing a highlighted bar to follow cursor movements for users with ADHD can help reduce noise and distraction from other page elements.
Keyboard Navigation: Equipping the site to be fully navigable with only the key commands can aid users with sensory limitations.
Vision-impaired Coloration: Users with vision impairments, like cataracts, often have blurry vision and lose color perception. Adapting page elements to be more prominent for vision-impaired users by increasing vibrance and saturation can help accommodate this issue.
Screen Reading: Providing expanded alternative text to visual elements can aid screen reading tools in interpreting content.
Cognitive Assistance: Decentralizing text and clickable objects can help dyslexic and autistic users distinguish between different elements better.
The discussion of brand identity needs to happen before any meaningful changes are applied to your website. Whether your brand is old or new, it needs to be thoughtfully considered for how it will be leveraged in a digital space.
With all brands, there’s an element of democracy that goes into making a practical and comfortable brand identity. A smart business owner will listen to how their audience reacts to their choice of colors, fonts, and even company name.
The same applies to a brand’s website, but it can even impose more considerations than physical branding will.
When you take a user with a disability and sit them down in front of your website, you want them to have just as easy and pleasurable a time on your site as a user without a disability.
That’s where enabling the disabled user with UI/UX controls can empower the user and make them feel welcome on the website. They can rest comfortably knowing that you’ve put them into consideration.
There’s even the added bonus that users without any explicit disability will notice functionality on your site intended to make the site more accessible for disabled users. These users will notice your efforts to be inclusive, and that good impression will persist.
There’s a lot to put into perspective when optimizing your site for neurodiverse users. Remember that the more widely appealing you can make your site, the better the interactions and site visit quality will be.
It’s good to consider the testimony you hear from users of your site. If you denote a pattern of feedback requesting specific functionality, that’s probably the best area to begin updating.
With all of this, you’ve got a starting point for what you need. Together, we can each do our part to refine the internet to be a safe and accessible space for all users, one website at a time.