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What is Inclusive Web Design?

The call for inclusivity is important for all aspects of society, and inclusive web design is no exception. There can be confusion about inclusion, too, as the topic has been politicized. For web design, we want to provide some high-level clarity. After all, web design is all about reaching people. Design doesn’t have to be to every demographic’s taste (that’s impossible), but it should not alienate or refuse to acknowledge entire groups. Creating digital spaces that are accessible and welcoming—regardless of people’s abilities or backgrounds—is not just the right thing to do but also makes good business sense.

While this article is by no means a comprehensive dive into the subject, the broad strokes are simple.

Accessibility Falls Under the Inclusivity Umbrella

Young girl with prosthetic laughing and running

Accessibility is a component of inclusive web design, but they aren’t precisely the same thing — much like a brick is not a house. For people of all abilities, accessibility is not just a matter of being fair. It’s also a legal one. If someone needs to use a screen reader to navigate websites, for example, they should not have less access to information online than those without vision impairments. Accessibility is achieved by adhering to a couple of realistic web design standards.

It isn’t just for those with a permanent impairment. Consider those who might just have a situational challenge that causes frustration if it prevents them from understanding your content. For example, include captions on videos so that people who are in a noisy environment as well as those who are deaf both have access to your information.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted to ensure equal opportunities and access for people with disabilities. In the digital realm, ADA compliance is crucial for making websites accessible to everyone, including those with visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments.


The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) offer a comprehensive set of guidelines to enhance web accessibility. These guidelines are organized around four key principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Some crucial elements include:

General Goals

  • Alt Text for Images: Providing descriptive alt text for images allows screen readers to convey the content to users with visual impairments.
  • Keyboard Accessibility: Designing websites to be navigable using a keyboard ensures that individuals with motor impairments can access and interact with the content.
  • Contrast Ratios: Ensuring sufficient contrast between text and background colors aids users with visual impairments in reading content more easily.
  • Adaptable and Distinguishable Content: Making content adaptable and distinguishable benefits users with a range of disabilities, such as color blindness or low vision.

Diverse group of women smiling for the camera showcasing representation and inclusion for various ages and ethnic backgrounds.Diverse Representation in Website Content

Representation matters as an authentic reflection of society, and the content presented on a website should reflect the diversity of its audience. This means representing people of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, ages, sexes, languages, and those who are differently-abled.

There is no official guide to follow for this, but it is important to make representation part of your workflow. Keep it top-of-mind when creating branding, selecting stock images, or planning the creative direction for photo shoots. Speak to a diverse group of people when taking user surveys or creating marketing personas. Consider your wording when copywriting. Listen to the feedback of all parties equally.

Use what you learn to feature a variety of perspectives, experiences, and people in messaging, product design, images, and illustrations.

  • Language and Tone: Using inclusive language and a welcoming tone ensures that all users feel respected and included.
  • Cultural Awareness: Understanding and respecting cultural nuances in content helps avoid unintentional exclusions.
  • Authentic Representation: Choosing/creating images that authentically represent a diverse range of people fosters a sense of inclusivity and belonging for all users.

Inclusive Design in Your Workflow

Make your approach to inclusivity consistent and easy to understand for all members of your team. Update your brand guide (as we know, branding is far more than a logo and color palette), and provide clear goals and instructions for web design, web dev, social media marketing, and even simple website content updates.

What is your tone of voice?

Does your website admin team know your guidelines for image captions, alt text, and photo selection?
Does your UX design help users get to what they need without any extra barriers?

Overall, the goal is to understand that while there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, creating an SOP around how your business or organization will be inclusive is good for you, good for your users, and good for your team.