An incredible sunset

Designing for Access

I recently had the pleasure hearing a talk by Sarah Horton, author of Access by Design. Sarah talked extensively about designing for access, which often means forgoing graphics and, gasp, Flash interactivity. Needless to say, Sarah’s talk ruffled quite a few Flash designer feathers and I must admit that I spent most of the time watching her and thinking, “Yeah, but she doesn’t mean me!”

In a recent interview in Digital Web Magazine, she explains:

Let’s just say for instance… you’re in the process of designing a Web site, you have to make a decision about what font to use, or whether to use images for your navigation—if you adopt an ?access by design? approach to making those decisions you’re going to make a choice that’s going to favor the universal usability of your site. In that case it would be Oh, OK, I won?t use images, I?ll use text for a link.?

Sarah reminds each of us that we make powerful decisions about access whenever we create a website. Even if we are not creating a fully accessible website, it is still in our power to make a site as accessible as possible and to have justifications for decisions that make a site less accessible. For example, if a site’s main navigation must be graphical, put plain-text links in the footer as well!

By nature of their accessibility, her suggestions also apply to creating a website that is easier to find in search engines. Whether you love or hate what she has to say, Sarah Horton is challenging the way we think about the web and our roles as designers.

Kandace Brigleb

Producer, co-founder of Needmore. Currently residing on the left coast.