Use the arrow keys to navigate between menu items.

Minor design choices create major obstacles

3 minutes read

Yesterday, I talked about a few of the invisible barriers that our design choices on the web can create. But I didn't have enough space in the email to explore what some of these design choices are.

Here are just 10 design trends I've seen in the wild while doing some research for these emails.

1. Light grey text on a white background for secondary information

This can be challenging for people with visual processing difficulties or cognitive fatigue. The low contrast makes the text harder to read and requires more mental effort to process.

2. Auto-advancing carousels and slideshows

Usability aside, if you have any sort of trouble processing information or attention deficit challenges, these carousels will cause you stress. There's never enough time to read, understand the content and take any action before it changes to something completely different.

3. Hover effects to reveal important navigation options

People with motor control issues or those using touchscreen devices will struggle to access these hidden elements, potentially missing crucial navigation options. Not to mention that if you're relying on a screen reader, that information will also not be available.

4. Jargon and complex language

I think we, as accessibility professionals, are sometimes guilty of this especially. We're essentially putting up a barrier for those with cognitive processing difficulties or reading comprehension struggles. With all the jargon, we're making it hard for others to understand the content or complete tasks.

5. Long, unbroken paragraphs of text

For individuals with attention deficit challenges or reading comprehension issues, long paragraphs of text can be overwhelming and make it difficult to maintain focus and extract key information.

6. Infinite scrolling

It was cool a while back. And it's still used today. But chances are you're not building Facebook, Twitter or TikTok. Infinite scrolling can be disorienting for users with executive function limitations or memory retention issues. They may lose track of where they are on the page or have difficulty finding stuff they've seen before.

7. Subtle visual cues

Especially when these subtle cues, like thin underlines, are used to indicate clickable elements. People with visual processing difficulties will miss these subtle cues and overlook important interactive elements on the page.

8. Relying solely on colour to convey meaning

This is especially prevalent in forms, where we use colour as the only means to show status and validation. This is be problematic for users with colour blindness and other visual processing issues. Without any additional way to convey this information, they will not be able to distinguish between different states or understand what they need to fix to complete the form.

9. Complex, multi-step forms

This can be frustrating and confusing for individuals with executive function limitations or memory retention issues. They may lose track of their progress or forget previous inputs, especially when these multi-step forms lack clear progress indicators.

10. Thin typography

Lightweight fonts at small sizes look cool. But they will put unnecessary strain on the eyes and increase cognitive load for people with visual processing difficulties. You're essentially making it next to impossible for them to read and comprehend your content.

All these seemingly minor design choices can have a significant impact on users with various invisible disabilities, potentially excluding them from fully engaging with your content. They don't just affect those with visible disabilities. They're the hidden hurdles faced by your coworker with chronic migraines, your friend with ADHD or the colour-blind CEO reviewing your latest pitch.

The challenge for us as web designers is to reconsider our assumptions about web accessibility and confront the often-invisible barriers many of our users will face on a daily basis.

Did you enjoy this bite-sized message?

I send out short emails like this every day to help you gain a fresh perspective on accessibility and understand it without the jargon, so you can build more robust products that everyone can use, including people with disabilities.

You can unsubscribe in one click and I will never share your email address.