Accessibility 3.0

I got an email today from a client asking if I had heard that there is a trend in marketing to use only lower case in logos. I thought about it for a while — not only about logos but the whole design trend. What we’re experiencing is both fact and phase. The fact is that lower case is easier to read than upper case because there is more variation with lower case, which gives each word a distinct shape, WHILE WITH UPPER CASE EVERYTHING IS THE SAME HEIGHT, which makes every word basically the same shape.

The phase part is more interesting. I believe we’re experiencing a backlash to the ‘wall of information’ that most websites have presented us for the last few years. It’s like we’ve all got headaches from the ‘visual noise’, and are now looking for space, simplicity, clarity… room to think. The main challenge in website design today is to make it easy for all visitors to easily get the information they need, without a lot of distracting stuff. Let’s call it Accessibility 3.0.

Accessibility used to refer to people who were visually or otherwise impaired and had special needs with regards to the Internet. Designing for them was a good thing, in the same way a wheelchair ramp is good for your office or home. Today, accessibility addresses the ease with which anyone can find information on your website, whether they’re blind, a buyer, or a bot. People and search engines alike need to be able to navigate through your site easily.

Accessibility also has implications for design. Simply said, a million links, images, rotating photos, text boxes and colours, along with 200 words of text all vying for attention on your home page makes your site inaccessible. The information still has to be there; it just needs to be more cleverly arranged so that people can calmly focus and find what they need.

I’m really happy to see this trend appear. Our in-house designers are already doing an excellent job of implementing Accessibility 3.0. More importantly, I’ve got a headache too and think that this new phase is long overdue. Lovers of ‘white space’ will agree.

Now I’ve used the word ‘phase’, but don’t assume that a website designed today will be out of date in a year. Accessibility 3.0 is an evolution of the Internet that is based on experience and fact. A website designed using accessibility will download faster, be easier to read and navigate, and be better for search engine optimization. These website requirements are not going to go away any time soon; not with any amount of Tylenol or Advil.

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