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The Great UX Series: Best Accessibility on a Government Website

Person in wheelchair working at a desk

As our digital world progresses, it often seems that government agency websites are “behind-the-cue-ball” and stagnant. Having a website that is accessible, easy to navigate, and designed with your user’s experience in mind is vital to operability and success.

In this three-part blog series, we ask our expert team of Content Strategists, UX Designers, and Accessibility Specialists to list the crème-de-la-crème of government websites that are getting the user experience right. These are inspiring examples to help get your agency started on the journey towards adopting and implementing a Human-Centered Design (HCD) process in your organization.

Digital accessibility is the practice of designing and developing websites, apps, and other products and services so that everyone can easily access and use them. Accessibility is important for your users because they need to access and accomplish tasks that they set out to perform in an effective way.

An Accessible Website Drives Innovation and Improves the Usability of Products and Services

GOV.UK wins the best accessible government website according to our Director of Digital Accessibility, Beth Somerfield. GOV.UK is the United Kingdom’s single point of access website to all government services. It is the umbrella site for their offices and departments. As separate as they may be, UK’s services can be found on this website.

GOV.UK website hompage screen
The GOV.UK website maximizes ease of use to reach all ability levels leading to services that anyone can use and enjoy.

What Accessibility Principles are Present on the GOV.UK Website?

#1 Proper Use of the Search Bar

An often-overlooked component on government websites is the search bar. From an accessibility standpoint, search bars that include filtering can do wonders for making information easier and quicker to find. But if they are implemented without accessibility in mind, they can be barriers for keyboard operability and screen readers.

The GOV.UK search filters have great accessibility features. They are easy to navigate by keyboard, the filters are well labeled and organized, users have the option to show and hide filters they need them, changes to the search results are clearly shown and announced by screen readers, and the search results make sense. It’s clear that the design was created for – and tested by – people with cognitive and visual disabilities.

#2 Forms Highlight Errors

When submitting a form on GOV.UK, if you fill out a field with the wrong type of information or don’t input a field that is required, every error is 1.) highlighted within the form, 2.) an error summary box appears at the top of the page, and 3.) the word “error” is inserted into the page title.

Errors that are clearly indicated, along with text describing the problem, help people fix their mistakes. This is helpful for people with low vision or navigating on mobile, who may not be seeing the whole screen, or people with cognitive disabilities who may struggle more with bureaucratic language. Also, the page title is typically the first thing that is read out loud by screen readers. This helps users who use screen readers to correct their mistakes in an easy and efficient way.

GOV.UK is baking accessibility into their design. For people with disabilities, a good user experience requires accessibility. Yet so often UX work is done without research and design that includes people with disabilities.

#3 Accessible Color Palette

GOV.UK uses an entirely accessible color palette meaning it meets WCAG 2.1 Level AA or higher for the contrast between text and background. It uses a variety of black, white, blue, and yellow. Light text is placed on dark backgrounds, and dark text is placed on light backgrounds to help with contrast.

Choosing an accessible color palette for your website will ensure it is usable to people who have vision impairment.

Key Takeaway

Overall, GOV.UK is a trendsetter on all fronts. Maximizing ease of use to reach all ability levels leads to services that anyone can use and enjoy. Designing and developing accessibly supports people with disabilities but also improves the capability for a wide range of human experience, including temporary or environmental impairments. It is important that accessibility is not treated as a check list or an afterthought.

Creating a great government website that serves the people effectively is no easy feat. It often requires a team of Content Strategists, UX Designers, UX Researchers, Accessibility Specialists, and Organizational Change Managers to be done correctly and in a way that will not only sustain but innovate.

There are many moving parts but, in the end, it is about getting the public the information and access to the services they need as efficiently as possible. You can begin by taking the time to address the pain points on your website and prioritizing projects. Be sure to measure your goals and celebrate small wins. Remember, user experience is not a sprint, it’s a journey!