The 7 Principles of Universal Design

Instructor: Kent Beckert

Kent is an adjunct faculty member for the College of Business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and has a Master's degree in Technical Management.

In this lesson we discuss seven principles associated with good web page design. Each principle is individually described, including their positive and negative impact that affects the overall design. Additionally, we will discuss some do's and don'ts associated with these principles.

Here we are, up to our elbows researching for a school paper due in just two days. Throughout our research we have viewed a variety of web pages, some of which were difficult to look at, some totally confusing, while others were enjoyable. Why such a diversity? Why are some web pages refreshing, while others cause headaches?

The reason is simple, the enjoyable websites employ effective web page design strategies and the poorly designed web pages typically use awkward color combinations, flashing or blinking objects and a poor choice of graphics. Additionally, some pages are overly crowded and use exorbitant font types and sizes. Each of these design flaws ignore most, if not all of the seven principles of universal web design.

What are the 7 Principles of Universal Web Design?

When designing a website, the designer must take into consideration the reader and how the page is being viewed. Is the viewer a student engaged in conducting research for a specific project? What browser is being used? Perhaps the viewer is simply surfing the Internet looking for entertainment. Regardless of who and why a website is being viewed, most individuals will be satisfied if the seven principles discussed in this article are followed. These seven principles of good web design are listed and described below:

7-Principles of Web Design
7-Principles of Web Design

Equitable Use

As humans, we all deserve to be treated equally regardless of the circumstances. Unfair practices involving website operation is no exception. Designs that include equal access, useful information, and are enjoyable for everyone to use- this is a designers' primary target. By incorporating access and viewing equality into designs, the web page designer prevents the exclusion of individuals with physical limitations, weak vision, those viewing in the sunlight, a user with a slow or otherwise unstable connection, and those who require the use of special assistive devices. Do: Use high contrast and alternate text; Don't: Use mouse-only interactions.

Flexibility in Use

Most enjoyable experiences on the Internet provide the ability to control what we see and do. Typically, frustration sets in when we lose interactive control while viewing a web page. Actions like unwanted or unexpected page advancement or automatic page scrolling is often frustrating, and prevents the user from returning to the original starting point. The design must be flexible in granting the user a high-level of freedom when negotiating web page content. Do: Allow the user to return the viewed web page to its original state; Don't: Use scroll-jacking techniques (taking control of the mouse), and interfere with user-selected navigation and viewing.

Simple and Intuitive Use

Obtaining information from a web page should not depend on the user's level of expertise, what they know, or their language capabilities. The design should provide the guidance necessary to aid the user in locating and identifying needed data. Do: Provide a design that is easy to interpret by using simple presentation methods for text, images, and assorted graphics. Don't: Use crowded text or complex graphics as navigational aids, or for conveying information.

Perceptible Information

Internet users search the Internet for data and information. Often we locate a promising web page for our research, but find out later due to the poor design, that the information is hidden in a variety of misused graphics and charts. Effective use of graphics should provide flexibility that enhances good organization, and thereby intensifies data detection and subsequent retrieval. You can create order on a web page by adding sub-headings to break apart longer text. Also, using clear graphics to further illustrate concepts allows viewers to scan for the necessary information. Do: Use easy-to-understand visual aids and effective data organization to isolate critical information. Don't: Hide, bury or otherwise present information in a way that makes the data unrecognizable, vague or indistinctive.

Tolerance for Error

Confirm actions before executing
Confirm actions before executing

No one is perfect, especially when it comes to inadvertently clicking on the wrong selection or object on a web page. Designers must expect these types of miscues and provide the user with alternatives that will eliminate the mistake and return the web page to normality. Do: Provide confirmation selections like: 'are you sureā€¦?' when an accidental selection takes place. Don't: Limit the number of 'undo' actions available to the user.

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