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Building sustainability and accessibility into the design of your digital platforms

April 4th 2022

5 MIN read

How sustainable and accessible are your organisation’s digital platforms? It’s a question more and more businesses are asking themselves as these issues become impossible to ignore, both from an ethical and a commercial perspective. 

Doing all you can to reduce your digital carbon footprint and improve the accessibility and inclusivity of your digital platforms, is the right thing to do. But it also brings a commercial benefit, giving your business a competitive advantage. This means when it comes to designing or redesigning your website, your app or your customer portal, sustainability and accessibility should be near the top of your priority list.  

They don’t have to come at the expense of a brilliant digital experience either. Through collaboration between design, UX and marketing you can develop a digital presence that hits all your objectives in style.  

So how can you use digital sustainability and accessibility for business growth? Let’s take a closer look.    

Tapping into the conscious consumer 

People are increasingly basing their buying decisions on a brand’s sustainability credentials. In 2021 Deloitte found 1 in 3 people chose products because of the environmentally sustainable practises used to make them. Buying recycled goods or opting for a green energy supplier may spring to mind here, but attention is turning to the huge carbon footprint of the internet.  

The carbon produced by a single internet search or interaction on a website may be small, but when they’re magnified by billions of users, our digital habits are responsible for up to 5.9% of global emissions, according to The Royal Society.  

Whether you’re providing a digital product or service, or selling physical products online, climate conscious consumers will scrutinise how sustainably you are running your business. 

Building sustainability into the design of your web platform 

Getting a deeper understanding of your website’s emissions is a good place to start, as you respond to this growing demand. A website carbon calculator will give you an idea of where you stand, while tools such as Google Analytics can show you which pages are working inefficiently. We also offer a Digital Sustainability Audit service that assesses your digital carbon footprint and comes up with a strategy to reduce it.  

You may decide a few tweaks are all that’s necessary, or you might kick off a digital transformation with sustainability at its heart.  

  • Switch to a hosting service powered by green energy. 

  • Reduce hi-res imagery and videos on your pages, particularly any media that auto plays.  

  • Aim for simplicity in your content and web platform design. For example, use standard fonts and fewer colours that sap less energy. 

  • Make sure all your digital content is relevant and contributing to your business objectives. If it’s not, do you really need it taking up space and emitting carbon? 

  • Carry out a UX audit. The easier people can navigate to where they want to get to, the fewer pages they’ll click through unnecessarily. 

At first glance these kinds of changes may suggest a compromise on design, but they complement it by leading to quicker loading pages and more intuitive user journeys. 

Optimising UX and UI design for accessibility  

Alongside sustainability, putting accessibility at the core of your UX design also has the power to boost a wider customer experience, as well as open the door to a disenfranchised audience.  

According to disability charity Scope, around 1 in 5 people in the UK live with a long-term illness, impairment or disability. Many struggle to navigate sites that aren’t built with their needs in mind, which puts a barrier up between them and digital services they are keen to use. 

Since 2018 public bodies in UK have been required to meet the international WCAG accessibility standards. We think businesses should follow in their footsteps – with this in mind we provide an Accessibility Audit to pinpoint where improvements can be made.  

As with sustainability, accessibility should be incorporated into your digital platforms and maintained as they are updated. There are several steps you can take to achieve this, for example:  

  • Use clear colour contrasts and large fonts to help the visually impaired, but don’t use colours to indicate meaning, which the colourblind won’t see.  

  • Bear in mind people using screen readers by, for instance, including alt text to describe images and using correct HTML markup for different elements on the page.  

  • Add subtitles to videos and make call to actions as descriptive as possible, so ‘download the report’ rather than ‘click here’. 

  • Include accessibility in your UX design strategy, so that simple and clear user journeys are built in from the start, and your visual and interaction design supports this. 

  • Identify the likely needs of your customers through user research and carry out usability testing to make sure these needs are met. 

As with sustainability, this creates streamlined pages and efficient journeys. Adding elements such as alt text also has SEO upsides, boosting your marketing efforts by driving your website up in the Google rankings.     

Wider business benefits 

Taking these relatively simple actions to improve sustainability and accessibility isn’t just good for the planet and one section of your audience. It’s good for everyone.  

Most people, whatever their circumstances, value easy to navigate and simple to understand interactions online. Committing to sustainability and accessibility focuses the mind on how to provide them, building wider customer loyalty in the process. It’s also a good news story for your business.  

 

To develop a website or a digital platform that combines eye-catching design with sustainability and a seamless experience for all users, takes collaboration between design, marketing and UX specialists. Not to mention open minds willing to challenge conventional design thinking.    

Our UX design team can support you to achieve this, offering a comprehensive service across digital strategy, UX design and implementation, user testing and more. They’ll pinpoint a digital solution that is right for you, your customers and the planet, and make it happen. 

If you want to find out how we can help your business lead the way in digital sustainability and accessibility, contact us to book a discovery call with our UX design team.  


On the 21st April, MMT Digital, in partnership with Contentful, is hosting a virtual panel discussion Composable, Accessible, Sustainable: Designing Digital Solutions for a Better Future. Register here.