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Using Inclusive Design to Serve Your Community

Every municipality serves a unique community with unique needs. You may be serving a diverse community with residents who speak different languages, or residents who are differently abled in terms of cognitive or motor functions. When it comes to designing a new website for your community it is important consider these things, so you can create an inclusive website that is accessible to everyone.

Accessibility vs. Inclusivity:

Inclusive design is often associated with website accessibility. Accessibility is an inclusive practice that ensures that everyone regardless of physical ability can access the information on your website. Specifically, accessibility focuses:

  • Cognitive abilities
  • Auditory abilities
  • Neurological abilities
  • Physical abilities
  • Speech abilities
  • Visual abilities

However, accessibility is more about the outcome and is primarily based on ADA and WCAG guidelines.

The practice of inclusive design focuses on methodology. It considers the diverse needs of your audience. And, requires you to think about how to make your website accessible and usable for everyone. Inclusive design not only considers the cognitive and physical abilities of your audience, but also the circumstantial and socioeconomic abilities.

Know Your Audience:

The most essential part of designing an inclusive website is knowing your audience. Consider you’re your audience’s user persona. A user persona is a character based on your current (or ideal) customer or resident. Consider some of the following factors:

  • Ability: What physical restrictions might your users face when accessing your website?
  • Economic Situation: What are the various economic standings of your users? Do your users have access to internet? What devices will they use to access your website—private computer, public computer, tablet, cellphone?
  • Language: Is your web copy understandable? Do you offer an automatic translation feature?

The most important thing here is: don’t make assumptions. Ask questions of your audience, but don’t assume the answer. Give your residents the opportunity to provide feedback about what they need from your website by creating polls and surveys.

Best Practices of Inclusive Design:

A few best practices for inclusive design include:

  • Use Inclusive Imagery: Display photos on your website that reflect your community and its diversity. Even if you are choosing from stock photos, choose images that will resonate with your users. These can be pictures of families, friends, buildings, etc. And don’t forget about graphics and videos.
  • Write Inclusive Copy: Make sure the content of your website easy to read and understand. Use simple words and short sentence. This is helpful for your residents with different cognitive abilities or who are not fluent. Remember that English is not necessarily the primary language of all your users. Consider installing a language translator software or plugin. And, check out our tips for good web copy.
  • Engage Your Audience: Give your audience opportunities to interact with your website. These can be as simple as having a contact form that they can fill out. When providing online forms make sure each form field is clearly labeled and consider enabling an auto-fill option.

Basic Features for an Inclusive Design:

Your municipal website is one of the first touchpoints you have with your community. So, it is important to remove as many barriers as you can, so that all of your residents can access your website. Below are a few basic, but important, features to incorporate into your website:

  • Language Translation: Language translation software, like Google Translate, can be integrated so users can automatically translate web content upon language selection.
  • Custom On-Site Search: Customize your on-site search function so that it yields relevant results when common synonyms or acronyms are used in search queries.
  • Analytics: Use analytics results to help you understand what content and features are most relevant to your users.
  • Online Forms: Create polls and surveys to get helpful feedback from your residents. Or allow residents to do business online with applications forms, epayment, and more.
  • Accessibility Features: Follow ADA and WCAG standards for accessibility. Check out these common accessibility mistakes to help you get started.
  • Responsive Design: Makes sure web pages and web content will automatically adjust to accommodate the screen size and browser of the users device.

For help optimizing your online presence contact the team at GovUnity today. We will work with you to design an inclusive, accessible, and user-friendly website for your community.