Research & Strategy

Making a digital public platform accessible to all citizens

  • Łukasz Kowalski

  • May 20, 2024

  • 16 min read

  • May 20, 2024

  • 16 min read

In a rising number of countries today, public platforms have become an essential part of our lives. The digital era has advanced so much that we can now perform almost every task online. However, it is important to remember all the users while creating such governmental platforms and implement digital accessibility to provide equal opportunities for everyone.

What is accessibility in digital products?

We would like to start with a simple but often forgotten statement: Digital products should be for everyone, and we mean everyone, no matter their abilities or disabilities. This statement is what digital accessibility is all about, in a nutshell, of course. So, let’s dive a bit deeper.

Digital accessibility is a term used to describe the inclusive design and development of digital products that make them accessible to people with disabilities. This practice allows the creation of digital tools that people with visual, auditory, motor, cognitive, or neurological impairments can understand and navigate easily.

Going further, let’s focus on public platforms. Well, we already mentioned companies that forgot about accessibility, but we did not mention countries. That is right; countries should also implement accessibility in their digital products. You may ask – what kind of digital products? Have you ever used an e-government platform, a public service platform, or simply a public platform? This is precisely the product we are talking about. And, since the government must think about all of its citizens, it is highly recommended to know the importance of digital accessibility and learn how to implement it properly. If you would like to learn more about accessibility and its principles, check out our article about the importance of digital accessibility.

Now that you know what accessibility is and what public platforms are, it is time to talk more about the importance of accessibility in public platform design.

Why accessibility is crucial in public platform design

It is essential to remember that countries want to digitise, which is already happening. However, governments serve the most diverse groups – including elderly and disabled individuals or people with all levels of tech fluency. And the most important goal for governments is to create a platform that will be easy to use for all of them equally. That is precisely why digital accessibility should always be a top priority for public institutions. Some common problems without digital accessibility include unfriendly mobile websites, web pages that can't be navigated with a keyboard, inaccessible PDF forms, or poor colour contrast.

In this digital age, many solutions can make life easier for everyone, regardless of age or health condition. So, it's crucial to ensure everyone can easily access and use your platform.

Tips for making public platforms accessible

Now that we have established the importance of digital accessibility, you would probably want to know how to achieve that and implement it on any public platform, right? Well, so it happens that we prepared a list of tips for making any public platform as accessible as possible to all of your citizens.

Here, we gathered the most crucial best practices for digital accessibility on public sector websites, apps, or any other platform. However, if you would like to learn more about digital accessibility and discover real-life examples of countries that developed top-notch platforms, we recommend you download our latest report describing the State of CX in e-Government Platforms.

So, without further ado, let’s explore the best practices for implementing digital accessibility on your platform.

Provide video tutorials and guides

To help users understand and effectively utilise the information on the website, it is essential to create instructional video content that guides platform navigation and use of the services. By implementing this approach, several advantages can be attained:

  • Increased user comprehension – video tutorials and guides facilitate a smoother user learning curve. With such visual and accessible guidance, you can enhance users’ understanding of the platform, and they can navigate the information and services more effectively.
  • Adaptation to different learning styles – when implemented on your platform, such resources make it more inclusive and enhance the user experience by catering to various learning styles and accessibility needs.
  • Reduced support burden – offering self-help resources streamlines support services, reducing the number of inquiries. This is a win-win situation: Users can now solve their problems alone, and the platform’s administrators can focus on more complex issues.

Ensure compliance with WCAG

WCAG – is an abbreviation for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. They are guidelines for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Moreover, they are organised into four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. To learn more about these guidelines and explore the dos and don’ts, check out our article, where we described WCAG in detail. Now, let’s focus on why those guidelines are one of the best practices when creating an accessible public platform. This approach offers such benefits as:

  • Streamlined access for everyone – when creating an accessible platform, it is crucial to adapt the rules of WCAG because they ensure that all users, including those with diverse abilities, can navigate and engage with the platform effortlessly. And that should be your primary goal – not to leave anyone behind when using your platform.
  • Reinforced public trust and a positive image – demonstrating dedication to inclusivity builds confidence and improves the public’s perception of your platform. Why? Simply because people appreciate when a public platform emphasises accessibility and reinforces that public services are designed with everyone in mind.

Design for diverse touchpoints

When designing a public platform, you must remember its functionality and visuals on mobile, desktop, tablet, and any other devices that your users might use to interact with your platform. However, what is even more important is to design it according to typical usage contexts and preferences. If you do so, you can expect it to bring you such benefits as:

  • Optimised mobile experience – implementing user experience patterns customised for mobile devices guarantees an intuitive interface that accommodates touch gestures and optimal spacing. This design approach ensures seamless navigation for users accessing your platform on smartphones and tablets.
  • Efficient task completion in diverse circumstances – enabling support for multiple types of devices allows users to effectively complete tasks in various situations and locations, enhancing their convenience and productivity.

Design a well-organised and informative homepage

To encourage citizen engagement, platform administrators should provide a well-organized and informative homepage that makes it easy to find information. With this approach comes such benefits as:

  • Efficient access to information – organising the homepage with a comprehensive overview of various topics within a single view eliminates the need for extensive navigation. This approach streamlines the user experience, providing efficient access to a wide range of information without navigating across multiple pages or platforms.
  • Minimised cognitive load – by organising topics into clear and intuitive categories, administrators can reduce cognitive load and enable users to find the necessary information quickly. Clear distinctions between different sections and intuitively labelled categories reflect users' expectations and help reduce any confusion.
  • Increased user engagement – designing a user-friendly homepage with intuitive tabs, clickable elements, and distinct sections enhances the ease of navigation. It encourages users to explore diverse content, fostering a more interactive experience.

Introduce clear and visible navigation elements

User navigation on public platforms is essential, and it is crucial to incorporate well-designed and intuitive navigation elements that effectively present information architecture. Once you do that, you can expect it to bring such benefits as:

  • Improved understanding of the platform structure – prominently displaying navigation elements, such as breadcrumbs, can help users intuitively engage with the platform, identify interactive components, and understand its structure.
  • Increased user productivity – well-crafted navigation elements facilitate easy movement through your platform, improving user productivity, saving time, and increasing efficiency.
  • Error-resistant design – by providing users with a clear understanding of where each navigation element leads, the platform minimises the likelihood of accidental clicks or misinterpretation. This prevents errors that could lead to issues or delays in the user journey.

Design the platform as an open knowledge hub

When designing your platform, you have to keep this aspect in mind – design it as a comprehensive knowledge base that is publicly accessible and can provide information on various topics, as well as guidance on navigating available services. With such a structure, your users can quickly find the information they are looking for. What is more, it gives you some priceless benefits:

  • A unified resource for all matters – an open knowledge hub consolidates diverse content categories related to government affairs and services, making them accessible even before logging in. This centralised repository caters to various government subjects and provides complex answers for information seekers.
  • User-centric content taxonomy – organising information into clear and accessible sections and breaking down content into smaller parts- helps prevent cognitive overload and allows users to understand important information more efficiently.
  • Highly informed and confident users – clear content in the knowledge hub makes information easy to find and avoids mistakes. A centralised knowledge hub improves decision-making and helps users feel secure and well-informed.

Adapt content contextually

This approach enables users to locate the required information swiftly and eliminates the need to search through unnecessary content. To cater to their unique needs, you must offer your users the option to answer short questions that enable them to customise the content. And, as usual, with another approach come another benefits:

  • Guidelines tailored to specific user needs – personalising content improves user experience by addressing their particular needs. Short questionnaires refine their search criteria and allow the platform to deliver more relevant and targeted information.
  • Reduced search time – contextual surveys prioritise content relevancy based on the insights gathered, ensuring that users are presented with highly targeted results that significantly streamline the search process.
  • Boosted user confidence – Contextual assistance tools are integrated to anticipate and proactively offer help to users, enhancing their understanding and confidence in their interactions.

Use accessible copy

To ensure that your platform is easy to understand for everyone, you should avoid jargon and use simple, consistent language. If you do so, you can expect such benefits:

  • Reduced risk of misinterpretation – using standardised terminology in copywriting ensures clarity and consistency of communication across your platform. At the same time, it reduces the risk of misinterpretation and improves the overall user experience.
  • Augmented inclusivity – using simple and easy-to-understand language instead of complex vocabulary helps everyone to understand the information efficiently, regardless of their literacy level. This inclusivity promotes engagement with a broader audience.
  • Efficient content management – by utilising consistent terminology and precise copy, you can efficiently create, update, and manage content across various platforms and ensure effective communication with users.

Adapt content to local linguistic diversity

When designing an accessible platform, it's crucial to consider the needs of diverse ethnic groups. Providing important content and services in different language versions is essential to make your platform effective for this audience. By doing so, you can reap several benefits:

  • Inclusive access to essential information – enabling a language switch improves user access by breaking language barriers and promoting inclusivity. Multilingual search empowers users to search in their preferred language.
  • Clarity of communication – adapting language to local ethnic communities ensures accurate communication. Moreover, carefully crafted content enhances understanding and trust.
  • Equal support and respect – by offering dedicated translations for specific languages, the platform demonstrates understanding and consideration for the linguistic and cultural nuances of the community. It fosters a sense of respect, inclusivity, and support, creating a more welcoming and user-centric environment for all users.

Summary

We hope that this article will help you better understand the concept of digital accessibility and emphasise the significance of creating a citizen-centric product that is accessible to everyone. We know that developing such a platform can be challenging and time-consuming, but it is undoubtedly worthwhile.

The section with best practices we included in this article is just a fraction of tips to make your platform genuinely accessible. You can find more insights and real-life examples of countries that implemented digital accessibility into their platforms in our report “State of CX in e-Government Platforms”. We have truly worked hard on it, and it is now a comprehensive guide through the most critical aspects of creating top-notch, citizen-centric platforms.

Also, if you're looking to enhance your platform and need help knowing where to begin, feel free to send us a message with a brief description of your project. We'll then be happy to schedule an expert audit to help unleash your platform's digital potential.

Łukasz Kowalski

Co-founder & Senior UX Consultant

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