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Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 | Written by:

Usability vs. Accessibility


If some years ago making a website was a job even for those who were extremely young, nowadays the field of web design has turned into a real industry, where it is harder and harder to fight against web design companies or agencies that have already developed a strong presence.

The creation of a website starts with a good layout, usually a .psd file and then it is sliced into HTML and CSS. Regarded as unnecessary (still) some website owners hire a content writer to create the text of the online presence and a SEO specialist that has as the main purpose to obtain a higher position in the search of the engines. It’s true that a website may be done by a single person, but the entire process has become more sophisticated, therefore very few manage to be successful by themselves.

A respectable website should pass the minimum requirements of two new features: the accessibility and usability, both of them very important and somehow having many common elements. Having an accessible and usable website will become a legal requirement sooner or later, no one should ignore that the Internet is a free medium and this feature must be kept until the end of the world. To implement these features isn’t rocket science but clearly, a complete background is necessary in order to do it professionally. The first step in making a website accessible and usable is to make a distinction between the twin terms, usability and accessibility.



This term describes the attribute of any product to be easy to use by any person. It could be extended to the modalities and strategies based in the creation process. A celebrity example of web usability is Jakob Nielsen who established a group of qualities that are capital in having a more usable website. In spite of perpetual endeavors to make a website completely useful, it will never be perfectly usable.

If someone starts making website usable, then he must have clear answers to these issues:


It defines the ability of an individual that, once he is familiarized with a product, to realize its specific actions.


Example: let’s suppose that someone has modified the possibility of achieving online the products from an online store. It improved the usability only if the clients have quickly understood the new algorithms, it’s about the efficiency of the new look.

A less efficient method is simply a disaster, and it certainly isn’t a more usable website.


It is about how fast the users understand and learn the features of a website.


Example: a designer creates a new type of contact form but if the users don’t know how to use it, the work is in vain.


It describes the ability of a user to perform the same actions on a website after a long time of pause.

Example: by inserting a new plug in, the dashboard of a blog looks really good and the writing &publishing are done more quickly. Also, let’s suppose that the blogger is active but he must take a pause for a month. If at his comeback he has no problem with the new improvement then is it okay from the memorability viewpoint.


Not the last, a user must be satisfied with a product.

Example: no matter how efficient a new concept is but in case that the users aren’t satisfied with how it works, then a new concept must be created.

Making a usable website requires a lot of work but at the same time you will require the feedback of as many as possible testers. Usability is a complete chain of improvements and feedback that has as result a more comfortable navigation of the visitors, hence it’s about traffic, that means money.



Accessibility is the term that refers to the modalities, strategies, and methods to realize websites that may be well used by any kind of people, no matter by which type of permanent or temporary disability they have.

Apparently, a trifle, having an accessible website is an advantage for everyone, both owner and user: the first one is sure that there is no setback for the visitors and the last one doesn’t face any problem when visiting. Besides that, everyone has the moral duty not to offend people with disabilities, any small issue for us, the lucky people with full gifts from God, may be a serious and embarrassing matter for others.

In order to make a website more accessible, specialists have divided in two components the types of disabilities:

  • The disabilities of the human factor as: eye seeing issues (having a large variety, from small problems to full blindness, a special category being the ones that have difficulties distinguishing some colors), hearing matters or the impossibility of using a mouse or even a keyboard.
  • The disabilities due to the technological factor as: the use of mobile devices, a slow connection to Internet or disable of the JavaScript.

The making of an accessible website is based on all these entities and applying measures to solve them is the correct modality. A precious help in validating the accessibility of a website are the various online tools that test the website and are highlighting the errors, some of them are free while for the services of others a small payment is required.

In the end, the conclusion is that usability is mostly about the methods of making the navigation more facile while accessibility is about making the navigation possible for everyone. Very pragmatically, but not scientifically at all, the difference is simple: a usable website is “user-friendly” while an accessible website is “all users-friendly”.
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About Lief

Lief is one of the creative designers at Design Article Writers, he love to play with tools commonly useful for designers and media lovers. You'll find him playing with Photoshop, Youtube and Youtube to mp3 in his free time.

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9 Responses

December 1, 2011
mike hill

it’s JAKOB Nielsen.

December 1, 2011

Thanks Mike, just changed it

December 4, 2011
Whitney Quesenbery

Hi. I love the conclusion of this article: “a usable website is “user-friendly” while an accessible website is “all users-friendly”.” It’s too bad that the headline suggests that they are in conflict – not at all the point of this article!

It’s time we got away from an “us vs. them” attitude towards accessibilty and started thinking about how we can make our web sites and apps (and all ICT) useful and usable for everyone. So many people have pointed out ways in which better accessibility is good for all. Curb cuts, OXO Good Grips, well-structured HTML with semantic markup, clear and accurate labels, and plain language are just a few examples.

With all the talk of design for good, let’s make sure we are good for all.