Accessible Buttons Made Easy: Get Started Today with These Tips

accessible buttons
In today’s online world, buttons play a crucial role in how we navigate websites. Whether we’re buying something online, filling out forms, or signing up for things, buttons are what make it all happen. Because they’re so important for using websites, it’s really helpful to make sure everyone can use them easily. This blog will talk about why button accessibility matters and how to create buttons that are clear, work well, and can be used by everyone, regardless of their abilities.

Why Does Button Accessibility Matter?

Think about a website where the “Submit” button is hard to see against the background or a mobile app where an important button doesn’t have a clear label for someone using a screen reader. These situations show why accessible buttons are important. Accessible buttons make sure:
  • Everyone Can Use Them: No matter what someone’s abilities are, they can interact with your interface.
  • Better Ranking for Your Websites: Search engines consider accessibility when ranking websites.

Understanding Button Accessibility

Buttons are an important part of any website, so it’s crucial to make sure everyone can use them easily. This includes people with different abilities, such as vision impairments, learning difficulties, or limited hand control.
There are a few things to keep in mind when designing buttons for accessibility:
  1. Help People See Clearly: Imagine trying to navigate a website without being able to see the buttons very well. People with vision problems might use screen readers, so clear button labels and descriptions are important. This way, the screen reader can tell them exactly what the button does.
  2. Keep Things Simple: Sometimes, too many fancy words or complicated designs can be confusing. For people with dyslexia or other learning difficulties, clear and simple buttons are helpful. Think “Buy Now” or “Learn More” – these buttons are easy to understand at a glance.
  3. Make Buttons Easier to Click: Not everyone has perfect hand control. People with tremors or limited mobility might need a little more space to click a button. Making buttons bigger and easier to target with a finger or using the keyboard can make a big difference.

Accessibility Requirements for Buttons:

Building accessible buttons goes beyond looks; it’s essential for inclusive web design. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) set the global standard for digital accessibility, with enforcement by the Department of Justice. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) supports WCAG, ensuring equal access for people with disabilities.

WCAG 2.2 focuses on three main principles for accessible buttons: perceivability, operability, and understandability. This means buttons should be easy to see, simple to use, and clear in their purpose.

Here’s a closer look at WCAG guidelines for accessible buttons:
  • Color Contrast: The contrast between the button text and background must be at least 4.5:1, and at least 3:1 between the button and the surrounding area. This ensures users with different visual abilities can see the buttons clearly.
  • Touch Target Size: Buttons should be at least 24 x 24 CSS pixels to make sure users can easily click or tap them, especially on touchscreens or for those with motor control challenges.
  • Meaningful Text Labels: Button text should clearly indicate what will happen when the button is clicked. Users shouldn’t need extra clues or information to understand a button’s function.
  • Keyboard Navigation and Assistive Technologies: Buttons should be usable with a keyboard and compatible with assistive technologies like screen readers, allowing everyone to navigate and use the site.

Role of Accessible Buttons for an Inclusive User Experience

1. For Keyboard-Only Users:

Not everyone uses a mouse to browse websites. Some people might find using a keyboard more convenient due to their preferences or abilities. Because of this, it’s important to make your website easy to navigate for keyboard users as well. This includes making buttons easier to use with the keyboard.
By adding a clear label to a button, you can still perform the same action (like opening a new page) without needing to click with a mouse. This can improve the experience for people who primarily use keyboards.
For instance, if you have a music player or a button that opens a new window, making these elements accessible with the keyboard allows users to control playback, toggle sound, and navigate more easily.

2. For Colorblind Users:

Not everyone sees colors the same way. This can make it tricky for some people to use buttons on websites or apps, especially if the colors aren’t clear enough. For instance, a button with low contrast might blend in with the background, making it hard to find. This can be a problem on shopping websites, where users might miss important buttons like “Add to Cart”.

Adding clear visual cues can help everyone use your website or app more easily. This includes people with low vision and color blindness who might struggle to see buttons with low contrast. Take buttons on forms, for example. If the text and background colors are too similar, users might have trouble finding them. By making things easier to see and use, we can create a better experience for everyone.

3. For Screen Reader Users:

Making websites accessible is important because it allows everyone to browse the internet comfortably. Often, website design focuses on users without disabilities, but accessibility aims to include everyone. This includes making buttons easy to use for people who rely on screen readers.
Screen readers work differently than our eyes. They read the web page by understanding the purpose of buttons, any alternative text for images (alt text), and other descriptions that explain what things mean on the page. This gives users more context when they navigate with a screen reader.
For instance, you might want to hide a button on the screen in some situations but still have it work for screen readers. Special tools called “aria attributes” and following accessibility guidelines can help you achieve this. These tools work together with clear HTML code to make sure everyone can use your website.
Learn more about HTML and ARIA Required.

Best Practices for Designing and Implementing Accessible Buttons:

1. Form and Structure:

Buttons are meant to be clicked or tapped on, so larger and simpler designs are generally better. It’s important to remember that not everyone can use a mouse or touchpad easily. This means buttons should be big enough to touch comfortably and also work well with keyboard controls. Keeping the design clear and uncluttered helps buttons stand out and makes using them a smoother experience for everyone.
As we mentioned before, accessibility guidelines (like WCAG) recommend a minimum size of 24×24 CSS pixels for buttons (including any padding around the text or icon). This size helps make sure people with different abilities, such as limited motor skills or vision problems, can easily interact with your website or app.

2. Differentiate with Buttons and Links:

Buttons and links might seem pretty similar at first glance, but there’s a slight difference that can be important for users.
Think of it this way:
  • Buttons are clickable controls that do things on the page, like submitting a form or adding something to a cart.
  • Links take you to different parts of the website or even other websites entirely.
  • Chances are, you already use different styles for buttons and links because they have different jobs. This helps people using your site understand what each element does.
  • However, some users rely on more than just sight to navigate websites. They need other ways to tell buttons and links apart.
  • Often, designers hand things off to developers who take care of the technical details. This includes making sure buttons are coded correctly so screen readers announce them properly. While that’s important, designers can still play a role!
  • Designers often want flexibility to create unique and visually appealing buttons. That might mean a link ends up looking a bit like a button, or vice versa. In these situations, it’s crucial for designers to talk with developers.
  • Why? Imagine a developer who sees a cool design and codes it as a button. A screen reader user might then try to click that button, expecting an action on the current page. But instead, the code sends them to a completely different page! This unexpected jump can be confusing and frustrating.

3. Clear Text Contrast:

Just like a well-lit sign is easier to see, buttons with good color contrast are easier to understand. This means the text on the button should be clear and stand out from the background. A good rule of thumb is to aim for a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 between the text and background colors of the button itself, and 3:1 between the button and the surrounding area.

4. Simple and Clear Labels:

What a button does should be clear at first glance. Instead of using vague labels like “Click Here,” try using labels that describe the action the button takes, like “Download Now” or “Add to Cart.” This helps everyone understand what will happen when they click the button, including people who use screen readers.

5. Keyboard Friendly:

Not everyone uses a mouse. We want to make sure people who use keyboards can easily navigate and click buttons too. Buttons should be designed to work with keyboard shortcuts, and they should show a clear visual indicator when they are selected using the Tab key (often a border or color change).

6. Include Designs For Every State:

Just designing a basic button look might not be enough for everyone using your website. Some people rely on tools to navigate by keyboard instead of a mouse.
For this reason, it’s important to design your buttons for different situations, like when they have focus when someone hovers over them with a mouse, and when they’re clicked. Each of these appearances should be clear and easy to understand.
For example, if the button changes color when it’s focused, make sure the new color still creates a good contrast with the background (at least 3:1). This will help people using your website have a better experience.

7. Adding Labels for Screen Readers:

On top of making buttons clear visually, you can also consider using ARIA labels. These are special codes that developers can add to buttons to provide more information about what the button does, especially for people who use screen readers. This extra information can be very helpful for people with visual impairments because it allows their screen reader to clearly announce what the button does.

8. Consider Button Proximity:

For people who use magnification tools to view websites, it’s important to make sure buttons don’t move around when zoomed in. If a button is far from the prompt it relates to, it can be frustrating to find it after zooming.
Here’s a tip: Place buttons close to the information they relate to. This will make them easier to find, even with magnification.

9. Don’t Disable Buttons:

Imagine finding a cool button on a website, only to discover it doesn’t work! This can happen if buttons are designed to only activate after specific information is entered, leaving users stuck until they figure it out.
Here’s how to avoid this:
  • Clear Error Messages: If information is missing, use clear error messages to explain the issue instead of just disabling the button.
  • Visual Cues: Make inactive buttons look different from functional ones. You can use a different color scheme to show users which buttons are ready to be clicked.

Why Do Buttons Need To Be ADA Accessible?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is essential in providing equal access for people with disabilities. This includes online services from businesses that serve the public, making web accessibility a growing priority for the Department of Justice under the ADA.
As daily life increasingly moves online, it’s crucial to ensure web content is accessible to everyone. Buttons, as key elements of user interaction, are especially important for this accessibility. Failing to meet ADA guidelines for buttons on a business website can result in legal action and substantial fines.
Creating accessible buttons offers more than just legal compliance. It creates a more inclusive online experience for all users, improving the overall quality of the website. By focusing on accessibility and following button accessibility guidelines, developers can gain a competitive advantage and avoid potential legal and financial issues.

Enhance Accessibility with Continual Engine!

Don’t Waste Time Creating Accessible Buttons For Your Website Yourself. Let Continual Engine Be Your Accessibility Experts.

Closing Thoughts

Creating accessible buttons isn’t just about following guidelines; it’s about creating a truly inclusive user experience for everyone. By partnering with Continual Engine, you can ensure your website’s buttons are clear, functional, and meet the highest accessibility standards. Let us handle the complexities – simply click the button above and watch your website’s accessibility shine.


Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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