Creating a website: what is universal design?

Creating a website: what is universal design?

There are several requirements for a product or a website. Aesthetics play a role here, but above all usability. A new requirement for web design is that this usability is guaranteed for as many people as possible. This sounds obvious, but often does not correspond to reality. This is where Universal Design comes in. Read in this blog article what universal design is and why websites should be designed according to this concept.

Definition of universal design

Universal design is a holistic design concept: products, systems, environments and websites should be able to be used by as many people as possible.

What is the difference between universal design and accessible design?

With universal design – here the origin is more in the Anglo-Saxon area and the USA – a universal usability of the products and websites is strived for from the beginning. No user group should be excluded. 

With barrier-free design – here the origin is more in Central Europe – the basic idea is to break down existing hurdles. Barrier-free alternatives for people with disabilities should be offered. 

More and more accessible design adapts to the principles of universal design. These are particular in terms of web design

  • Broad usability: the design should not exclude any users from the outset
  • Flexibility in use: Adaptation, for example, to the speed of the user
  • Simple and intuitive operation: avoiding complexity, taking into account user expectations and skills
  • Perceived Information: Offering different visual and linguistic content formats to appeal to different opportunities and preferences
  • Fault Tolerance: Minimize negative consequences of unintended actions 
  • Low physical effort: minimize fatigue 
  • Access and use: eg avoiding the possibility of tampering

Why is universal design important?

Because design can still lead to exclusion!

Universal design principles improve products and websites on three levels:

1st improvement: marginalization is reduced 

The environment that determines our lives is the result of design processes. On closer inspection, it is surprising how many people are unable to use certain things in everyday life due to the norms of this design, because their possibilities do not correspond to the norm.
Even small changes are often enough for each person – regardless of their individual circumstances – to be able to participate in normalized life.

2. Improvement: Products and websites become more sustainable

One consequence of normative design is that alternative products must be created for people with challenges. That costs a lot of valuable resources. Universal design is therefore considered to be particularly sustainable. It aims at the largest possible number of users for products. Special concepts become redundant, which saves resources. 3. Improvement: Products and websites become more valuable 

Manufacturers in particular often fear that making products widely usable is expensive and complicated. And at the same time there is a compulsion to tailor products precisely to their target group. Universal design therefore sounds like a step in the wrong direction. 

But many examples suggest the opposite: Improvements for a certain group of people can also make use easier or more attractive for other user groups.
One example is talking shopping carts . They help people with visual impairments to make normal purchases. Interestingly, however, the technology also helps to provide people with an improved shopping experience without limitations. So universal design is a way to better products. 

Proponents go further, calling the principles guidelines for good design itself.

Subscribe to the Inbound Marketing Blog NOW!

Creating websites: How do companies implement a barrier-free, universal web design?

If you want to change the parameters for the usability of a website, you should first question how the existing, normal design process has to be changed. A change of methodology can be helpful here for a barrier-free design or updating of websites.

The so-called Growth Driven Design is an agile method for web design. Websites are not completed but continuously optimized. 

This optimization takes place in sprints and makes it possible to continuously improve the quality, accessibility and universality of the website. The methodology is recommended for both the relaunch and the redesign of a website.


Universal design is more than an attempt to break down barriers. His principles for a maximally accessible design reduce exclusion and thereby improve products and offers in the long term. In this way, Universal Design becomes a signpost for good and sustainable design in all areas.

In web design, accessibility and universal design is not a one-off task, but an ongoing process. Its implementation is made more difficult by classic processes in web design. More promising are agile approaches that enable continuous improvement in the direction of universal design – approaches such as growth-driven design .

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.