Accessible Awwwards

Affecting change across the web is about as easy as making change anywhere else in the world. It takes work for a single person or even a company or country, especially if it doesn’t play into people’s motivations.

I’m a big fan of the flashy, interactive websites featured in contests like Awwwards that heavily use Three.js and other visual and interactive tech.

The interaction sometimes makes me feel guilty, like a pint of ice cream eaten in the middle of the night. That’s mainly because most of these websites aren’t accessible in many ways.

Agencies and freelancers want their sites on Awwwards because it’s prestigious and helps them land more clients. Winning ‘site of the day,’ or even ‘site of the month,’ can bring opportunities for months to come. It’s highly motivating to score well.

Awwwards is different from other web award sites in that it breaks down the scoring system into a few different metrics: design, development, usability, creativity, and content.

Each submitted site gets a voting period of a few days. Judges score each site on those metrics, and the highest-scored sites win.

A hidden power lies in this system. With a small change, Awwwards can influence developers to be more inclusive with their work.

By adding a new Accessibility category, they would nudge developers to build their sites with all users in mind.

Awwwards could announce it six months in advance so that tomorrow’s potential ‘site of the day’ doesn’t get hammered by a bad score. Legacy scores shouldn’t be affected, as it would still be an average of the scores.

It’s not currently clear on the outside what the “usability” metric includes, but I think it’s safe to say it’s not accessibility. Having visited many ‘sites of the month,’ I can attest that they’re stunning, creative, and inspiring but rarely navigable with a keyboard.

Judges don’t seem to be taking basic accessibility practices into account when they score the site, so developers and designers aren’t either.

If we teach the judges how to run accessibility tests, we could have a real impact on these sites. We’d make sure they’re not just good-looking but also easy to use for everyone.

Why accessibility?

We’ve seen an explosion of accessibility in gaming in recent years, with games adding features to support different impairments. Captions and color blindness settings are common, but game developers are doing a better job, including all sorts of inclusive features. There are even sites that help users figure out if games are accessible to them.

While many of the developers at these companies might want to create accessible and inclusive games, I’m betting they wouldn’t be able to convince decision-makers at their companies if there wasn’t a profit incentive somewhere.

The goal should be to include everyone, but sadly that’s not always the most convincing argument.

Looking at the web development landscape, it becomes clear that the web platform is becoming more stylish and interactive. But we must make deliberate choices to include everyone in this new web.

When we push prestigious groups like Awwwards to value accessibility, we push ourselves as developers to create with empathy and inclusivity.