Design Annotations: Enhancing Accessibility from the Start of Your Project

September 15, 2023

By Crystal Scott - Web Accessibility Engineer @ Zenyth


In today's digital landscape, web accessibility isn't just a nice-to-have feature; it's a fundamental requirement for creating an inclusive online environment. Over half of all accessibility issues that users encounter can be proactively avoided when accessibility considerations are integrated from the very beginning of a project. This principle holds true for website design, where the way information is presented visually plays a pivotal role in ensuring that all users, regardless of their abilities, can access and interact with digital content seamlessly.

Enter Figma, the go-to platform for designers aiming to craft not just visually appealing but also accessible website designs. In this article, we will delve into the world of design annotations, a powerful tool for enhancing accessibility right from the outset of your web development project. By exploring how design annotations can be harnessed within Figma, we'll uncover the key strategies and techniques that can empower designers and developers alike to create web experiences that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also inclusive and accessible to all.

Understanding Design Annotations

  • Design annotations are a form of documentation used in the field of design and web development to communicate specific design decisions, instructions, and accessibility requirement details to team members, including     designers, developers, and stakeholders. These annotations provide essential information about the design, helping to ensure that the final product matches the intended vision accurately and that accessibility is at the fore front, not an afterthought.

Best Practices for Creating Accessibility Design Annotations

Phase One: Annotating Figma Boards for design changes

Figma boards should be analyzed using a combination of automated testing tools and manual testing tools to clearly identify WCAG defects that must be fixed by the designer

Some elements to test for and identify within this phase include:

  • Large  and Regular sized text color contrast issues
  • Non-text color contrast issues
  • Touch target size issues
  • Missing elements such as: headings, buttons, necessary controls
  • Form labelling, status and error messaging
  • Resize/Reflow issues

Phase Two: Annotating Figma Boards for developer hand-off

Final design boards should have an accessibility layer added with your plugin of choice, mine would be the Include plugin by ebay.

  • With the layer in place the Landmarks (naming duplicates and regions appropriately) and heading levels elements should be outlined with the plugin.
  • Using an accessibility annotation kit of your choice add sticky notes to all meaningful and decorative images and graphics, links and buttons.
  • Then add number badges to all first instance elements and create a side panel for written annotations using those numbers

Ensuring Accessibility in Written Design Annotations

In written annotations use the name the component then add a list of information using this as your base:

  • Name:
  • Role:
  • Function:
  • State: (Static, Focusable, Focused, Hover, Expanded, Collapsed, Current, Selected, Pressed, Disabled, Enabled, Error, Success, Active, Activated, Dragged, On, Off)
  • ARIA:

There are two primary options for adding written design annotations to a Figma board , these include:

  1. More Robust: Use a numbering system on the components and sections then add a side panel that matches the number with the written annotations always visible on the Figma board.
  2. Time Saving: Use comments to tag each component and section then add the written annotations into the comment. This option will save time and visual space.

Collaborative Workflows with Design Annotations

Accessibility design annotations facilitate collaboration between designers, developers, and stakeholders with:

  1. Clarity and Precision: Annotations provide clear instructions.
  2. Reduced Miscommunication: Minimizes misunderstandings.
  3. Alignment with Design Intent: Keeps work on track.
  4. Efficient Workflow: Speeds up design changes.
  5. Streamlined Feedback: Simplifies the review process.
  6. Accessibility Compliance: Ensures inclusive design.
  7. Collaborative Problem Solving: Helps tackle challenges.
  8. Documentation and Reference: Tracks progress.
  9. Efficient Handoff: Smooth transition to development.
  10. Enhanced Stakeholder Engagement: Builds trust.
  11. Time and Cost Savings: Increases efficiency.

Ready to transform your project into an accessible master piece? Don't miss out on this opportunity! Get a free project estimate today from our team of Accessibility Experts and Design Annotation Maestros. Let's make your digital dreams come true, hand in hand with accessibility excellence. Contact us now!

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