Basic Web Accessibility Guidelines for Frontend Developers

Shuaib Abdulgafar
Frontend Developer
Published: Sep 20, 2023
Updated: Sep 20, 2023


As a frontend developer, it is essential to ensure that your website is accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. Accessibility is not just a nice-to-have feature; it is a legal requirement in many countries. Below are some basic guidelines to follow when building accessible websites


1. Use semantic HTML:

Semantic HTML refers to using HTML elements in a way that reflects the content's meaning and structure. For instance, using headings (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) appropriately not only helps with styling but also establishes a hierarchical structure for your content. Apart from the SEO gains that this provides, this structure is vital for screen readers and other assistive technologies, as they rely on it to provide context and navigation cues to users.

Some of the semantic elements to implement in your projects are:

  • Headings (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc.):

Headings are used to define the hierarchy of your content. <h1> represents the main heading of the page and should only appear once per page. Subsequent headings (<h2>, <h3>, etc.) indicate subsections of the content. Correct usage would look like this:

<h1>Main Heading</h1>
<p>Some introductory text...</p>
<h2>Subsection 1</h2>
<p>Content for subsection 1...</p>
<h2>Subsection 2</h2>
<p>Content for subsection 2...</p>
  • Lists (<ul>, <ol>, <li>):

Lists are used to group related items, whether they are unordered (bulleted) or ordered (numbered). It might be tempting to just render list items as stacks of <div>s , and it’ll look exactly like the expected design, however that just makes it harder for both browsers and assistive technologies to understand the page content.

  • Links (<a>):

Use <a> elements for hyperlinks and provide meaningful link text. Avoid using generic phrases like "click here" or "read more." Instead, use descriptive link text, apart from the improved accessibility this leads to, it also has an effect on SEO and can potentially increase your page ranking. Also even if a link looks like a button, make it a link, and style it as a button, rather than using a button and programmatically navigating to the intended page.

  • Semantic Containers (<header>, <nav>, <main>, <section>, <article>, <footer>):

These HTML5 elements are designed to provide semantic meaning to different sections of a web page:

  • <header>: Typically contains the site's logo, site title, and primary navigation.
  • <nav>: Represents navigation links, such as menus.
  • <main>: Encloses the main content of the page.
  • <section>: Divides the content into thematic sections.
  • <article>: Represents a self-contained piece of content, like a news article.
  • <footer>: Contains information about the page, authorship, and copyright.

2. Alt Text for Images:

People with visual impairments use screen readers to navigate the web. Providing alternative text for images will help them understand the content of your website. Alternative text should be descriptive and convey the purpose of the image. For example, if the image is a button, the alternative text should indicate what the button does. Also, if the image fails to load for whatever reason, the alt text is shown instead

3. Keyboard Navigation:

Keyboard navigation is essential for users who cannot use a mouse or other pointing devices. Ensure that all interactive elements, such as links, buttons, and form fields, can be easily accessed and used via keyboard commands (Tab, Enter, Space, etc.). Test your website's keyboard navigation to ensure that users can navigate it efficiently without relying on a mouse. This is easily achieved using semantic HTML, tabIndex to set keyboard “tabbing” priority and Tab trapping in the case of Modals, Drawers and other overlays that needs to change the “tabbing” context. If not implemented properly, you may have a modal, and when you try to tab through the links on the page, you actually end up navigating elements behind the page instead.

4. Build accessible forms:

Forms are an essential part of many websites. Ensure that your forms are accessible by adding labels to form elements and using proper markup. Labels should be associated with form elements using the "for" attribute or by wrapping the element in a "label" tag. Additionally, you can use ARIA to provide additional information about form elements, such as the type of input expected. In a case where your expected design does not include a label, make sure to use an aria-label for assistive technologies to understand the form fields.

5. Ensure proper color contrast:

Low contrast between text and background can make it difficult for people with visual impairments to read content on your website. Ensure that there is enough contrast between text and background colors. A good rule of thumb is to use a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for larger text.

6. Responsive Design:

Responsive web design ensures that your site adapts to different screen sizes and devices. This is essential for accessibility because it allows users to access your content comfortably on various devices, including mobile phones, tablets, and desktop computers.

7. Error Handling:

When users encounter errors, such as form submission issues, provide clear and informative error messages. Include suggestions or guidance on how to resolve the error. Effective error handling improves the user experience for all users, including those with disabilities.


By following these basic guidelines, you can make your website accessible to a wider audience, including people with disabilities. Remember that accessibility is an ongoing process, and it is important to continually test and improve the accessibility of your website. There are many tools available to help you test the accessibility of your website, such as the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool. With a little effort and attention to detail, you can make your website accessible to everyone.