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Why adopt an ethical approach to your digital project, focused on web accessibility and web eco-design?

In a constantly changing digital landscape, ethics is taking on new importance as an essential requirement in digital projects.  It is becoming essential to adopt an approach that is responsible, respects the environment and goes beyond simply complying with regulations. Not only will such an approach meet employees, customers and partners’ expectations, it will bring you more into phase with the aspirations of society at large.  

Learn about four fundamental reasons for developing an ethical approach to your digital projects, focused on web accessibility and web eco-design

Web accessibility and web eco-design: what are the French and European legal frameworks for a more ethical digital realm?  

Compliance with the RGAA and web accessibility: developing an ethical website 

Concerning web accessibility, and beyond usage aspects, bear in mind that compliance with the RGAA (French General Accessibility Improvement Reference Framework) is mandatory for websites (and intranet sites) in the French public sector, as well as those operated by private sector companies with an annual turnover exceeding €250 million. Find more details on the official website. In practical terms, if you have a legal obligation to comply with the RGAA, you need to perform a comprehensive audit based on this reference framework, which will help put your platform’s state into sharper focus. You will then need to publish your accessibility declaration and your multi-year plan (outlining your approach to resolving accessibility issues over the next three years). 


GDPR compliance and web accessibility: legal frameworks governing digital practices

New French legislation: since 6 September 2023, presidential order no. 2023-859 has provided for an increase in penalties for failure to comply with website accessibility requirements, particularly in the public sector. 

Furthermore, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has established a legal framework for personal data use by digital actors in Europe. This is not yet the case when it comes to adopting good practices in the area of web eco-design: there is currently no legislation requiring public and private organisations to reduce their digital services’ environmental footprint. 

Accessibility as a means to improve user experience

hand touching digital tablet screen

Web accessibility: why develop an inclusive user experience? 

Taking accessibility on board is today emerging as a key way to promote an inclusive and enhanced user experience. Not only can web accessibility expand the audience for a product or service, it can also significantly improve the overall quality of the user experience. 

Ask yourself whether your website is open to all, including people with a permanent, partial or situational disability, as defined in Microsoft’s inclusive design methodology. For an accessible website, the aim is to address the four main principles of WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, an international web accessibility standard) in order to be perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. 


Design an inclusive experience in line with the French RGAA framework and international WCAG 2.0 standards  

With this aim in mind, the General Accessibility Improvement Reference Framework (RGAA, based on WCAG 2.0) and its 106 criteria deserves a place at the centre of your considerations, from website design to production. While it is possible to optimise the accessibility of a solution at any time during a project, it is preferable to take accessibility issues into account right from the design stage. Accessibility should also be regularly maintained during the platform’s lifecycle, to ensure that content made available is updated in line with applicable rules. 


Practical advice for developing an accessible website 

In practical terms, all users facing challenges, whether they be physical or cognitive, should be able to access information presented through an application, without feeling excluded and by using alternative means that normalise their usage. So, for example, a user with a visual impairment will be able to use speech synthesis to help them access content on a web page. Using semantic tags and properly building the DOM (Document Object Model) for the page is crucially important for the content consulted to be meaningful for such a user, before consideration of the graphic design and layout. Following the rules laid out in the web accessibility reference framework is the minimum requirement for a quality user experience. 

Providing an accessible user experience will help you adopt an inclusive approach for all of your users. 


Plan ahead for your website’s environmental footprint through web eco-design 

Man using a tablet

In the current climate context, it is essential to commit to reducing your digital solution’s energy consumption. According to a report by the ADEME* (the French agency for ecological transition), in 2025 the IT sector could account for as much as 25% of global electricity consumption. Web eco-design is an approach that takes environmental impacts into account right from the design stage of your digital service and for the duration of its lifecycle. To start reducing your digital system’s environmental footprint, you can begin by focusing on its energy consumption, including usage of the customer interface, data processing on the server side and the size of media files, as well as scripts that place a heavy load on server and client processors. The first steps you can take to rein back your solution’s consumption are to reduce the size of your pages (by cutting down on videos and images, compressing your JS/CSS and optimising the browser cache), simplify your solution (by reducing scripts that are overly complex or not a priority, such as carousels and infinite scrolling) and limit the number of requests. 

UX design through the lens of web accessibility and web eco-design  

When we think about ethics in a digital project, we think about personal data use and how the experience meets user needs, as well as the impacts of the algorithms that shape the apps and other digital services we use. Designers play a crucial role in how our personal data is collected by creating ever more user-friendly and addictive interfaces, whether the goal is to gather data or maximise time spent on platforms. 

Dark patterns and their consequences for user experience

This situation inevitably encourages the use of dark patterns, a UX design practice that tries to force users to interact with an interface in certain ways. When designing a digital service, in addition to meeting a need, the aim is often to guide users towards specific actions in order to achieve an objective (place an order, book a hotel, contact customer service, and so on). However, some companies take things too far, by using dark patterns for example, and draw criticism for their association with such unethical practices. The infinite scroll functionality on social media, for instance, can be seen as a dark pattern insofar as it arouses the user’s appetite and can lead to an addictive search for ever more “exclusive” content. 

Nevertheless, growing awareness of these practices is encouraging consideration of more ethical approaches, paving the way towards more transparent and respectful user experiences. To learn more about this topic, there are many articles that take a deeper look at these abuses and how to avoid them. 

Putting ethics at the core of our digital policy is not only a moral duty; it is crucial for ensuring a long life for our projects. Web accessibility and web eco-design are becoming fundamental pillars that underpin efficient, effective and responsible digital experiences. As digital professionals, we can fully integrate ethical changes as catalysts for competitiveness, thereby shaping a digital future where responsibility and performance come together. 

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