26 Nov

Designing With Accessibility in Mind

As part of our work with the Small Business Administration, Eleven Peppers Studios recently had a great opportunity to partner with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) to recruit non-sighted users for testing purposes– more specifically, their Blind Users Innovating and Leading Design (BUILD) program. Volunteer testers in the NFB BUILD program assess numerous websites, products and services for usability and accessibility.

Being able to test with non-sighted users gives us a first look as to how they might interact with the design compared to a sighted user. This opens the door for possible behavior patterns and practices that might affect their usability of the product we’re designing that may not have been obvious before testing with sighted users.

As we rely on our sight to design beautiful and complex interfaces, it is important for us to keep accessibility and inclusion in mind in order to maintain diverse perspectives. Wondering what exactly that consists of? Here are a few things we’ve been able to gather from our testing sessions:

1. Keyboard Accessibility

Non-sighted users utilize screen readers in order the assess a webpage. Incorporating keyboard accessibility is among the most important aspect of accessibility design. As non-users scan a webpage, they rely heavily on their keyboards to quickly navigate through each control sequence. This is why it’s very important to incorporate the ability for our users to “Tab” through content and implement “Skip to Content” links.

2. Descriptive Layouts / Structure

A structured layout on your website is primarily what screen readers will focus on as you tab through a layout using a keyboard. Understanding how screen readers interact with HTML elements on a website will assist greatly in creating layouts for easy navigation for non-sighted users. For example, Landmark Elements (like headers, main nav and footer) allows a screen reader to easily jump to important sections of the design.

3. Color Contrast

Deficient contrast between foreground and background colors make it hard to see for users with low vision. It is extremely pertinent for all text, icons and focus indicators to meet a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1. We were able to use this neat site to check contrast ratio.

4. Alt-Text Descriptions

One of the things we’ve noticed while testing with non-sighted users is the importance of Alt-Text descriptions for graphics! Not only does every graphic on the page need to be linked with descriptive Alt-Text, but they also need to be described in a certain way that speaks to the information behind the image and not the image itself.

“You almost never describe what the picture looks like, instead you explain the information the picture contains.”

Five Golden Rules for Compliant Alt Text (AbilityNet)

Overall, there are moments in which design and research disregards the experiences of people who require assistive technologies. If we involve users with varying disabilities into our process, we come closer to creating design that everyone can use.

Ashley Philip

Ashley Philip has worked as a Commercial Designer at Eleven Peppers Studios for over three years. She has over six years of experience in graphic design and is currently pursuing a Master’s in User Experience Design at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Ashley has a profound interest in solving user problems with a focus on the development and design of products themselves. 

05 Jun

2019 Web Design Trends

There are so many elements that go into creating and maintaining your website – user experience, functionality, navigation, speed, content, and design. One element that constantly changes and has shifts in trends is design. Research proves that 75% of users make judgements about a company’s credibility based on the website’s design. Given the importance of your website’s design, it is vital for you to keep up with the latest trends. Let’s take a look at what is popular for 2019 in web design.


Associated with the past, Serifs are making a comeback in 2019 because of their adaptability and ability to communicate a brand’s personality. This trend toward a more vintage typographic style is possible because of better screen resolutions which allow serifs to read more easily. With their classic look and modern feel, serifs are best used with headings, logos, or titles and not blocks of text.

Mobile First

In the past, websites were designed with the desktop user in mind and then made to be responsive for mobile audiences. Now, people are designing websites for mobile users before developing a version that will also work for desktop users. It’s no wonder why, as mobile search has been the most popular form of search since 2015. Additionally, Google is now prioritizing mobile websites over those that are not.

Video Backgrounds

Video is still the easiest and most effective avenue to convey your messaging. Without the need for paragraphs of text, a video can illustrate your brand in a matter of seconds. Proven to increase conversions, videos immediately capture the attention of your audience and boost your SEO cred. For the medium itself, the best practices employ short, muted, and high-quality video.

Single Page Design

Single page design looks great on every browsing device and works better on mobile because users can access everything without needing navigation. Not only does it offer ease of use, single page design tends to have higher conversion rates. But it’s not time to completely disregard scroll, you can deploy a single page design with scroll features to increase engagement.

Bold Colors and Gradients

Designers are backing off “web-safe” colors and picking supersaturated and vibrant colors in 2019. Choosing bold colors can differentiate your brand and make you stand out from the crowd. Additionally, designers are using gradients to draw attention to text elements or highlight specific content. Gradients have been on trend for a while because of their ability to add punch to your page without making it look too busy.

White Space

In the past, extra white space was thought to be a waste of real estate, but now it’s an up and coming trend. Allowing for easier navigation, white space also draws attention to the focal point on your webpage. Better user experience and strong conversion rates are benefits to using this trend. White space doesn’t necessarily need to be white, it just needs to be without any graphic or pictures.

Cindy Madden

Contributor at 11P, Wordsmither, Lover of Foods Wrapped in Dough, Proud Cat Lady.

25 Aug

Pepper Talk with Kathryn Gruver

Welcome back to Pepper Talk, this month we have Kathryn with us…yep, another Kathryn! Just a little background before we get started, Kathryn has been with Eleven Peppers Studios for a little over two years. She is an Art Director and works with customers to improve their user experience.

1: Do you have any nicknames?
I’ve had a lot of nicknames. The most recent is mamamamamama.


2: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
Kick the dog off the bed [pauses and laughs], again! Make sure no one else is awake, and read a devotional. Got to start the day off right!


3: How would you describe your design style?
I try to make the style of my work more reflective of my customer’s identity rather than my own. Other than that, I like to make beautiful, smart, and meaningful projects.


4: How did you get started?
In college I was a studio art major and did a lot of drawing and building. Once I graduated, I realized that I wanted to do graphic and web design, that’s what they called it “back in the day”. So, I went to night school to learn the tools of the trade, and behind me sat two designers that were taking the class for career development. Unbeknownst to me, they watched me work in class every night; and they eventually introduced themselves and offered me a job as a designer!


5: What are your favorite tools of the trade? What are the worst?
Hands-down, my favorite tool is Illustrator; I think it’s because of my intense love of drawing. While I always like learning new tools and tricks, I feel most at home working in Illustrator. I know it inside-out and even have dreams about it. I also get a buzz from working in InDesign and PhotoShop. The worst tool – any printer; why don’t they just work?! Do your job, expensive machine!


6: Do you have a set process when beginning a new project?
I usually get a little over-excited when I start a new project. After I calm myself down, I try to find out as much as I can about the project or problem-set, customer, stakeholder and users; and then start the brainstorming process.


7: What do you draw inspiration from?
Dribbble, abduzeedo and sometimes Pinterest.


8: Rapid-Fire Round:

Caffeine or no: Half-caff.
Sweet or Savory: SWEET!
Favorite Movie: Troy; you have love stories, there’s drama, you have war and strategy – what more could you want?!
Guilty Pleasure: Ironing [pauses and grins] okay, I can’t think of a good one. And I don’t iron.
Hobbies: Reading, baking, drawing, chasing and being tackled by small children, and Bible study.
Skill you’d like to master: In my dreams I would like to build furniture; in reality, I’d like to get my kids to eat vegetables.
Best vacation: Before we had children, my husband and I drove up the West coast from San Francisco to Seattle with no plans. It was beautiful and we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted.
One of your quirks: There are so many… I guess the most prevalent is that I hate wearing shoes, I would rather go barefoot.


9: Okay, admission time… If you could pick one design that you wish you had come up with first, what would it be?
The Google machine!














Thanks for meeting Kathryn. As always, stay tuned for next month’s Pepper Talk to meet another member of our team!

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