Skip to main content
Sept 08, 2023

Focusing on Focus States for Designers

Karen Hawkins

About this video


Focus, people. We need to focus. On focus states that is. The top accessibility issue identified in our design evaluation service is the lack of a designed focus state for individual components. Sure, sometimes people think about a hover state, but that’s for mouse users. What about keyboard users? How are they supposed to know where they are on page without a properly designed focus state? In Karen's experience, very few designers are aware that they are responsible for designing the focus states of the design system’s atoms and molecules holistically. Yet that’s exactly what they should do: design all states of the most common components holistically and build patterns for larger components from there. If they are aware of some kind of responsibility towards focus states, it’s that they need to design a box to go around buttons. Well, sure, that’s part of it. But there’s so much more to it than that. And for folks who claim to be all about the end user’s experience (ahem – I claim to be one of those people, a UX practitioner), there is a lack of awareness with respect to their accessible design responsibilities.

In this talk we will discuss the importance of well-designed focus states, and we will explore the accessibility requirements of focus states for some common components:
• Visible focus indicator
• Buttons
• Links
• Other actionable elements

Moderated by Wendy Tabor RGD


Karen Hawkins

Karen holds an honours Industrial Engineering degree, having specialized in Human Factors, and is a certified accessibility professional. She has a decade of experience as a user experience designer and director leading and mentoring multidisciplinary teams in creating world-class user experiences for leading global companies. She applies accessibility design thinking to all of her work, and she trains both colleagues and clients to do so as well.