Making your apps accessible to those with disabilities
Monday, July 16, 2018
How mobile app accessibility can be implemented into your app's design and why it is important to expand your mobile presence by making these simple UI changes.
With 15% of the world’s population living with some form of disability, making apps more accessible is an important, but often overlooked, part of the app design process.
Types of disability that might affect a user’s experience include hearing and visual impairments, dyslexia, and physical limitations. As a result, designing for accessibility forces developers to think more carefully about every element of front-end design – from readability to content organization and the use of color.
In today’s world, this is more than just a ‘nice-to-have’. Incorporating accessible design features is essential if you want to promote inclusivity, reach a wide audience, and build positive brand perception.
Here are some suggestions for how to do it:
Become champions of accessibility
While making your apps accessible may seem like a no-brainer, you might encounter resistance from others who believe “it doesn’t impact so many people” or “it’s not for our business model.” Whether or not you encounter these blocks in your business, you should make it your job to advocate for accessibility and put it at the top of your company’s design agenda.
Your cause might be helped if you can point to the fact that your time spent on accessible design is time well invested. And making your apps easier to use need not be time-intensive, either. There are many simple things you can change with minimal investment, such as choosing the right color tones, adjusting contrast and considering the typeface you use.
But remember - these changes are often more achievable when introduced from the first stages of design rather than trying to catch up later.
Talk about text - designing for dyslexia
Dyslexia can affect a person’s fluency and accuracy of reading, writing, and spelling. Avoiding bad design practices can make it easier for dyslexic users to use apps, so you really need to think about how you organize text in your app.
Uneven spacing of words, using pure black text on a pure white background, choosing serif or italic fonts and deploying long, unbroken paragraphs can make it tricky for dyslexic users to read your content. Readers can see words blurring together, looking faint and indistinct or appearing unevenly spaced with varying amounts of white space between.
Keeping formatting consistent and simple can make a real difference for a dyslexic user, totally transforming their experience of your app.
To help color-blind users, avoid relying on color to communicate meaning in your app. Ensure text and graphics can be understood by including written labels and error messages and be sure to test your app with filters to see how far you get without the use of color.
Colour schemes and contrasts should be carefully selected to ensure users can fully interpret all the information presented on screen. There are many platforms that can be used to advise on suitable color combinations such as Colour Safe or Skala Preview.
Balance usability with your design spirit
Too often, people think that a compromise must be made between brand and accessibility, but designing for inclusivity doesn’t mean creating a product that is ugly and boring. It’s very possible to maintain your brand’s unique look and feel whilst remaining considerate of a wide range of users.
Thinking about usability from the first stages of design will mean the impact and cost of implementation are as low as possible and can be built into the brand you have already created.
Operating systems such as Windows, iOS, and Android come equipped with accessibility modules you can build into your apps from the beginning. Thinking about appropriate color schemes and page layouts are other easy ways to incorporate assistive features without compromising brand aesthetic.
Many accessible features have minimal effect on the visual appearance of your product and will benefit all users. After all, good design is good design.
Test, test, test!
There are guidelines for accessibility that are a good place to start, but following these isn’t a guarantee that an interface will be usable for everyone, so testing your product with real users is essential.
Before you start testing with users, there are many tools that can be used to help you check your product in-house, such as VoiceOver, for screen reading, and Tanaguru to create effective background and text/ color combinations.
Engaging real people in the product evolution process will garner more detailed feedback on designs and ideas. BlaBlaCar engages in ‘guerrilla testing’ to get quick feedback on usability, which involves going to public places, asking people to carry out a task on your app, observing how they interact with the design and listening to any feedback on the layout or content.
While this method is quick and flexible, you can’t always be sure you’re targeting potential users of your app. The sample is random but can provide essential information to supplement further testing, where it is worth being more deliberate about the users you test with.
Design for all is a benefit, not a constraint. Making an app accessible is not just the ‘right thing to do’, but will help you to build a strong and positive brand image while reaching a bigger and more inclusive audience.
This content is made possible by a guest author, or sponsor; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of App Developer Magazine's editorial staff.
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