This blog was drafted by our UX Summer Intern, Chris Caulfield.
The growing digital population
Today the internet has an estimated 3.4 billion users, this is 46% of world’s population. Within America, usage of mobile technology is only growing – 68% have smartphones and 45% have tablets. People are constantly engaging with applications on these devices for entertainment, education, productivity, and much more.
As usage of mobile applications continues to rise, it will be important for designers and developers to make sure their product is usable for everyone. The cognitive science behind how mobile applications are created to attract users is absolutely remarkable. Every gesture performed is designed to be seamless, usable, accessible, and empowering. These example elements create an excellent overall user experience and lead to more interactivity by the user.
Similar to the continuous growth in mobile application use, the rates of individuals with disabilities are increasing due to population aging and an increase in chronic health conditions. For this reason, mobile applications must implement key accessibility elements. Not everyone perceives and interacts with a product in the same way due to certain limitations, whether they are hearing, visual, physical, or age related.
Here are some important principles to keep in mind when creating an accessible web or mobile application. Ensuring these features will positively impact the overall universal design of an application.
Clarity and description are important
Users that require screen reading technologies often encounter difficulties. While it is important to have a clear webpage, it is also important to be mindful of length. Designers and website owners should maintain a balance between simplicity of content headings and providing relevant information to users.
When applying images to your websites, add clear alt tags within the HTML to explain the content displayed on the image. Clear alt tags are also important in mobile applications when using a control, such as a button or checkbox, without visible text.
Pick the right colors
When selecting the design and colors for your page, keep in mind the importance of color contrast. The content and colors should be discrete. Foreground and background colors should have a color contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1. Remember to keep your background simple and not too distracting – simplicity will make page content easier to read.
This Accessible Color Design map from Oregon State University demonstrates the importance of barrier-free color design:
There are several resources out there for you to use to verify your color selections. A couple I recommend are: WebAIM and Chrome’s Accessibility Developer Tools.
Provide alternative options
For audio output, provide a secondary option for those who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing. YouTube, Jubler, and After Effects are all fantastic options for converting your audio to captions.
If users are having trouble interacting with your page, enable a way for users to contact you with issues ranging from content navigation to accessibility. This contact can be a link in the footer or within your contact screen. Suggestions from users will only make your page more accessible for everyone.
Assuring accessibility is implemented into your page, does require a little bit extra work, but will ensure everyone has full access to your technology. Even if your client’s scope does not require any accessibility related support, they will be very impressed by added-value of enhanced usability.
Useful Accessibility Resources
- Google Accessibility
- Android Accessibility Documentation
- iOS Accessibility Documentation
- Accessibility – W3C
- Section 508.gov