Remember all those times someone in your family asked you to help them solve an issue with an app or a website? I do, and I also remember being mad at them for not being able to solve the problem. Well, it turns out that it most likely wasn’t their fault. Many of the issues found in apps nowadays are the result of a lack of accessibility. I know this sounds like blaming developers for someone else’s lack of computer knowledge. As crazy as this sounds, it actually isn’t the user’s (or developers’) fault.
Great apps are easy to use. Period. Everything else is just wrong. If a user is not able to use an app, the problem is most likely the app. This issue is related to the term accessibility, something that is not new but that has gained popularity in recent years.
If you are planning to develop an app or a website, accessibility is something you should definitely know about. That way you will understand why using certain products or services is hard for some people, which will lead you to develop a great engaging app. This post addresses what accessibility is and why it matters for app and web development.
In order to talk about accessibility, it is first necessary to discuss what user experience is. In recent years, like accessibility, this concept has gained a lot of attention throughout various industries, and the tech industry is not the exception. This phenomenon can be explained in part thanks to the rise of mobile devices and apps. More people are using smartphones and tablets to perform a vast array of tasks. Additionally, it can also be attributed to how all sorts of companies are adopting design methods into their everyday processes.
The user experience concept is very self intuitive. It focuses on how users perceive a given experience, that is, how they understand their journey when using a given product or service. Although we tend to think of apps and websites as something that belongs exclusively to developers, designers also play an important role. As a matter of fact, a large part of the success of a user’s experience depends heavily on designers’ skills. Great apps stand out not only because of their code but also because of their UX.
A great way to map a user’s experience is to use an empathy map canvas. This way, designers can get a better idea of what a user perceives when using a product or service.
What Is Accessibility
Accessibility is an important component of the user experience. By itself, accessibility will not guarantee a great user experience, but poor accessibility can ruin engagement completely. Just think about the number of times you’ve tried to use a recently installed app only to uninstall it minutes later after being unable to understand the interface.
A simple way to think about accessibility is to conceptualize it as users’ ability to use a product or service. This should not be confused with usability, which is a user’s capability of attaining goals using the same product or service. Being able to use an app is one thing. Accomplishing a goal with the same app is a different thing.
Identifying user touchpoints that lack accessibility can be difficult. One of the best ways to spot them is to try and focus on the specific touchpoints where users feel that interaction is difficult or frustrating. These are known as pain points for a reason.
Accessibility Matters in Apps
Most people think that accessibility is a luxury, and that focusing on it can only delay an app’s development or increase costs. This might be true in the short term, but not in the long run. As an app begins to scale, more and more people will likely use it, and this means that users with certain limitations or disabilities will eventually come in touch with it.
A common mistake is to think of limitations and disabilities as age-related. Yes, certain apps will most likely be harder to use for older people, but a great app design also takes into account other factors like color blindness, physical restrictions, and even culture. Things like the font and its size are also of great importance in terms of accessibility.
As an example of the wide spectrum of accessibility issues, think about how someone from an English speaking country might intuitively understand an app’s design versus someone from a non-English speaking country. Although these aspects might seem unimportant, remember that great apps make every user count.
The world has been giving more importance to accessibility not only in terms of mobile apps. This has also been occurring on web apps and websites, products that combine design and development in intricate ways. Take for example the case of Google’s search bar. Updates in its algorithm are prioritizing websites that consider accessibility issues. There is an ongoing debate about how this is done, but the fact that it considers accessibility is itself important.
Another example is the case of progressive web apps that are not properly designed for all devices or browsers. Users of a given web browser may feel frustrated if they are unable to access an app and are required to download another one. The same goes for mobile phones. Being able to guarantee that everyone, no matter what device they use, can access your app, is part of the process.
A recent trend that has gained a lot of attention is dark mode. This has become very attractive for many people because it softens the screen’s brightness, reducing the effect of light on the eyes. Although there is not a clear industry consent on whether this is actually something that falls under the category of accessibility, users seem to think it is.
For web-related accessibility, it is important to refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Its principles dictate that in order for a website to be accessible it should focus on being perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
How to Ensure Accessibility
Accessibility will keep its current trend, becoming more important as technology strengthens itself as a vital pillar of our world. If you are thinking about developing an app or a website, having someone who knows how to focus correctly on accessibility is essential. A great team of both designers and developers is essential for this. Luckily, this can be found in companies like Koombea.
A development partner like Koombea knows how to test properly if users have the right accessibility in relation to a product or service, whether it is an app or a website. Thus, being able to perform the right user tests is a must.
At Koombea we have the right expertise to guarantee not only accessibility, but also all the other important elements that guarantee an app’s success. Don’t just take our word for it. Proofs of our expertise are the 8 Indigo Design Awards that three of our clients won this year. Contact us, we help bring ideas to life (and make them accessible).