4 Tips to Make Your Next Product More Accessible

June 24, 2022

Equal Access for All?

It’s no secret that nearly everyone currently depends on apps and websites to survive their day. What may have once been a privilege is now necessary to many components of life, from map navigation to career advancement to relationships. It should be surprising and unacceptable then that many people don’t get to experience those digital products to their fullest, or often even at all. While we have tried to assist children in schools and adults with accommodations at work and public, digital spaces are often overlooked or not acted upon in favor of design trends and aesthetics. Here are four tips that will help everyone access your product equally.

1. Consider Your Audience

When considering your user base, you may find that people with similar goals often have identical needs. For example, a mobile app that helps users care for their aging spouse or partner should probably include large text and easy navigation in the interface. An app designed for parents of newborns would be improved if it could be operated easily with one hand so they could hold the baby simultaneously. An app to help users get organized would best have a minimal cognitive load and significant white space. You may consider your target audience to be young, on-the-go, tech-savvy users. However, they may still have conditions like dyslexia, ADHD, a broken arm, or any factors contributing to how they experience the product. Even if you wouldn’t immediately consider the demographic to have a permanent disability, consider what obstacles may hold them back or cause struggles.

2. Go Beyond Basic Color Contrast Tests

Perhaps the most common example of accessible design is ensuring the interface colors pass the contrast test for visibility. Of course, this is important and should be done, but it shouldn’t be the only step. If the user were colorblind, would they be able to recognize the product’s error states? If the device used is mounted in a specific orientation, would the user still be able to see all the content? If the user has a screen reader, would they know which button to click on to, say, find a recipe, or would it simply advise “click here”? For more ideas on how to increase accessibility, check out the A11y Project’s checklist here. ​​Checklist - The A11Y Project

3. Inclusivity > Design Trends

It is tempting to gush over the sleek, minimalistic designs we come across on Instagram or Behance and hope to imitate their style. It’s crucial, though, that we, as designers, prioritize functionality and accessibility first. Yes, I’m sure it looks so modern when we design a form that removes all visual clutter like text boxes or back buttons. But if it takes away from the experience for users that rely on those features when using the keyboard only, or when they make an error when they experience a tremor, is it worth it? Designers are known for their empathy when designing innovative products. We must use radical empathy to solve problems blocking accessibility. As accessibility specialist Jesse Hausler advises, “...we don’t want to design for our design peers. Design for the diverse set of users who will interact with your products.”

4. Go From Start to Finish

With busy schedules and approaching deadlines, it’s important to remember that accessibility is not a feature that can be slapped on at the end of a project. Accessibility should ideally be considered from the initial brainstorming of the product to testing, all the way through shipping. Designers and product owners will save time and money by thinking through user need when researching, creating the user task flow, sketching basic wireframes, and picking colors rather than making edits to a high-fidelity interface. Accessibility also needs to be considered during usability testing so that assistive equipment like screen readers, device stands, etc., can be available, as well as testing with users with different needs to receive feedback that best represents all users.

Sum Up

Think about your users and their needs. Not sure what they might need? Ask! Research! Test! And then prioritize their needs from the jump. Here are helpful resources that can help your next design project.

Useful Resources:

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