How to Plan for App Accessibility

Whether it’s considering users who may be differently abled or even the user’s unique experience with the app, such as wearing gloves or goggles or even their location and connectivity, accessibility is something to start planning for from day one in your project.

Full Transcript Below:

Andrew:

Understanding how different people are going to interact with your software is really key in order to make it accessible in the first place.

Cris:

How do we go about coming up with solutions of how to make an app accessible to a particular group of people?

Andrew:

Anywhere from on my mobile phone, to my desktop, to a self-service kiosk that they’re going to be touching.

Cris:

How do you create, whether it’s your mobile app or a web application, something that is accessible to as many people as possible?

Cris:

We are going to talk about, during this time, app accessibility. So what that means is, and I think this is a pretty broad topic so I’m going to specify it is, how do you create, whether it’s your mobile app or a web application, something that is accessible to as many people as possible for a variance of different reasons that we’ll talk about? So people that might be differently abled than you or myself, or even just particular use conditions for the application that might be outside of what you would normally think.

Cris:

One good example of this is, we actually built an application for a client where they’re doing a lot of work in a cold storage area. So the actual users of the mobile app are going to be wearing gloves. And so, having an application that’s accessible, so in this case, very large buttons that could easily be like hit with a glove. It could be red because you might have goggles on and it might be harder to actually visually see, that accessibility stuff is what we are talking about.

Andrew:

Well and really even, accessibility could be extended to being able to be used with a spotty internet connection, right? When we’re talking about accessibility, we just mean, can you access it? Can you use it in the way that it’s supposed to be used?

Cris:

Exactly. On top of other, what might be known as more accessibility issues, where you’re needing to deal with larger button icons because of visual acuity, or dealing with more audio contextual context for an application for that same reason, so on and so forth. So, we’re already in it, but what are some of these actual things that you need to think about, considerations that need to be taken when someone is developing an application, regarding accessibility?

Andrew:

Well, you really have to understand how your users are going to interact with the application. There’s such a broad range of applications, anywhere from on my mobile phone, to my desktop, to a self-service kiosk that they’re going to be touching. Maybe somebody in a wheelchair might need to be able to use that kiosk and we’re concerned about ADA compliance, all the way to the example you gave with the cold storage and you’re trying to use it with gloves.

Cris:

Right.

Andrew:

So understanding how different people are going to interact with your software is really key in order to make it accessible in the first place. Because if you don’t understand, you’re not going to be able to hit that target.

Cris:

Yeah. Because there’s not only the software side of it, there’s hardware side that comes into it. Even you’re talking about someone that again, may be in a wheelchair or have some a walker or something like that, there might be height considerations even. And so, maybe having a self-serve kiosk solution may not be the right fit, as opposed to maybe actually having your software on an application that they can physically hold themselves or whatever it is. So these are all things to take into consideration when you’re building out an app around accessibility.

Andrew:

And like I said, it just all circles back to, how are they going to be using this thing?

Cris:

Exactly. So as UI experts, which again is where we have to help come into play on this as a client consultant, how do we go about coming up with solutions of how to make an app accessible to a particular group of people?

Andrew:

So, we start by really helping you understand your user base. So it’s just a matter of having a conversation, looking at who’s going to be using it, when they’re going to be using it, what sort of throughput you expect. Again, the demographic, and just who these people are, so that we can design around that. So initially it’s just a lot of discovery.

Andrew:

And ideally, you already know who your customers are, or you’re interacting with them manually, maybe like a cashier window. Maybe there’s already a laptop people are walking up to, or a website that people already use. And then we can look at what are the shortcomings in that, what sort of pain points are you running into, and really just help you design something that’s going to be accessible to all of the people that need to use that.

Cris:

Gotcha. So is this something that you should just jump into 6, 8, 10 months down the road, three years down your application? Or is this an idea that should actually be built in from the beginning of your application? Should you be thinking of accessibility from the start?

Andrew:

Ideally, yes. I mean, there’s certainly lots of websites that are made accessible after the fact and whatnot, before certain requirements were in place and the requirements constantly change. But yes, it is definitely ideal to think about those things ahead of time, but don’t feel like if you need to make something accessible, “It’s just too late and I’ve got to wipe…” You don’t necessarily scrap everything, kind of thing. But yes, it’s always wise to think ahead, and then you can engineer your solutions with accessibility in mind right from the get go.

Cris:

Gotcha. Because the more inclusive you can be from the beginning of your road mapping process, obviously the more of the market you’re going to be able to reach, and the more people that are going to be able to get the benefits of your application. But again, like you mentioned, if you find yourself down the road, some standards have changed, ways of making a particular application accessible need to adjust, you don’t have to just scrap the whole project. You can actually, sometimes even bring in outside firms that I know specialize in this. Do you have any familiarity with other companies or anyone that is in the space that can help with accessibility on sites and application?

Andrew:

Yeah, so there’s multiple firms. You’re going to end up going with a third party solution if you’re actually implementing an ADA compliant type solution. It’s not practical that Bixly’s going to monitor your website and constantly keep you abreast of what all the changing trends are. So, you’ll use a third party solution, like one of them is called AudioEye. You’ll see in certain websites where it’ll have like a little symbol down in the corner and you can click on it and then you can select whether you’re audio impaired or visually impaired, and then it will present the website differently to you. And then those solutions also will help monitor your site and let you know, “Hey, this particular section is out of compliance,” and even help you fix them.

Cris:

Gotcha. So here at Bixly, we’re obviously thinking from the beginning about accessibility as much as possible. There is some onus, of course, on the part of the client to also help us work through this, but really at the end of the day, a big piece is also bringing in those third-party consultants, like you said. And sometimes, as always is our mantra, we like experts as opposed to necessarily just someone that’s good at a few things, but not really master of all, of like a single thing. So having that ability to sometimes work with a company that’s a third party resource can be really helpful for us, really helpful for the client, and something that we would definitely advocate for.

Andrew:

Absolutely. I mean, we want to bring in the right people for the job. And we do that all the time, work with specialized firms when needed.

Cris:

Cool. Any other final thoughts, other interesting accessibility type things that we’ve seen pop up on projects that people might not think about? I know I mentioned gloves, working in cold storage, anything on that where it’s like, “This is just something out of the ordinary that may not think of as accessibility, but really is.”

Andrew:

Just to circle back to the whole internet thing…

Cris:

Oh, yeah.

Andrew:

So that’s a really good example of something that could bite you is, if you don’t understand that the internet connection is spotty, or Bixly doesn’t understand that the internet connection is spotty, and you develop this application based around having rock solid internet. And then all of a sudden it’s constantly going up and down. Then, you’re going to have problems in that arena where if you’ve planned from this from the get-go, we can implement a sync mode or an offline mode and all those different things to compensate for that. Those things take extra time and work and effort, but they can be built in. And those forward-looking considerations about how your app is going to be accessed will go a long ways to make your app successful.

Cris:

Gotcha. Even things from, I know even a language standpoint, too. So, what’s your primary user base that’s going to be using this application? Is English their primary language? If you’re dealing with lots of screens and menus where there’s a lot of reading, how much of a timeout are you going to have before it says, “Hey, do you need more time to read this page,” or it resets the form, that kind of stuff. All that, for me, plays into accessibility and making sure that you’re giving the customer the best chance of success on your application, because the last thing you want to do when you build something to help people is make them feel alienated.

Andrew:

Absolutely. And the language thing you touched on, that’s something that we go through in the whole road mapping process is, asking about your demographic. We can develop a web application that supports many languages. Of course, that takes some extra time and you’ve got to translate everything. And so, we’ll help you identify during road mapping, does it make sense to put in… We’ll refer to it as localization, languages based on your locale.

Cris:

Gotcha.

Andrew:

Does it make sense to build that localization in right from the get-go, or do we want to set up this framework and have it be available later down the road, or do we will not even want to put that in right now because it just doesn’t make sense? And we get the full gamut.

Cris:

Very cool. Any other final thoughts, closing things? Otherwise, I feel like we’ve covered a lot of ground on what accessibility is. And for me, my final thought would be, if you’re unsure, there’s lots of experts out there that can help so go do the research.

Andrew:

Absolutely.

Alexandra:

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday, where Cris and Andrew talked about accessibility for your website or for your application, for those who may be differently abled than ourselves. And I think it’s a really important topic, it’s something that’s really important to make sure that you’re considering as you’re planning out your app idea, and I hope you learned a lot.

Alexandra:

And don’t forget to check out the links that we have in our description box down below. You can find a link to our free custom software guide, which will walk you through the process of planning out your own app idea. And you can check out our website, Bixly.com. And you’ll see at the top, we have a “Validate My Idea” button, which means that you get a free 60 minute meeting with Cris to talk about your next step idea. I hope you enjoyed this episode of Bixly Tech Tuesday.