6 Simple Ways to Make your App More Accessible to Those with Disabilities
We live in a time when more and more information and services can be found online. In fact, many major services now default to online first, encouraging users to visit websites or download mobile applications and even providing additional options when you do so. From shopping, business, banking, paperwork, mailing, to renting books and movies, it’s all available on the internet now, and the traditional “in-person” ways have fallen behind.
This is great for the majority of the population, and the time saver for most of us. However, we have to take into consideration that, according to World Health Organization, over one billion people, which is about 15% of the world’s population, live with some form of disability. That number will dramatically increase in the future due to demographic trends and increases in chronic health conditions, among other causes. This means that if you do not consider accessibility when developing applications, you will not reach a significant chunk of the population.
Make it a priority
When designing your app to be accessible, you need to consider the various challenges a client may face to ensure that as many people as possible can use the app. This includes people with hearing and visual impairments, dyslexia, and physical limitations. Therefore, making accessibility a priority while developing an online product or an app is something that should be considered in the early stages. Below, we will discuss six simple ways you can make your app more accessible.
1. Design a Clear Layout
First step is to make sure you create a clear and simple layout. Elements such as calls to action, body text and buttons need to be as readable as possible with the option to enlarge them. So, if a user needs to magnify the screen, the interface must be responsive and be able to adapt to various screen sizes. If the interface is messy and cluttered, there’s a high chance that users’ will lose interest in your app early on and not even explore it further.
2. Create a Consistent Navigation
It is important that your app’s general user flow is easy to follow. That is, menus and displays should have clear indicators which allow users to know exactly where they are in the app. Also, call to action buttons must have clear labels to successfully guide users through your app. Core features, such as menu bars and search boxes, should be positioned consistently throughout the app. This allows users to quickly and easily explore your app in a logical order without getting confused.
3. Design for Colour Blindness
When developing an app, colour palettes tend to be a key concern to make it as appealing as possible to users. Usually, companies tend to use their branding colours when designing an app, however to make the app more accessible, it’s important not to solely rely on colour to highlight the functions. Remember that functions need to be easily distinguishable from each other, so in addition to colour, in order to properly highlight the functions within your user interface, use text, icons or shapes. Also, don’t forget the contrast, as your app can be used in various lighting conditions and settings.
4. Consider Picking the Right Font Type & Size
By focusing on right text formatting, you may make content easier to consume for those with dyslexia or other visual impairments. For dyslexic readers long sentences, uneven spacing, italic and serif fonts, underlined and capital words, and pure black text on a pure white background can cause words to look like they’re blurring together or like they’re unevenly spaced. Although there are multiple guidelines on minimum font sizes, we recommend that you use a slightly larger font if you are planning to make content more accessible. So, font size 12-14 pt (16-19px), should make a real difference! Another suggestion is to use the same font throughout your app so that reader’s eyes stay adjusted more easily. Keep in mind that any classic fonts, such as Arial, Verdana, Tahoma, Century Gothic, Trebuchet, Calibri or Open Sans on a plain background is a great combination and can be read with ease. When it comes to inter-letter, inter-word and line spacing, we recommend the following:
- inter-letter spacing (tracking): 35% of the average letter width
- inter-word spacing: at least 3.5 times the inter-letter spacing
line spacing: should be proportional to inter-word spacing, preferably 1.5/150%.
5. Combine Audio & Visual Material
As subtitles and audio description have become more important in recent years, any app that does not include these helpful features for hard of hearing or visually impaired users is a significant omission. The same goes for incorporating audio and visual elements – features like window view, full screen, stop, pause, subtitles, and volume control are easy to implement, giving your users much more access and control.
6. Test it!
Following the accessibility guidelines is an excellent place to start, but following them doesn’t guarantee that you will successfully implement them and create an interface that will be usable by everyone. Therefore, testing your app with real users is essential. There are many ways to approach the testing, such as randomly engaging with people asking them to test elements of your app. Their detailed feedback might be crucial for improving the design and user experience of your app. Also, there are other tools that can be used to self-check your app, such as Tanaguru that will help you create effective text and background colour combinations, TalkBack (Android) and VoiceOver (iOS) for screen reading, Google Chrome’s Lighthouse extension that has about 30 accessibility test that you can run, and many more.
It’s no longer a viable option to just design a nice looking app with a great customer experience. As understanding of the importance of accessibility grows, more and more companies will look to prioritise following the guidelines while developing a product. Doing so will not only make the app accessible to those with disabilities, but they will build a strong and positive brand image while reaching a larger inclusive audience. Even more, it’s not only a ‘nice thing to have’ but a ‘right thing to do’.