An Event Apart kicked off Monday morning in Washington DC, and this year, front end developer Karen Kitchens is attending on behalf of UX Booth and bringing daily recaps of the talks she attends.
That’s a wrap! An Event Apart DC concluded yesterday with a fantastic full-day workshop, for which you’ll find my recap below. Very much looking forward to attending next time! For those of you looking to attend An Event Apart conference, I’ll just say this: it was certainly time well spent.
Inclusive Design: At the Elbows, by Derek Featherstone
Derek Featherstone gave a thought-provoking day-long workshop on creating Inclusive UX. The next time I embark on a project, I know I’ll be looking through a different lens; I’ll be using the activities that he recommends to change perspective and create better design.
The current list of disabilities for the web include blindness, low-vision, hearing limitations, mobility/dexterity issues, neurodiversity, and speech. This list will, of course, be forever changing. We don’t know what technology is coming, and if people will need a particular ability to use that technology (consider the mobility required for some virtual reality, for instance). We need to think about “what is the next thing that will exclude people?” and “how can we be inclusive?”
“508 compliant is the starting point, not the finishing point.” Making something completely 508 compliant does not mean that it’s actually usable.
“Inclusive UX is the intentional facilitation and crafting of interactions within an ecosystem incorporates inclusion as a core value.” This means that our core values need to be centered on the act of designing interactions that include rather than exclude users. We’re definitely not trying to weed people out based on their particular set of abilities.
We don’t have to be perfect at accessibility or inclusion; we just have to be better. <caveat> the only thing that has to be perfect is alt text for actions. Links on images need to describe where they’re going, because a lot of assistive technologies use this text to predict the behavior that will occur from that interaction. </caveat>
How inclusive are the processes at your company? Derek challenges you to do a process inventory. For all the steps of your process, are there areas where you’re excluding people with disabilities? Some people say “Yes, but nobody on my team has a disability now, so why do I need to do this?” Derek’s answer to that is “Nobody on your team could have a disability because they’ve already been locked out.” If no one on your team has a disability now, it’s helpful to consider what you would change about your own processes to be inclusive of someone who is blind, low-vision, hearing impaired, or has any other challenges.
If you shoot for everyone while designing, you’ll help a lot of people. We’re not going to be able to make every person’s experience as smooth as everyone else, but we should at least try. It also doesn’t mean that you’re going to create an accessible design at the expense of the rest of your users.
Here are a series of activities that Derek recommends to help “change your perspective” and allow you to “approach the problem differently.” Making these perspective shifts helps us design better. We can generate a lot of ideas and solutions, to whittle down to what is going to be the most inclusive ux that we can build. “When we include disability as a lens through which to view design problems, we end up with better design.”
Inclusive Design Activities
Straw Test: Hold up a piece of paper with a hole in it, or make a fist and hold that up to your face where you can mimic the sensation of having low vision. Now, try to complete a set of tasks based on only being able to see from a very small hole. This is the experience of someone with low vision who has used a screen magnifier. This test should help you become aware of the pain points you may inadvertently be adding to your users.
Performing a straw test on large tables showed just how difficult understanding data can be for people with low vision. So Derek’s company created a prototype that brings in the context for the data to the user http://examples.simplyaccessible.com/cell-headers/. This type of UI improvement can actually help people who have excellent vision as well. It is an example of Inclusive UX being better design.
One Direction Test: Some users with mobility/dexterity challenges can’t move diagonally. This is really difficult for some users when they encounter a drag and drop UI. Here I thought that drag and drop was what all my users wanted. In reality, I may have been taking away functionality from others. The group was encouraged to think of ways to make the drag and drop interface better by excluding diagonal motion. The solution to this type of problem isn’t always obvious, but is there.
Some of the other activities that you can do include Design for Andre (imagine that Andre the Giant is using your UI, how can you make your product best for him?), Be a Master Chef (try to solve a task for a person that can only interact with forms), Headings Only (what if someone only read the headings to your page? would they understand the core concept of your UI?), Zero Confidence (can you design an interface that makes people feel smart?). The rest of the activities are the Equator Test, Prime Meridian Test, Talk Through, Hidden Controls, No Scrolling, Affordances. Derek and Simply Accessible are prototyping physical flash cards for these test, and if you can sign up to get them as soon as they come out.
Next steps: Take the challenges listed above to improve the inclusiveness of the solutions that you provide to your users.
See you next year!
Thanks for reading along with me this year at An Event Apart! And see you next year!