Universal-design principles (UDP) help UX designers create software that people with many different abilities can use, without their having to modify things or use assistive technologies. While the term universal design is more common in architecture and product design than in the design of computer user interfaces, the concept still applies.
In the 1990s, Ronald L. Mace coined the term universal design and founded The Center for Universal Design, at the North Carolina State University (NCSU) College of Design, to address the needs of an aging population and people with disabilities, meet the demands of new legislation prohibiting discrimination against the disabled in the United States, and adapt to societal changes. What exactly is universal design?
“Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”—Ronald L. MaceRead More
This column, Universal Usability, will explore the social benefits of human-centered design and ways in which we can create better conversations that include more people.
I’m writing this while listening to news reports and public discussion about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The thought that keeps running through my head is this: the real disaster was not the storm, but our response to it.
The work of planning for crisis response may seem mundane. Long before a catastrophe, officials must prepare emergency and evacuation plans. To be ready for a disaster, they must make arrangements for essential needs like transportation, food, and shelter. This real-world, logistical planning is a lot less exciting than working on cutting-edge, high-tech systems like data mining for surveillance, but people’s lives depend on its being done well. Once a crisis occurs, officials must respond quickly, making and communicating the right decisions, organizing volunteers, and transporting supplies. And they need systems—both online and off—that help them do just that. We won’t know what really happened in the aftermath of Katrina for a while, but my guess is that people far from the daily reality of crisis response were seduced into thinking that technology could supply all the answers. Read More
What happens when a site has to appeal to a wide range of people? How do you sort out their different usability requirements? Will they conflict, and if so, how do you prioritize them?
Working on a new Web site to provide information about admission to The Open University (OU) in the UK, Ian Roddis, who is in charge of the OU Web strategy, issued a challenge: How can we make sure that the site will provide the right information in a format that will be useful and usable?
Earlier user research and usability tests that Caroline Jarrett and I had done had shown that users were having trouble learning about the OU’s special form of distance education on the existing site. To solve this problem, we wanted to make recommendations for the style and format of the information as part of our design. Read More