I rarely talk explicitly about accessibility—not because I don’t care about it, but because accessibility must be so well baked into the overall design process. Plus, there are so many overlaps between accessible design and the concept of design for everyone in every context that my basic design principles and detailed guidelines more or less cover it. On projects, I actually avoid discussing accessibility specifically because I think it tends to lead to project teams’ creating accessibility features, which of course, are all too easy to descope, so teams might never get around to implementing them.
Mobile—and the related trends of using tablets and notebook computers in every environment—has made discussions of universal access even more important. Instead of thinking of disabled rather normal people, it is best to think along the lines of everyone being at least sometimes temporarily disabled. Although much temporary disability is the result of physical conditions, illnesses, or injuries, it can also be the consequence of environmental conditions. For example, sunlight might be coming through a window and glaring off a screen, making it hard to read and colors difficult to differentiate. Read More
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
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