Over the past year or so, Luke Wroblewski has been talking about “mobile first” —that is, designing for mobile before designing a Web application for a desktop browser. It’s an intriguing idea. The motivation that drives designing for mobile first is the explosion in the numbers of mobile devices and mobile users, as well as the competitive issues this has created. But the key benefit for users is simple, focused products, because the constraints of small screens force you to prioritize features and create “an experience focused on the key tasks users want to accomplish.” Focusing an application’s user experience on users’ key tasks is good advice for design on any platform. It’s also good advice for usable accessibility.
Pondering this made me wonder: what if design projects started by thinking about accessibility first? I don’t mean the basics like ALT text for graphics, following coding standards, and creating correctly structured information hierarchies. Building in accessibility at the code level is the only way to remove many of the barriers people with disabilities experience. But if our design thinking started with the idea of making a product that focuses on key tasks and is flexible, would that create a better user experience for everyone? Read More
By whatever definition of older we might use, the number of older people throughout the world is surging. The general characteristics of older adults—along with demographic and technological trends—merit particular consideration when designing the user interfaces that they will use. As a heterogeneous population with its own usability considerations, however, this group has not gotten much attention.
The “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0” speak in terms of accessibility rather than usability. (For this discussion, let’s assume a very large overlap exists between the two terms.) And the W3C’s WAI-AGE project, which looked at the application of the WCAG to improve Web accessibility for older and disabled people, found that “existing standards … address the accessibility needs of older Web users,” implying that no further work was necessary. But have greatly improved user experiences for older Web site visitors resulted from the existence of WCAG 2.0 or any other set of usability or accessibility guidelines? Read More
Much of economics theory is based on the premise that people are rational decision-makers. In recent years, behavioral economics—also known as behavioral finance—has emerged as a discipline, bringing together economics and psychology to understand how social, cognitive, and emotional factors influence how people make decisions, both as individuals and at the market level. Many of the findings of behavioral economics have a direct influence on how users interact with a product. In a worst?case scenario, a product’s design may encourage user behaviors that are detrimental to users’ best interests.
To understand this, let’s take a look at the video of the Selective Attention Test shown in Figure 1 and follow the voice-over instructions. Read More