Usability & Accessibility | Keeping Up Without Leaving Users Behind
There is only one certainty in the world of technology, and that is change. As larger and more diverse groups of people access web content and use mobile applications on an ever-evolving array of devices, developing software can present a two-sided problem: how do you stay ahead of these trends and not alienate your audience?
The conflict between users’ expectations and their desire for clarity has fueled issues of usability since the early days of the web. Strategies for making software easy to learn and understand have evolved over time to adapt to a growing set of tools, but basic principles center on simple concepts like facilitating specific tasks and providing users with options, to help promote inclusiveness in technology.
Thankfully, accessibility standards have been more formalized by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which provides guidelines for accommodating users with disabilities in terms of both web content and applications. Just as with usability, these protocols focus on creating a consistent, customizable and somewhat predictable experience for everyone.
To a designer, all of this may seem somewhat restricting, but usability and accessibility shouldn’t be seen as enemies of good design -- they ARE good design. If you want to reach people with your idea and hold their attention, producing that objective will be totally dependent on whether users can achieve their goals easily, seamlessly and without any roadblocks.
There are a number of things one can do or consider to make sure that a project is being developed with the proper eye for usability and accessibility, without interrupting the creative flow needed to address issues organically and intuitively:
Develop a user-centric, task-oriented approach. Try to see through the eyes of your users and eliminate complexity. Always ask: can you find what you’re looking for and accomplish tasks without guess work? Allow the answers to influence your design decisions.
Only give users what they need in the moment. Get to the point -- leave all secondary functions for other screens or pages. But facilitate a simple path through each task; do not force people to find their way.
It is not about what you want; it is about what your users want. Be open to new ideas, stay on top of trends in web and mobile design, but don’t lose your audience. You know them best, so make sure they’re taken care of first and foremost.
It never hurts to get input. Often when so much time and thought are spent on a project, it becomes difficult to see possible flaws. It’s better to find and address potential issues yourself, so don’t be timid about putting fresh eyes on a project, and keep looking for ways to renew your perspective throughout its life cycle.
At Grok Interactive we are presented with unique and interesting challenges that require increasingly nuanced and customized solutions. Our process begins by laying out project details and goals, identifying the users to whom we are speaking, and discussing how they will proceed through key tasks, step by step. We love talking software, so reach out to us anytime to discuss how we can help you bring your idea to life!