Mobile apps have huge potential to help and liberate people, including disabled people and the elderly, who face challenges with other methods of communication. But as with other new technologies, there is also the potential to further exclude people who are already at a disadvantage by providing small, hard-to-use, inflexible interfaces to devices and apps that create more problems than they solve. (One Voice – Moving Together)
One of the main problems this project will need to overcome when considering ease of use and accessibility is the multitude of portable devices and operating systems. The use of a common code such as HTML 5 may overcome some of the difficulties rather than choosing to program a device dependent native app.
Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, September 26, 2011 provides some research into usability with an update on the subject pointing out the need to be aware of ‘fat finger syndrome’ and limit the number of features available.
When it comes to usability testing, User Centric provide some key pointers that link to co-design and testing prototypes to ensure ease of use. There are answers to the following questions:
- Does a fully functional prototype have to be built before user testing?
- Should the user’s device be tested or is it better to provide a device?
- What devices and user groups should be tested?
- Are there differences between iPhone and Android users?
- Do both need to be included in a study?
- When is lab testing versus remote testing appropriate?
W3C have produced some Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP) guidelines for developers that are relevant to HTML 5. There are also the British Standard 8878 guidelines as presented by Jonathan Hassell – BS 8878 in 88 seconds – a lightning summary of the Standard (video with captions and transcript) provides a gallop through of the process!
Perhaps the easiest check list comes from the One Voice for Accessible ICT Coalition
The suggested seven steps are:
- Learn about accessibility.
Learn how a user with a disability may use your app.
- Quick accessibility check.
Get an estimate of how accessible you app is now.
- Publish an Accessibility Statement.
Express your intent to be accessible.
- Provide a Contact Us function.
Enable users to tell you easily about accessibility issues.
- Ensure reading sequence is logical and comprehensible.
Ensure page navigation is simple.
- Create a user interface that is easy to understand and operate.
General usability is an underpinning of accessibility.
- Ensure text formatting can be altered.
Allow users to read text using a size and theme that meets their requirements.
There is no such thing as full accessibility for everyone, but that should not stop app developers from attempting to maximise accessibility. (One Voice: Moving Together)