Monthly Archives: March 2012

Research – Planning for an easy to use and accessible mobile app.

iPhone accessibility

Link to Apple accessibility web pages

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:

  1. Learn about accessibility.
    Learn how a user with a disability may use your app.
  2. Quick accessibility check.
    Get an estimate of how accessible you app is now.
  3. Publish an Accessibility Statement.
    Express your intent to be accessible.
  4. Provide a Contact Us function.
    Enable users to tell you easily about accessibility issues.
  5. Ensure reading sequence is logical and comprehensible.
    Ensure page navigation is simple.
  6. Create a user interface that is easy to understand and operate.
    General usability is an underpinning of accessibility.
  7. Ensure text formatting can be altered.
    Allow users to read text using a size and theme that meets their requirements.
Andoid Accessibility Features

Link to IDEAL Group's Android Accessibility Project


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)

Project Plan – Minutes for 1st meeting of the Synote mobile team


Attending – Mike Wald (MW), Gary Wills (GW) Yunjia Li (YL), E.A. Draffan (EA)

• Design and development of the Synote web app suitable for mobile technologies

There was the initial discussion that led to the following points being made:

  • Not initially designed to work on mobiles – 4 years ago people were not playing videos on mobiles or tablets.
  • Browser issues on mobile – media players at present not playing synchronised audio and videos with notes
  • Devices will use different resolutions this will affect the ability to port the videos

Initial rapid prototyping – download media on a mobile with a suitable Synote mobile interface – New UI so that you can see what Synote will look like on a mobile. (YL)

• Conversions of permitted recordings to suit the mobile platform

  • Find video – we do not store – it would be possible to set up a server and cache the videos
  • If the file is owned by the user it can be added to YouTube and then streamed onto the device within Synote mobile.
  • Adaptive video streaming – single file to many different devices – have to transcode it into several files.

Different formats, adaptive streaming video, investigate YouTube or static file download cached. (EA, MW and YL)

 Issues related to media types, transcriptions and annotations.

What is WebM?

YouTube video – “John Luther, WebM Product Manager, talks about the open-source WebM video format, the problems that it solves, and what WebM means for the open web. Learn more at

Testing on different portable devices – Ipad3, iPhone, Android – delay on Windows tablet. (EA, MW, GW and YL – plus user stakeholders)

Work Plan

  • April: Website Template, Blog, Synote Mobile Requirements and Specifications & research into recording/replay formats
  • May: Rapid Prototyping Phase 1 producing prototype demonstrator on tablets and mobiles to replay recordings from file or streamed from Youtube
  • June: User testing and evaluation by Southampton and external collegaues to inform Co-Design & rapid prototyping phase 2

•  OER 3 Programme Meeting being held on 26th March 2012 at Dexter House, London (MW and EA)

• AOB – Discussion around take outs from long videos to produce clips that could be annotated etc.
• Next meeting date. Skype meeting after Easter

1st Team Meeting – 22nd March 9-10am, 4th floor demo room/FPAS board room 32/4073

This will be the first meeting of the team to discuss:

  • Design and development of the Synote web app suitable for mobile technologies
  • Conversions of permitted recordings to suit the mobile platform
  • Issues related to media types, transcriptions and annotations.
  • Preparation for OER 3 Programme Meeting being held on 26th March 2012 at Dexter House, London
  • AOB
  • Next meeting date.

Welcome – Aims of the Synote Mobile Project

Synote Mobile will meet the important user need to make web-based Open Educational Resources recordings easier to access, search, manage, and exploit for learners, teachers and others.

  • Synote recordings are available as OER
  • Synote is Open Source and freely available
  • Synote facilitates the repurposing of anyone’s OER recordings.

Virtually all UK students carry mobile devices capable of replaying video and want to use them for learning. However the majority of these devices cannot replay Synote’s accessible, searchable, annotated recordings.

This project will create a new mobile HTML5 version of Synote, able to replay Synote recordings on any student’s mobile device capable of connecting to the Internet. Synote Mobile will enable all students to work together on their coursework, projects and revision in more modern flexible environments than desktop computer rooms not designed for collaborative working.

Students using mobile phones

Thanks to Hollycross college (