Approximately 15% of the world population have some type of disability or impairment. These people often depend on apps to communicate, study, and work. However, the reality is that not every one of them has the same level of access to all apps that other users have.
That’s why app developers need to build apps with accessibility in mind. It will not only drastically improve UX, but help you reach that 15% of additional users too.
What is accessibility?
In simple terms, accessibility is the concept of whether your app can be used by users with disabilities or impairments. Such disabilities and impairments can come in various forms:
Accessibility in app design allows users of diverse abilities to navigate, understand, and use your UI.
1. Make your content legible
Your app can boast plenty of valuable content, such as instructions, user guides, error messages, etc., but this content is only helpful if users can access it.
One of the first things to consider in terms of visual accessibility is the typeface and font size. While a fancy font can be appealing to some, it might be illegible to others. In our own app Noted, font and font size are customisable to provide the best readability for as many users as possible.
Other than that, your content must be easy to read and understand. The aim is to use simple language that everyone can understand, allowing them to fully access your app without relying on Google or a thesaurus.
2. Create accessible UI
In addition to the font style, text colouring is another element to consider when designing for users with a visual deficiency. Placing dark text over a white background or vice-versa, thus creating high colour contrast and maximising readability, can help colour-blind users get the most out of your app.
You should also add section headings in your content to deliver information in an organised way, as this helps users remember what they’re reading. A survey found that 67% of respondents preferred to navigate through content using headings more than the Search tool. This practice is reflected in Noted’s new demo notes, which you can read here and here.
3. Ensure your app is easy to navigate
UI buttons and clickable URLs should not be directly inline with your content, they should stand out from the rest and be clearly marked as actions. There are small things you can do to emphasise these actions, such as underlining hyperlinks as well as highlighting them in a different colour, because while colour-blind users may miss the colour signal they can still perceive the underline.
Another important thing is to alert users when a navigational action leads them outside the app. You don’t want users to unknowingly leave your app.
4. Leverage the power of voice
According to WHO, roughly 285 million people are living with visual impairment globally, making it important to leverage an app’s ability to listen and speak in response.
Screen reading tools like Apple’s VoiceOver or Android’s TalkBack power apps to read the text on your screen aloud, enabling your app to properly ‘converse’ with blind users so they can interact with the screen without seeing it.
An app that succeeds in incorporating voice makes for a more accessible app for all. So when designing your app, keep in mind that users should at least be able to perform the main task(s) of your app using VoiceOver or TalkBack.
5. Test your app
All apps ought to be thoroughly tested before launch to assure its quality for everyone. When it comes to accessibility, a tester is able to check whether accessibility tools are implemented correctly.
Following guidelines for accessibility is a good starting point, but it may not be enough to ensure the UI is usable for everyone. You can make sure users with disabilities have a good UX by testing it with real users with impairments. You can find such testers from colleges, universities, or local organisations.
Bonus: Listen to your user feedback
This is the only way to find out what you need to improve on. We’re very lucky that our apps have engaged and passionate users who leave us reviews and send us comments like the following:
Thanks to their feedback, we’ve been able to create an app that’s now recognised by Apple as one of the best apps in terms of accessibility on the App Store.
Reach out to more users today!
Perfecting all these accessibility features may take time, but it will be worth it in the long run. By doing so, you’ll not only accommodate more users with disabilities, but broaden your scope and open up your app to a whole new audience too!