Inclusive Design Leads to Good Design

The modern user experience is a very slick thing!  It provides us with a pleasurable, intuitive experience when we interact with the digital world.

That is not always true!

I can think of web sites and apps that I use (reluctantly it has to be said) which do not provide a good experience, let alone a pleasurable, intuitive experience.  These experiences are usually even worse for people with additional visual and non-visual impairments.

It is interesting to consider the guidelines that are issued as part of WCAG 2.1 in relation to good user experience – https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21

Text Alternatives

When was the last time you read a newspaper or new web site and you saw an image and you wondered “How does that fit with article I am reading”?  Even for the fully-sighted, it is common to have a description of an image, or table in a web site.  This becomes even more vital when a user cannot interpret the image sufficiently as alternative text becomes the only way to describe the image.

In Word, when an image is added, alterative text can be easily added, but more than that, the alternative text can be generated using cognitive services:

Image of the Alt Text dialogue

Time-Based Media

Pre-recorded media should have alternative ways to access the content.  An example is to have a transcript that can be read instead of having to watch the video, and if there is transcript, then it can be easily searched.

Again, when using Stream, cognitive services are used to automatically generate the transcript for videos that are either uploaded or recorded through Teams meetings.

Adaptable

This basically means that content should adapt to the size of the device that user is using to view the content.  Most sites are now responsive and this allows users who need bigger fonts to easily change the scale of the content.

It is important to consider how content adapts to different scales and device sizes as the content needs to retain a logical order and make sense.

Distinguishable

Simply put, this means that the choice of colours and the layout is made up of clearly distinguished areas of content.

Keyboard Accessible

This is an interesting requirement that is important in web site and applications used on devices with keyboards.  For tablets, and devices without keyboards, this is a requirement that cannot be met.

The reason for this is to ensure that users who are unable to use a mouse are able to use keyboard commands to use the application or navigate the content. 

In line of business applications, this requirement is often requested to allow faster interaction as users will often be able to type commands faster than they can move a mouse.

Navigable

Similarly to the need to use a keyboard, it is important to have multiple easy ways to navigate to content.  This requirement includes simple things like having clear titles for pages, clear actions described on buttons, clear descriptions of links and the ability to understand location within the context of the application or content.

Often this is one of the hardest elements to get right as the evolution of content and the continuous addition of more and more capabilities and areas of content will often distil the initial design to the point where it no longer works effectively

Input Modalities

Of all of the guidelines, this is one that has potentially the greatest opportunity for improvement.  The usage of mouse and keyboard are common place and many applications will work with them, and without them to some degree.  With the advent of better natural language interfaces, and the increased ease with which bots can be built, there is a whole new set of interfaces that are now available as alternatives to the traditional screen.

Summary

These are only some of the guidelines, but when they are being taken into consideration during the design of applications and apps, they all drive good design and contribute to the natural improvement of the user experience.

In short, they should not be considered as post-design considerations, but should be considered as design principles that contribute to the acceptance of every design decision.