A lot of accessibility is thought to be just about disability, but the way in which everyone accesses your software and information is a whole spectrum. Here I’m discussing how mobility plays into how people are accessing software and some considerations we should take throughout development and testing.
Mobility by definition is the ability to move around freely and easily, but this applies to our applications. People should be able to access your information easily whilst moving around freely. For example, a travel site might need to be accessed by tethering. “Fortunately” this year I was stranded in Frankfurt airport for the night and my boyfriend had to buy a train ticket from Manchester to London last minute. After using up the generous 30 minutes free internet the only connection we had was from our mobile. As you can imagine we ran into numerous issues.
In the UK I think we’re quite spoilt for internet download speeds. However when you actually look into it further, Sweden, Japan and Singapore have the world’s fastest broadband speeds. I remember a talk by Rebecca Parsons three years ago in Kampala where she mentioned a project where they had a small generator which powered very few computers. From the image that was shown of these computers that looked like they were from the 90’s and the look of broadband speeds from the previous link, one can only assume that their situation wasn’t great. But yet we have offices over there who have as much right as we do to access these resources - such as my.thoughtworks.
We are spoilt for memory and we can see it in the size of the programs that we download that we seem to be getting lazier in that we’re not overly fussed how big our documents or programs reach. However when you have a broadband speed of 7mbps in places like Africa and limited energy resources they can’t afford for us to be lazy. Can we afford to be lazy? Africa is a huge continent, often referred to like it’s a country and yet it’s bigger than North and South America (individually).
TripAdvisor is a great example of user experience when it comes to travelling abroad. You can prepare earlier when you have a good connection and then be on your way with GPS only maps. Again the app is huge in terms of memory and their city catalog is pretty much an app which links to cities online and offers no offline functionality but the tradeoff is worth it. You can search for restaurants, attractions and itineraries which don’t need an internet connection. Sure, GPS isn’t 100% accurate all of the time, and even the app has its downfalls at times when it doesn’t have a WiFi connection but the primary functionality like the map work when you need it to without a reliable connection.
We are becoming more and more demanding in terms of where we expect to get hold of information. I know I will stand in Waterstone’s and shop on my phone on Amazon to get a better deal. We need to realise that the way we do things are changing. Look at Netflix, now we can take our films on the go without lugging around videos and DVDs. Netflix realises this and is why we can access Netflix not only on our desktops, but tablet, phone and even different TVs. Designs need to be fluid and it doesn’t have to be costly in that we need to separate CSS files for mobile and desktop or completely different designs. However depending on your app the tradeoff of having one shoe fits all can sometimes not be worth it. Take Windows 8 for example. It works great when you have touch screen features, like on phones or tablets. But who honestly wants finger streaks all over their laptop screens? If you’ve seen user testing home videos of older people using Windows 8 on a desktop, you’ll want to laugh and cry at that design at the same time.
Mobile first is a great technique which allows you to focus your content and then expand from that if need be because you have extra real estate on a desktop screen. On a mobile we need to be aware of the limited space we have, but at the same time be generous with our spacing. Recently we did a proposal for Speedy which has a stereotypical audience of men who primarily work in construction. These are usually big guys who are going to have big thumbs, and yet their login button was misaligned and small. On the flip side, if we’re designing for children, they may need things like buttons and links to be just as big to allow for less precision, which is the same for those who have motor impairments and suffer from tremors.
As devices are becoming more mobile and even the older generation can’t avoid this change, we have to now consider more and more locations of where our information is being accessed. Not only does location prove tricky with connections, but things like performance and the weather should now play a part in our designs. Take being outside as an example. There are loads of applications which we need on a daily basis when we’re outside. Transportation apps, travel apps like TripAdvisor and Google Maps, or even hiring apps.
We’ve all seen designs where low contrast looks good, however put under any other circumstance than being at home or in the office with just the right lightning (and God forbid on a Windows machine) the design does not work. There are two ways to test this as well, either up the contrast under your accessibility settings on your machine or simply go stand next to a window or in the sunshine and see if you can still read your content. The Kindle is a great example of contrast and it’s even mentioned in their adverts that it’s tested in sunlight because people are on the beach or on their holidays when they’re reading. Although we’re not all going to be jumping at the chance to use liquid ink in our devices and other than for Kindle that technology is unsuitable, it’s a good example of accessibility when we take things like location and weather into consideration when we create our designs.
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