At its heart, developing an app with accessibility in mind is vital, as this allows everyone to use and enjoy your creation, regardless of their abilities. Plus, it’s actually a potential time and money-saving exercise, as building an app to be accessible from the ground up is usually cheaper and easier than working on an existing app to improve its accessibility or having to make changes mid-way through the development to ensure that everyone can use the app.
There are many benefits to designing with accessibility as a priority - and often, just a few relatively small changes can make a real difference to the ability of someone with, for example, color blindness or a condition affecting their motor control to use your app.
A Better User Experience
Apps designed with accessibility in mind offer a much better user experience to those with disabilities - and according to the World Health Organization, this is around 15% of the global population. For example, making changes to the color contrast used in the app will mean that those who have color blindness, and other vision-related conditions, will find it easier to use and interact with the on-screen features.
Elements of an app that require precise control or manipulation, such as small on-screen buttons or form fields, can present a problem for those with mobility-related conditions, and apps that aren’t optimized to take into account users who deploy screen readers and voice-to-text tools could mean these individuals will struggle to access them.
These are just a few examples of why keeping accessibility at the forefront of your mind when developing an app is so important and the difference that taking steps to ensure the best accessibility possible can make.
Accessibility features can often benefit all users. Low vision features on an app can make them easier to use in bright sunlight, while the facility to operate the app via voice commands can add up to greater convenience in many everyday scenarios.
By putting a focus on accessibility, you’ll likely make a better app in general that has high functionality and is rich in features that people will find useful in the real world.
Easy Ways to Improve Accessibility
Firstly, avoid using color alone to denote meaning - for example, don’t simply use red text for an error message; use an error icon as well as or instead of. Think carefully about the contrast on the screen to make your app accessible to those with color blindness and other vision-related conditions - measure the contrasts used to ensure they comply with the threshold detailed in the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). Using distinct shapes and varied shades can make a positive difference, too.
Providing alt (alternative) text is vital to help those with conditions affecting vision - this text is read by screen readers to help the user get the information they need. But are you familiar with best practices when it comes to how to write alt text? The purpose of alt text is to convey the meaning of the visual element succinctly and unambiguously. There’s no need to start your alt text with something like ‘an image/picture of’ as the screen reader will introduce the visual element as such, and the repetition can be frustrating. It’s also best to use keywords sparingly and only where relevant and to avoid repeating any of the surrounding text in the alt text. Any logos or captions that form an intrinsic part of the image should be included, too.
Make your app accessible to those with conditions that cause them to experience seizures by avoiding the use of frequently flashing on-screen elements and the camera flash on devices. Steering clear of alternating colors and patterns is a good idea, too. If these elements are vital, be sure to put a warning regarding their use at the top of the page and feature a facility to pause them or turn them off completely.
Designing accessible apps is crucial - primarily because it’s the right thing to do. Apps that are highly accessible also mean that they can be used and enjoyed by as wide an audience as possible, who will appreciate their functionality and versatility. As well as widening your reach, ensuring accessibility can help make sure that your app is compliant with relevant government or institutional requirements and is positioned for the future.