Inclusion Principles for Android App Design

During my stint at an Android app development company, I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar where I had the pleasure of crossing paths with Sarah – undeniably, one of the most erudite individuals I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with.

It wasn’t until an hour after meeting Sarah that I became aware that she had been born without one of her hands – not because she was trying to hide it, but because she carried herself with such ease and naturalness that it went unnoticed initially.

At one point, Sarah took out her phone from her handbag, delicately balancing the cup-shaped plastic component over her stump with her other hand. I couldn’t help but admire the ingenuity of the cover and complimented her on it. She humbly thanked me for my kind words, bearing in mind that she had crafted the cover herself and rightfully deserved acknowledgement for her creativity.

Sarah revealed that finding the necessary item was both difficult and costly, which led her to create it herself. This incident taught me a valuable lesson – that despite society not outright rejecting her, it wasn’t going above and beyond to make life easier for her.

As developers of apps, we tend to have a shared understanding of what a “typical” user looks like and how they should engage with our applications. This preconceived notion of “normal” can often cause us to overlook the accommodations that individuals like Sarah may have to make to adapt to our standards.

When we explore the vast spectrum of human diversity, it raises critical questions about the relevance of our technological solutions. The development of apps is built upon a meticulously structured methodology, where accessibility serves as its cornerstone.

Incorporating designs that are accessible to all users conveys your company’s dedication towards its customers and the greater community. Such a gesture is a powerful statement that can help establish a favourable reputation within the industry.

Re-evaluate your preconceptions of normality

To design with diversity and accessibility in mind, we need to question our assumptions about the intended audience for our product. It’s feasible that a user may have a visual impairment, limb deficiency, or experience challenges with manual dexterity, all of which could adversely impact their ability to differentiate between shapes and colours.

If you wish to embark on the path towards greater diversity and inclusivity, I recommend that you initiate a cognitive exercise for your developmental team. Envisage how you could create an app accessible to someone who is illiterate. Even though it may appear like an insignificant consideration, it’s important to acknowledge that roughly 14% of the global population is illiterate, meaning that over a billion individuals around the world are at a disadvantage when it comes to using apps like banking applications.

To better contextualise matters, here are a few supplementary questions worth pondering:

  1. How could you create a program for someone who frequently misses their nose with their index finger?
  2. If you were tasked with creating an app for someone who has recently misplaced their glasses, how would you approach it?
  3. What steps would you take to develop an app for someone living with severe arthritis?
  4. If you were devising a mobile app, what methods would you employ to ensure it’s user-friendly for your grandparents?
  5. Creating a mobile app for an individual with fewer than three fingers.

By contemplating the aforementioned queries, your team would be able to develop a more accessible and inclusive app. For an app to be successful, it is vital to view the project through the user’s eyes. Although it might be impossible to predict every single outcome, we can aim for the highest achievable standards and address as many aspects as possible without compromising on quality.

Leverage the resources at your disposal

Android presents a variety of accessibility alternatives to streamline the creation of accessible software. It’s crucial for developers to conduct tests on multiple platforms to ensure optimal app functionality.

  1. It’s imperative to conduct thorough testing of your app to ensure that modifying the text size or scaling settings doesn’t cause any malfunctions.
  2. If you want your TalkBack function to function optimally, consider utilising shorter sentences and more punctuation.
  3. Ensure that modifying the hue or inverting the colours aligns with your chosen colour scheme.
  4. Verify that the app’s vocal commands are working seamlessly.
  5. Analyze your app with Google’s accessibility scanner to determine how to enhance its accessibility.

Enhance communication efficacy

Remember these three rules of communication:

  • Precision: Communicate a single piece of data at a time. Thumb rule: Each interaction should focus on one premise only.
  • Minimize the utilization of letters or symbols.
  • Transmission of solely user-relevant data is deemed to be significant.

Repeating information whenever feasible is advantageous to ensure comprehensibility. Multiple modes of communication conveying the same message are beneficial; for instance, music-streaming platforms often feature both album art and title together.

Ensure your message is comprehended without compromising style

It is now a prevalent design trend to use minimalistic or abstract icons. While they may look visually appealing, they might be superficial. Hence, it is crucial to ensure that the symbolism behind them is lucid and instantly recognizable. As a practical suggestion, it is helpful to show the icon to someone who is not familiar with the context and ask for their interpretation.

Visualize recognizable symbols like the ‘Like’ button or the ‘Babble’ icon. Their design is simple, yet it is clear what will happen when they are clicked.

Broaden the spectrum of your inquiries

Q&A sessions can leverage focus groups, involving people from various backgrounds to assess the app, provide unfiltered feedback and record their observations. The objective is not just to spot flaws but to gain comprehensive insights into the diverse design and user-friendliness. This exercise is beneficial for frequent users.

Establish a learning phase

Many video games have early stages that serve as tutorials, an idea which could be adopted for creating an initial tutorial that appears upon launching the app, explaining its functioning. Moreover, users who are less tech-savvy might find it useful to have help menus, reminders, suggestions and digital guides at their disposal.

Although we can offer plenty of guidance on inclusivity, fundamentally, it means taking the time to contemplate how your work could resonate with your audience from their individual standpoint.

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