Inclusion Principles for Android App Design

I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at a seminar during my time at an Android app development firm. She was one of the most knowledgeable individuals I have ever encountered.

After meeting Sarah, it took me an hour to realise she had been born without one of her hands. I only found out later that this was the case, rather than her attempting to conceal it. It was simply her natural behaviour that meant I didn’t perceive anything out of the ordinary.

She eventually retrieved her phone from her handbag, using her other hand to balance the cup-shaped plastic component on her stump. I complimented her on the ingenuity of the cover, and she thanked me for my kind words. Given that she had made it herself, she deserved recognition for her work.

Sarah mentioned that locating the necessary item was challenging and too expensive, so she decided to craft it herself. From this experience, I was able to understand a crucial lesson: although society was not necessarily rejecting her, it was also not providing her with an effortless life.

As a collective, app developers have a mutual knowledge of what a “typical” user should be like and how they should interact with our apps. However, this pre-conceived notion of “normal” can often mean that we overlook the adjustments that people like Sarah have to make to fit in with our criteria.

Exploring the broad range of humanity presents crucial queries about the applicability of our technological solutions. The creation of apps relies on a carefully structured methodology, with accessibility forming its foundation.

Creating designs that are accessible to all users demonstrates that your company is committed to its customers and the wider community. This is a powerful statement to make if you want to establish a positive reputation in the industry.

Challenge your assumptions about what constitutes normalcy

In order to design with diversity and accessibility in mind, it is essential to challenge our preconceptions about who the product is intended for. It is possible that a user may have a visual impairment, a missing limb, or have difficulties with fine motor skills, which could make it hard for them to distinguish between shapes and colours.

To begin your journey towards greater diversity and inclusion, I would like to suggest a thought exercise for your development team to undertake. Consider how you could make an app accessible for someone who is illiterate. It may seem like an unnecessary query, however, it is important to note that the current global illiteracy rate is roughly 14%, meaning that more than one billion people across the globe are unable to effectively use applications such as banking apps.

To further put things in perspective, here are a few additional questions to consider:

  1. How would you make a programme for someone whose index finger often misses their nose?
  2. If you were making an app for someone who has recently lost their spectacles, how would you do it?
  3. How would you go about making an app for someone who suffers from debilitating arthritis?
  4. If you were designing a mobile app, how would you make it user-friendly for your grandma or grandpa?
  5. Designing a mobile app for someone with less than three fingers.

Your team will be better equipped to develop an accessible and inclusive app if you consider the questions outlined above. To ensure a successful app, it is important to view the project from the user’s perspective. While it is not possible to anticipate every outcome, we can strive for the highest standards and cover as much as possible without compromising on quality.

Make use of what you have at your disposal

Android offers a range of accessibility options to facilitate the development of accessible software. It is essential that developers test the app across various platforms in order to guarantee its efficient operation.

  1. You need to test your app to make sure that changing the text size or the scaling settings doesn’t break anything.
  2. If you want your TalkBack to work properly, try using shorter sentences and more punctuation.
  3. Make sure that adjusting the hue or inverting the colours fits with your colour scheme.
  4. Validate the app’s voice controls are functioning properly.
  5. Examine your app using Google’s accessibility scanner to see how to make it more accessible.

Communicate effectively

Keep in mind these three communication rules:

  • Accuracy: Communicate just one piece of data at a time. Rule of thumb: Each interaction needs just one premise.
  • Reduce the number of letters or symbols you use.
  • Transmission of only user-relevant data is considered relevance.

It is beneficial to reiterate information, wherever possible, in order to ensure clarity. It is beneficial to use multiple methods of conveying the same message; for example, music streaming applications often display both the album art and the album title together.

Be sure that your message is understood without compromising style

It is increasingly common for designs to feature minimalistic or abstract icons. While aesthetically pleasing, these icons may lack depth. Therefore, it is important to ensure the symbolism behind them is clear and immediately recognisable. As a useful tip, it is beneficial to show the icon to someone who is unfamiliar with the context and ask them to explain what it makes them think of.

Visualise familiar symbols such as the ‘Like’ button or the ‘Babble’ icon. Their design is straightforward, yet it is evident what will occur if they are tapped.

Widen the scope of your questions

Focus groups, where individuals from diverse backgrounds can test the app, provide their candid feedback and be recorded, can be utilised during Q&A. The aim is not to locate faults, but to gain insights into the design and usability from a diverse group of people. This type of activity is effective for regular users.

Develop a learning stage

It is important to remember that the initial levels of many video games serve as tutorials. This concept could be used to create a tutorial that appears when the app is launched, which explains how it functions. Additionally, customers who are less familiar with technology may benefit from the presence of help menus, reminders, suggestions and digital guides.

We could provide a wealth of advice on how to be inclusive, however, in essence, this boils down to taking the time to consider how your audience could engage with your work from their own perspective.

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