Accessibility and its meaning to digital customer experience
We are living in a digital world where nearly everything is available at the touch of a screen. Official as well as unofficial paperwork is done online. Doing everyday chores at home on a computer might seem easy, but have you ever stopped to consider what kind of challenges other users might face? For example, how do the motor and visually impaired or elderly users access different services online?
In the past, people used to take care of things on the telephone or by physically going somewhere. Today, however, the user searches for information on Google, has conversations via Skype and books appointments online. You can now even virtually meet your doctor on the Internet. Traditional ways to take care of things are slowly disappearing. Instead, the only option is to know and be able to use new e-services.
Accessibility means how well people can use electronic services despite their possible personal challenges. The video below briefly explains the issue, along with some examples. If no attention is paid to accessibility issues, there is a risk of some people not being able to use, or even access, the service at all.
“Our service is rarely used by people with disabilities, so we probably don’t need to pay attention to this. Most of them can use it just fine.”
Come on now. If I had a penny for every time I heard this statement, I would probably already be enjoying the sun in the Maldives. This claim reminds me of a time not so many years ago, when usability was considered an optional bonus, just icing on the cake. Fortunately, people have realized the meaning of usability little better over the past five years. However, accessibility seems to now be suffering from the same issue. It is not yet properly acknowledged that good accessibility improves user experience for everyone, including those who do not have personal disabilities.
All of us can have temporal accessibility challenges, for example when using devices on bright sunlight.
The European Union improved the general knowledge of accessibility on December 2016 by setting an official legislation about accessibility of public sector websites and mobile applications. The directive aims to guarantee the full potential of all citizens in the digital society. Therefore, now at the latest, it is very advisable to ensure good accessibility of sites and services.
"It is not difficult to achieve a site that is well-accessible if you pay attention to it from the start."
Improving accessibility doesn’t cause additional costs or work if certain simple things are included in the project right from the start. If accessibility fixes are to be added only afterwards it can mean a great deal of work and major changes to the existing site. There are several accessibility guidelines and standards that list issues in user interface, visual, technical and content editorial things on site to ensure good accessibility. All that is needed is knowing what these things are, and as a benefit the service can gain a whole new group of users.
In our next blog post about accessibility we dive into more detail on how accessibility improves user experience for everyone, what practical things are needed in order to achieve good accessibility on a web site, and how our service design team at Innofactor can help you. Stay tuned!
Thanks to Heidi Laitinen (User Experience Designer) and Anna Shchegoleva (Visual Consultant) for help on this blog post.
Senior User Experience Specialist
Taina works as UX designer and service manager at Innofactor.