Much of today’s commerce and interaction happens through mobile apps. There’s an app for almost everything a person needs, from ordering fast food to paying rent. With more services moving to mobile apps comes the need to ensure they’re accessible. Without accessibility, you run the risk of alienating a large percentage of customers and limiting growth as a company.
There are several steps you can take to ensure the mobile apps you’re building are usable by everyone. And it doesn’t require becoming a developer – which is best left to the experts – to take the steps to streamline the process.
Step one: user research
The first and most foundational step is to ensure you have the cooperation and assistance of a panel of diverse people with disabilities. This panel can provide different perspectives from lived experience, which are invaluable in planning and building user-oriented websites and apps. It eliminates guesswork and provides critical data in the early design stages that can mitigate the need for huge overhauls later on.
Forming a panel can start with turning inward. Recruiting employees will both save money and build a more supportive team that has more in-depth knowledge of your company and how your app may serve people with disabilities. For example, a person with vision loss who’s already an employee will know what accessible design will support the goals of the app as well as the userbase.
It’s important to note that, in creating an employee panel, you may encounter unconscious bias. Some employees may inadvertently skew results in favor of your company, even without meaning to. Soliciting responses from your employees is a good start, but external perspectives are also needed to round out the feedback you receive and ensure that your ideas are reaching the widest audience possible.
Step two: user testing
User testing should start early, ideally before development even begins. Get all the feedback you can by having your panel test early prototypes, or even mockups. Be prepared to make changes, both large and small, or to abandon ideas if needed. It’s important to put your potential userbase ahead of your feelings and ego and remember why you’re building an accessible app in the first place. Getting a diverse range of perspectives at this stage can help ensure accessibility is thoroughly considered and incorporated from the start.
User testing is also cost-effective: finding things that need improvement before development starts will help prevent the need to go back and rebuild things in the future.
Step three: feedback
Even after thorough user and beta testing, you should expect bugs and accessibility issues to pop up at some point after your app has launched. Keeping your app useable and accessible is an ongoing process. You must remain open to feedback, good and bad, and keep your app accessible by addressing issues quickly.
These three steps will pave the path toward an app that is accessible to everyone, not just the able-bodied people in your customer base. And in doing so, you’ll not only create a usable and well-received app but will also extend accessibility beyond your physical location and website.
Shrm. “How to Develop a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative.” SHRM, SHRM, 7 Jan. 2022, https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/how-to-guides/pages/enterprise-develop-dei-initiative.aspx.
“Everything You Need to Know about Beta Testing.” Everything You Need to Know About Beta Testing, https://www.headspin.io/blog/beta-testing-all-you-need-to-know.
“On Think Tanks”. Setting up a think tank. https://onthinktanks.org/articles/setting-up-a-think-tank-step-by-step/