When creating a successful mobile app, there are many important aspects to consider: the design of the app, its features, performance, security and many more. But one area that is too often overlooked is user accessibility.
It is estimated that over 1 billion people worldwide have a disability (WHO & World Bank 2011). Smartphone use is growing all the time (with global smartphone network subscriptions expected to climb to almost eight billion by 2028 https://www.statista.com/topics/840/smartphones/#topicOverview). It’s vital that accessibility is at the core of everything we do, allowing everyone to participate and benefit from this transformative technology.
Here at Rant we know just how important accessibility is, and how crucial staying on top of best practice is – and in the constantly evolving world of mobile development, there is always more to learn.
So we dedicated a recent Hack Day to explore the latest techniques used for accessibility in mobile platforms and tweak our development life cycle to ensure we are making the best use of them.
The significance of mobile accessibility
According to one study (Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies Shepherd Center), 82% of users with a disability use a smartphone in their daily lives. When we consider this widespread usage, it’s clear that accessibility is not merely a nice-to-have feature in mobile app development; it should be a fundamental aspect. Accessibility ensures that all individuals, regardless of their abilities, can utilise and enjoy the benefits of mobile technology.
Incorporating accessibility features into mobile apps means that those with visual impairments can navigate seamlessly using screen readers, individuals with mobility limitations can operate apps through various input methods and those with cognitive challenges can interact with apps more comfortably. The result is an inclusive digital ecosystem where no one is left behind and everyone can participate equally.
The goals of our hack day
Our Hack Day was divided into morning and afternoon segments where we focused on the different aspects of accessibility in app design and development.
The morning session was dedicated to exploring the sizing of on-screen elements for those with impaired vision on both Android and iOS platforms. This meant testing out dynamic text at increased sizes and seeing how the text changes and the UI as a whole looked on screen.
The goal here was to get a better understanding of which tools and techniques were available and how the text elements and non-text elements interacted with each other when the text was set to a higher-than-default font size.
In the afternoon the teams focused on using iOS voice commands and native screen readers on an existing project across both platforms, as well as tools to assess how accessible our apps really were.
The results and impact
Advancements in accessible technology can benefit a wide range of applications beyond accessibility, leading to improved user experiences in addition to allowing everyone to enjoy an app equally.
With new and improved tools, it has become easier than ever to offer inclusive mobile experiences. Taking the time to accommodate those with disabilities also benefits developers and creators, leading to a broader user demographic with increased downloads, more active users and higher app ratings. Users show higher levels of satisfaction when they know they’ve been considered, resulting in improved retention.
The road ahead
In the course of our hack day, we gained a fresh perspective on just how easy it is to incorporate accessible design into mobile UI, making it simpler to ensure we’ve thought of as many ways to let everyone benefit from our apps as possible – using the latest tools available on both platforms.
As part of our development workflows, we’ll be adding even more automated accessibility tests for both Android and iOS platforms using platform-specific tools, such as UI Automator on Android and XCTest on iOS. Beyond automated tests, user testing and feedback will prove valuable to ensure as many people can enjoy our apps as possible.
What are your preferred tools and techniques for adding accessibility to your apps? Let us know!
For more information on some of the topics we’ve covered, you can visit the following links:
- Apple’s Accessibility Homepage
- Apple Developer Accessibility
- SwiftUI Accessibility Fundamentals
- Build Accessible Apps
- Test Your App’s Accessibility
- Accessibility Scanner