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Freeish time: Inclusive Design

At Cube HQ, Freeish Time has become an institution. For those that don’t know, “Freeish Time”, is an opportunity for our Cubes to work on passion projects outside of their role. They have an entire week to identify a problem, build and create a solution, then present it to the rest of the crew during our Friday Happy Half Hour (or HHH as we lovingly call it in Cube speak).

Design

Feature image – G blog

Since the entire office began working remotely, it has been so important that Freeish Time continued. And spoiler alert… IT HAS! For our latest Freeish Time, we sat down with our Junior Designer, Georgia (Or “G” are you seeing the recurring trend of us abbreviating even the shortest of names) to find out the nitty gritty of her week!

What inspired your innovation time?

G: During my time at 3SC I have realised the importance of inclusive design and everyone having access to systems and services, but I wanted to understand how to work these design principles into my practice. For my innovation time I decided to research a variety of courses that highlight key design principles and challenge why we design the way we do. I chose this particular course to better understand the needs of the audience from the beginning of the design process.

The course, Accessibility – how to design for all, looked at inclusive design and the importance of allowing everyone to have the same access to information. This seemed so perfect for my time and could prove really useful in my day-to-day Cube life.

What were the key learnings?

G: By having a broader appreciation of how users engage with designs, we discover the barriers they face in accessing digital and other services. Everyone should be able to browse, navigate and interact with the web – anywhere, anytime and using any device they might have. Keeping it easy peasy you could say!

When speaking of accessibility, people with visual impairment are often used as an example, however in many circumstances, accessibility is something most of the population can benefit from. Looking at phone screens are a great example as when we use mobiles, we are often on the go, doing other things with our attention split several ways. When a user is using a screen reader, they have to listen to all content on a page and even though 60% to 80% of this may be irrelevant content, there will be elements that are meaningful and valuable to these users. 

This means that the audible experience should always be considered so that a user doesn’t miss the 1 or 2 pieces of information that they may have been looking for (the elements that are meaningful and valuable to them) because they are overwhelmed by the 60-80% of information on the page that people who have a visual experience may just scan over.

Another interesting insight was that colour blindness is an incredibly common disability, therefore it is recommended to provide high levels of contrast as well as colour schemes and palettes that are tested for suitability to make it easier to navigate. For example, the colour red is universal for error messages however, to people with colour blindness it is perceived as mustard so the colour red alone isn’t enough to convey an error. We can get around this by providing an indicator to reinforce the ‘redness’ of an error. Shapes and forms are better to guide users rather than relying on colours alone. 

What were the takeaways?

G: When designing for a broader audience, it is important that users aren’t left negotiating barriers and the design process is a seamless experience from concept to outcome. A key point that I took from the course was the consideration of the design being an audible experience, for example, what does it sound like? Is it meaningful? This creates a clear and concise hierarchy in the content that allows the user to hear as well as see. 

Improving the outcome of accessibility tests, usability tests show significant improvement when inclusivity is a considered aspect. Good accessibility will improve the usability!

The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.

Tim Berners-Lee

Published on June 29, 2020, last updated on June 29, 2020

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