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September 24, 2014

Accessibility Compliance : What different User groups look for ?

Accessibility compliance is gaining more strength across organizations due to legal mandates.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) is referred as a broad guideline across geos, which takes into consideration major physical impairments and how to meet the needs of such users having impairments. t is vital for achieving accessibility compliance successfully in a program, that the teams engaged and working together, concerned groups are quite aware of their program specific accessibility guidelines.

There could be additional checkpoints added in WCAG guideline for program specific requirements or it could be a scenario where specific physically impaired user group can form larger user base and requires due attention.This leads to having a curiosity on what exactly, different physically impaired user groups look for on pages to get their regular, frequent tasks done.

Following are two major user groups discussed and what they typically look for while accessing a webpage or application:

Vision Impaired Users 
These users take help of a screen reader to access and read all content of a page. Typically, they work with individual pop up screens which provide them list of HTML links, list of Headers, list of editable form fields and list of frames, based on which they can navigate as per task requirement. Such visually impaired users look for following:

  • Does screen reader read all content of page?
  • Is skip navigation option available on each page to go directly to main content of page?
  • Are frame titles present and meaningful?
  • Are headings tagged in <H> tag of HTML semantics?
  • Are links making sense when read in isolation?
  • Do all images have meaningful alternate text?
  • Do all data tables have caption, summary and table headers in <TH> code for users to identify and get context

Keyboard only Users (Who cannot use mouse)

Keyboard only users typically look for following attributes in pages:

  • Does keyboard strokes or tab navigation allows to reach each and every content, UI control on page?
  • Is keyboard navigation getting trapped (not able to tab further on page) resulting in inability to complete a task (Example: filling a form)
  • Does the content/UI element in focus has a distinctly identifiable visual cue to know current location on page (Example: a black dotted line around a text field)
  • Does keyboard navigation provide an unexpected interaction? (Example: opening a new window unexpectedly on selection of a value from dropdown list)
  • Does a UI control change its role and status when keyboard focus reaches on it?

There could be different context or scenarios when vision impaired and keyboard users are expecting page content and controls to work in a certain way in order to complete their tasks in hand. These are two user groups discussed here, there are other user groups which I would discuss in subsequent post later.
Along with in-depth knowledge of accessibility guidelines, it is very important to observe such users in person while they are performing tasks.
This helps in understanding real life situations of such users, which accessibility experts can then relate back to success criteria defined in guidelines.

Combination of deep understanding of guidelines, tools in scope and observation of such users in real life helps in making any accessibility project a huge success.

September 2, 2014

Usability Testing: What goes into user recruitment and test session readiness?

Usability testing is meant to help discover design issues and get appropriate directions on further improving overall user experience. But, these sessions would not be possible without having right set of users who would review and provide feedback.

Getting right users 
At times, it is challenging to get right users for test sessions.For many organizations where usability process for design is newly followed, there is still less clarity on whether:

  • usability testing is required ( business impact)
  • if required, what type of users would be participating in test sessions
  • will such users be identified and available for such sessions
  • if available, which specific locations need to be considered.


Moving forward, getting right users for usability test sessions is driven by:

  • identification of critical user groups
  • defining user profiles
  • defining user personas based on user profiles
  • geographic spread of users
  • availability of users as per scheduled project plan.

Typically, identification of user groups, defining and further refinement of personas take place  right at the initial user research phase of design. 
Once the user groups and personas are finalized, the same can be leveraged to identify users. 

User recruitment ownership
Within organization, user identification or recruitment for test sessions can be done by internal teams. It could be corporate communication team, marketing, sales or any team who would have the strength and knowledge to reach out to the prospective users. Users can be reached out by sending an internal communication through mail specifying the intent of testing, what is expected from users, the test session date and venue, expectation from users, their compensation, if any and other details like time allotted for each test session, so on so forth.

If none of the internal teams is willing to pick up this responsibility, there are third party agencies who have a professional approach throughout for recruiting and providing such target users for test sessions.

Awareness of test sessions within target users
Many prospective users do not know how the test sessions would take place, whether in form of some small group discussion or a large, in a conference room within office, or in an outside usability lab, why is it required to participate and what is the thing they will get in return for spending time for test sessions. Users also do not have any clue on the test session recordings which would be required to do for offline analysis. It is important for users to know these details and it is also important for any organization to  communicate such test session details to the prospects so that they have a clear understanding on what is expected from them and how is it going to affect the work in progress design.

User Geo spread
Users also might be spread across disparate locations. The challenge is not just to have test sessions with such users in form of remote testing, but also to select user locations for remote testing from the available locations. Many a times, this is solved by closely analyzing the user spread across geographic locations. It is recommended to have one on one or in person test sessions in locations where maximum users, which also include the primary users based on personas are located. This also depends on which locations are considered important in business perspective and are also strategically important locations for an organization.

Once the locations are shortlisted based on the above criteria, it becomes fairly easy to take decision on which locations should be considered for in person testing and which ones for remote testing. There is also cost factor which needs to be considered while deciding the number of in person test session locations.

To conclude, user recruitment and test session readiness, which seem to be a small part of the project plan, do require focus efforts to get right users to provide design feedback and make it a success.