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University project: Creating websites for users with cognitive disabilities

Cognitive disabilities include dyslexia, dementia, ADHD, down syndrome and brain injury. The spectrum of disability severity varies – a user with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder will struggle differently compared to a user who has severe dementia. These types of disabilities can affect the users memory, attention span, problem-solving readability and understanding. Therefore, when using website features we find easy, these users may struggle – for example, a person with severe dyslexia often struggles with spelling, if this user is using a search box but the website does not prompt possible words when spelt wrong, it will most likely take the user a long period of time to find what they are looking for.

Website designers and developers have the difficult task of creating a website which is accessible for everyone – including those who have both physical and mental disabilities. There is a lengthy list of considerations which must be taken into account when an accessible website for all disabilities – from deciding what content to use to ensuring that the hierarchy of the programming language is correct. Tutorials online based on this subject are inconsistent, from all the articles I have read they only briefly cover cognitive disabilities and concentrate considerably more on creating a website which will work with screen readers (for blind and partially sighted users).

For my university project I have chosen the title – “creating a content rich and accessible website for users with cognitive disabilities”. I am going to conduct various different research before creating an exemplar website which will guide designers, developers, and anyone else interested, about creating a site which is accessible and content-rich, and aimed towards users who have a cognitive disability (whilst also covering all types of disabilities). My research will include user testing on both existing websites and the website I will be building. This project has already grown quite a bit of interest and it has been asked a few times if I am writing about it, hence starting this blog.

Discussing accessibility at the British Conference of undergraduate research

The British conference of undergraduate research is a conference held every year that promotes student research of all disciplines. All students who apply and are approved can either present their research in the form of a poster or a 10 minute presentation.

BCUR website – http://www.bcur.org/

For my final year research project, ‘creating content-rich and accessible websites for people with cognitive disabilities’, I decided to do a 10 minute presentation.

The slides from my presentation can be seen below:

The presentation went very well and gained a lot of interest with people approaching me afterwards to ask various different questions. Although the video is not able to be put online it was filmed for internal purposes and if anyone I know would like to view it don’t hesitate to ask me.

slide6
Plymouth University and BCUR put on a great event, very well structured, sociable and fun. There were loads of opportunities to make new friends and talk to other students about their research, especially at the poster presentations. A meal was organised for everyone who attended the event, which took place at a hired out aquarium and was a fantastic night.

Overall, I have really enjoyed working on my final year project over the past year and plan to hopefully carry on it’s development after University. The British Conference of undergraduate research helped me to realise how passionate I am about my work and meet other student’s from a variety of disciplines who are equally as passionate about their work. It was an inspiring experience, it gave me the confidence to speak at future conferences and I highly recommend other students to take part in future BCUR events.

I’m happy to answer any questions about BCUR, my project or send over the presentation video. Email me: rebecca@toppsusability.co.uk

 

User testing with a mobile application paper prototype

Recently I have been doing research and design work for the university module ‘UXD’ which asks us to follow a user experience process and design a mobile application. This research has included online surveys; user interviews; contextual enquiries; card sorting and usability testing on similar applications.

After the research phase, I sketched out the different screens for my application. Instead of drawing out every single possible screen, I decided to only draw the main user journey. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide what the user’s journey may be – it’s a good idea to create the pages for each of the main navigation selection.

designs 2

 

Using these paper prototypes, I conducted user testing with various different participants. Because I choose to test using participants which were within my target audience, I asked each of them to use the application how they wanted, without any set tasks. This has allowed me to view what decisions my audience are likely to make and how they will use the application. Also, asking the user to press onto the paper designs like it is a real application showed me how they interact with it.

Overall, it has been a very different experience to doing user testing on the computer but also a learning curve. User testing with a paper prototype allows you to interact more closely with a participant – for example, I changed my designs whilst doing the user test and asked a participant if it was easier to understand with my changes. I also ended up changing the designs three times and doing three different sets of user testing until the participants understood everything easily.

For more information check out this great exemplar and tutorial video about usability testing with a paper prototype: http://youtu.be/9wQkLthhHKA