On several occasions recently I have been asked about how I fully understand the benefits of accessibility for the end users when I don’t have a disability. It’s a question that has been lingering in my mind for a while. I know that I will never fully understand all types of disabilities but there are ways in which we can all gain a better understanding of these users.
Disability organisations are nearly always looking for volunteers, even if it’s only 2 hours per week on your lunch. Try looking for drop in centres or charities in your area and get in touch with them to see if you can volunteer or even just drop by for an hour.
When you are thinking about the user groups you need to recruit for user testing include people with different impairments. Research the charities, organisations, people or companies that could aid finding the users you need. Finding these users will be difficult at first but an organisation will be more willing to help you if you have already worked with them to recruit participants.
There’s loads of cool ebooks, podcasts and videos that can help with understanding accessibility and people with disabilities. Below are just a few that I’ve found recently (add more cool stuff in the comments!):
Events / exhibitions
Speaking up speaking out (SUSO) is a self-help group for adults with learning disabilities and they have a drop-in centre in Macclesfield which is open 4 days a week. A few weeks ago I was invited to an event that was held by SUSO at the ArtSpace in Macclesfield. This event was aimed at challenging misperceptions of learning disability by asking the people who come to the drop-in centre how they feel they are seen by others. Going to the event was very insightful for me and helped me to understand
The website for Speaking up Speaking out: http://www.maccsuso.org.uk/
Another way in which we can try to understand users with disabilities is by using the same technology. Whenever I need to test the keyboard accessibility on a website I will load up NVDA screenreader, turn of my monitor and try to navigate around the website. Or, if I want to understand the affects of colour blindness I use the NoCoffee Chrome add-on. Using the same technology can aid our understanding of how different technologies interact with our websites.
I was asked to give a guest lecture about usability testing and paper prototyping at the university I graduated from in May 2013 (UCLan). This lecture included a presentation and a workshop and it was for a class of second year students.
The opening slides included an introduction into usability; usability testing and guerrilla usability testing. After this I asked the lecturer to come up to the front computer that I was presenting from and take part in a (quick and simple) usability test. For the usability test, I was the facilitator and the lecturer was the participant, I carried out 3 tasks with him whilst asking open-ended questions such as “what did you expect on this page?”
The usability test worked well as it let the students watch a live usability test and showed them how easy it is to do. After the test I asked the students how they would improve the website based on the test we had just done and they feed back good suggestions.
Following on from the example usability test, I went more in-depth about usability testing, discussing how to recruit participants; setting up your environment and being a facilitator. I then provided guidance on how to write effective usability testing tasks for your participants before asking the students to choose a website and write 3 tasks for the website they had chosen.
Once the students had wrote 3 tasks for their chosen website I asked them to get into pairs with someone who had used a different website and take turns to be the facilitator and do a usability test. The pairs then swapped so they both got an opportunity to be the participant and the facilitator.
For this workshop the students were given a copy of the tasks and a script framework which can be viewed here (on Dropbox as PDF’s):
The next topic was paper prototyping which I explained briefly before showing the following YouTube video to the students to help explain it in more detail:
After watching the video I gave the students iPhone templates (from UX sticky notes – http://www.uxstickynotes.com/) and pencils. I then asked the students to individually re-design a mobile version of the website they choose earlier and use their usability test findings to aid the designs.
Once they had completed the designs the students were asked to download POP paper prototyping application on their phones (https://popapp.in/). The students then used the POP application to take photos of the different screens they had designed and link it up so that they could click through it. Everyone at the lecture engaged with the tasks and said they enjoyed using the POP paper prototyping application.
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.
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