Many designers and developers often overlook accessibility when it comes to building mobile applications. In reality, accessibility is as important as any other attribute that determines the success of your digital product including core features and visual appeal.
It’s not always the designers or developers’ fault that accessibility is absent in many digital products found in the market. And there are several rationales behind this be it budget concerns, development schedule and most notable lack of care of user experience (UX) as part of product’s vision.
Unlike building complex features, designing mobile apps for accessibility rarely requires re-inventing the wheel. But rather following simple accessibility guidelines throughout the product development life-cycle.
Care for text size
Many users, even those without any severe visual impairment struggle to read small letters and make out text on colored backgrounds (particularly on smaller devices, which you might be attempting to read while outside, in motion, in bad light etc).
Consider the font size and the contrast between the text color and the background. W3C provides some good guidelines on this, but as a rule of thumb, It’s recommend to set the default browser font size to 1em (16px) for content text and never set any font-size smaller than 0.75em or 12px.
Most devices Web browsers enable you to zoom in on the content to make it bigger (useful in web-based apps with small text/images). Unfortunately this feature is often disabled on mobile sites. Notably those built with frameworks such as bootstrap.
Disabling zooming ensure that the site looks good on mobile devices, but what’s the good of it if some of your users can’t read its content?
Instead of disabling zooming entirely, you may restrict the degree of zooming, perhaps limiting it to x2 for instance, this makes it possible to enlarge the size of text, but stops the visitor from losing themselves by over-zooming.
Focus on content
Before adding any style and graphics to your design make sure that your content is understandable when the app is stripped of it’s styling and visual elements e.g. images or icons. Also ensure to use simple, easy to understand language in UI elements when communicating or hinting to the user the actions possible e.g. use of gestures.
Slowly adopt usability, when it’s not there
If accessibility wasn’t taken into account when your app was developed and released, it’s not too late. You don’t have to rebuild your app to incorporate accessibility into your design. Simply improve on particular aspect (e.g. text size) on every update or release. And within few months, you have a fully accessible app with almost zero discrimination in user experience.
Also, checkout these great resource about mobile accessibility:
- W3C Mobile Accessibility Guidlines
- Accessibility in iOS
- Accessibility in Android
- Testing your website for color blindness