This Is (Not) For You: Accessibility

October 20, 2018
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This is not for you.” That is what I repeat to myself as I work on the UX Academy project for Designlab covering UsabilityAccessibility, and Ethics. I had grown comfortable with a sort of ‘self-design’ — previously working creatively, but alone. Learning UX has already started to change the way I’m approaching all design.

I am not the user. This is not for me. I’ve learned to embrace user feedback and peer critique, because it will only make me better, and my design much more efficient. It will also bring up issues a new UI designer may not have seen.

I feel terrible that I did not consider someone with a disability ever using an application I designed. I felt completely ashamed and promise I’m no longer just doing “my thing”. This is for you – Yes, you. The stranger I’ve haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet. The very kind person reading these words when you could be doing so much better things with your time right now. To the future users who may use a product I helped develop. I’m no longer designing what I think simply looks cool or beautiful. A purpose is prettier.

This is just one of those things that separate art from product design. As someone making a career change, I now have a new set of considerations.

I decided to take a website that I have trusted with far more than just design- and audit the Usability Heuristics (LEMErS) and Accessibility of the Coinbase website. The heuristics include Learnability, Efficiency, Memorability, Errors, and Satisfaction.

  • Learnability — The interface and service were very easy to learn, most especially to someone who is not familiar with cryptocurrency.
  • Efficiency — My experience was very familiar. Everything was where I anticipated it to be, and every button and menu performed consistently and predictably.
  • Memorability — I was not expected to memorize information that was not displayed on the screen. There was no pressure from unknown or lack of information. I flowed through all the frequent sections effortlessly.
  • Errors — I have never experienced any errors during my visits, that is a very crucial heuristic considering it’s dealing with currency. However, some accessibility errors were flagged in the code.
  • Satisfaction — Satisfaction is hard to measure because it can be very subjective and sometimes complicated. I’ll share my own experience after we figure out how and why the accessibility check showed errors.

According to the United Census Bureau, there were approximately 54 millionpeople living with disabilities in 2005, constituting 18.7% of the population.

The aspiring UX/UI designer has several tools to help check if your web/mobile interface designs are accessible to some of the more common disabilities. I discovered Color Oracle, a desktop app that is able to adjust your monitor to view the world as they do. (available for Mac, PC and Linux.)

Coinbase Login Screen
Color Oracle offers three settings for it’s most common types of colorblindness.

A more noticeable challenge of being colorblind on the web is displayed perfectly here in this comparison by We Are Colorblind

photo credit:

Coinbase chose a smart color scheme where it is still easy to read and navigate. Unfortunately, it looks like Google Analytics’ colored chart above would be confusing and/or misleading to me.

Designers also have paid services that audit your website to check and see if it accounts for other things like keyboard-only navigation, and alternative text for images. There are also free options available. I found a Chrome extension (also available in web format) called WAVE: web accessibility evaluation tool. It was really interesting to see it scan the code searching for technical compliance. For the most part Coinbase did well and it’s biggest offense was not providing alternative text for its images.

I understand my responsibility to the users, and that they are trusting me to provide them with the most enjoyable experience possible. When I think of not having accessibility, I wonder about the Ethics of Coinbase’s reaction to Bitcoin’s recent value drop on December 22, 2017.

The price of bitcoins was dropping rapidly. It lost about 1/4 of its value in just hours with no explanation. While many users felt the temptation to sell before losing tons of money, they were greeted by a notification saying that they have halted all trading due to high traffic.

Due to today’s high traffic, buys and sells may be temporarily offline. We’re working on restoring full availability as soon as possible.

Nobody was able to buy or sell for hours. Everyone just watched their account grow smaller and smaller, and smaller. I was one of them.

I was hodling on to my coins (no intention of selling), but I had the same feeling of panic and shock. I was unable to move my funds and it was the first time I ever wondered if the convenient inaccessibility was illegal.

I recognize the web designers nor the company did anything illegal. The market is volatile and a gambler’s game. I’m still a Coinbase user today.

It’s not the same. I know. I will never truly understand what it’s like to have a disability without having one myself. I just wanted to try and share a moment when I felt vulnerable and incapable of helping myself on a website; looking at anyone or anything for help.

I won’t forget that feeling when I am designing my next user interface. These accessibility tools are helping me gain a deeper empathy and understanding who I’m designing for— This is for you.

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