How Can Enterprises Put Accessibility at the Centre of their Mobile App Testing Strategy?

Navya

Posted On: June 22, 2022

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The evolution of mobile has made it a revelatory digital touchpoint in the customer decision-making journey. For enterprises, this omnipresent device offers an ideal platform to reach a broad base of consumers and deliver services.

As Gartner said, ‘To enhance the mobile marketing experience, marketers must look beyond pure functionality and consider the emotional reaction of users.’ The physical response, especially in the case of differently-abled consumers, is critical. Accessibility testing of mobile applications should be a priority for enterprises to ensure that mobile services are readily available to all, including those who are differently abled. In doing so, enterprises will widen their customer base and fulfill legal compliance and corporate social responsibility, all of which enhance their brand image with customers.

Some Important Numbers on Mobile Apps and accessibility

According to a Statista report, in 2021, consumers downloaded 230 billion mobile apps, which is 63% more than 140.7 billion downloads in 2016.

Mobile apps will generate more than 613 billion U.S. dollars in revenues in 2025.

During the first quarter of 2022, over 3.29 million mobile apps were available on the Google Play Store, and around 2.11 million mobile apps were available in the Apple App Store.

Mobile internet traffic contributes to almost 55 percent of total web traffic.

According to the WHO, about 15% of the world’s population, or around 1 billion people, has some form of disability, expected to double by 2050.

With the increase in app usage and regulations to accommodate accessibility and a growing population of people who are differently-abled, mobile app accessibility is more important than ever.

Accessibility Problem Assessment and their solution

There are broadly four categories of disabilities concerning mobile accessibility. We briefly review these categories in line with issues encountered when using mobile applications. We also outline accessibility features commonly available on mobile devices, which will serve to overcome these problems.

Physical Disabilities

Individuals with upper limb mobility issues face difficulties performing gestures such as pinch, spread, and flick, tapping buttons, and controlling sliding bars on a mobile device.

Solution: Provisioning advanced speech recognition software and accessibility design allow hands-free mobile device control. Some high-end mobile devices also provide eyeball tracking and touch-free gesture features. People with upper limb mobility issues can operate a mobile device with a stylus pen using other parts of the body.

Visual Disabilities

Those with visual disabilities such as blindness, low vision, or color blindness cannot view screens and controls on mobile applications. Therefore, they cannot see the buttons on a mobile device or use the touch screen to access functions.

Solution: Such individuals rely on the screen reader software to convert information displayed on the device screen into speech or Braille on a Braille display. Some mobile device screen readers are equipped with gesture-based features that enable people with visual disabilities to listen to descriptions of functions on their devices and operate them using touch and gestures.

Hearing Disabilities

Individuals with hearing disabilities cannot hear the caller, audio notifications, audio content, and instructions presented in audio formats.

Solution: Such individuals rely on sign language and Text messaging to communicate. Providing good captions and sign language for audio content and visual and vibration alerts will enable people with hearing disabilities to use mobile applications.

Cognitive Disabilities

People with cognitive disabilities can experience attention, memory, analytics, communication, computation, and reading problems. They experience difficulties in understanding complex text and following complicated instructions.

Solution: Although cognitively impaired individuals do not require special tools to use a mobile device, providing intuitive user interfaces will simplify accessibility for them. Additionally, people with learning difficulties can use screen readers to improve their focus and understanding of the content on mobile applications.

What is Mobile App Accessibility?

Mobile app-accessibility narrates the significance of mobile application designs for phones, tablets, and wearables and encourages apps to be user-friendly to the 1+ billion people worldwide who have a disability.

Making your mobile app accessible also increases the size of your potential market. In addition, studies show that accessibility and good user experience are closely related.

Why Should Enterprises Opt for Mobile Accessibility Testing?

Making your mobile app accessible also increases the size of your potential market. In addition, studies show that accessibility and good user experience are closely related.

Accessibility testing of mobile applications is a top priority for enterprises to ensure that app services are readily available, especially for those with disabilities. In addition, ensuring that your apps reach the broadest potential market is good business sense.

In addition to this, accessibility testing will ensure you fulfill all legal compliance, exhibit corporate social responsibility, and also helps in enhancing your brand image with customers.

Support for the disabled will give enterprises an advantage over competitors who do not offer this support. In addition, every customer that can navigate around your app with ease leads to better reviews of the app in the market and eventually leads to more app downloads.

The inclusivity will not only transform the user experience but will enhance your brand image and increase brand loyalty amongst users.

All mobile applications should be designed and coded as per accessibility compliance so that people with disabilities can use them.

However, the recent data shows that websites are poorly developed and are not accessibility compliant. In contrast, mobile applications are not yet considered for accessibility which poses barriers for people with disability.

So here are a few reasons why enterprises should have a solid testing strategy for accessibility

  • Capture a huge, overlooked market share of $490 billion
  • In a recent Nucleus Research report, researchers found that 2% of total eCommerce transactions are completed by people who are blind. This 2% assumes that less than half of the blind population (5 percent of the total population) are everyday eCommerce shoppers and contribute that 2 percent share of total eCommerce. From these findings, we can infer that the total available market for consumers with visual impairments is about $10.3 billion.

  • Minimized Operational Cost
  • Operational costs are the costs associated with running a business. Most businesses break out these costs through various channels to better understand their business and minimize costs. In addition, most omnichannel organizations wish to push transactions to the digital space to minimize costs.
    In short, if you have problems with accessibility in your digital channel, you are pushing more calls, more traffic, and more work to your call center even if consumers abandon the transaction.

  • Reduce Potential Legal Risk
  • From 2017 to 2018, web accessibility-related lawsuits skyrocketed by 181%. Thousands of enterprises reacted and started to work toward reaching accessibility compliance. Enterprises have to deal with demand letters or lawsuits from people looking for some settlement. However, within these numbers, there are tons of legitimate customers or legitimate prospective customers simply trying to use a company’s products or services.

  • Increase Brand Awareness
  • Most company core values include inclusivity, ease of use, being always there, etc. If your company’s mission is to be inclusive, connected, customer-driven, simple, helpful, and customer-centric, how can accessibility not be a part of that? You cannot have a company motto that revolves around inclusivity and exclude a significant portion of the population.

    9 out of 10 blind Internet users are vocal anti-advocates for inaccessible companies and choose your competitors if your company’s website or application is inaccessible.

Overview of Mobile Accessibility Testing Guidelines

The current standard for designing web accessibility is crafted by W3C called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 3. It is currently an incomplete draft. It is intended to develop into a W3C Standard in a few years. WCAG 3 applies to web content, apps, tools, publishing, and emerging technologies on the web

These suggestions are inspired by guidelines found in the WCAG.

  • Design for different screen sizes
  • Smaller screens and custom aspect ratios are trademarks of mobile devices. Designers need to keep them in mind while building native apps. A smaller screen limits the amount of information users grasp at a time, especially when users with poor vision need to magnify content due to poor vision.

  • Placement of Touch Targets
  • Higher resolution in mobile devices permits multiple interactive elements to be displayed on a small screen. But these elements must be legible and spaced well enough so that users can easily target them by touch.

  • Simple gestures and feedback
  • Gesture controls used in native apps should be simple and easy to use. However, complex gesture control can be challenging for users with motor or dexterity impairments. Therefore, create alternative gestures like a simple tap or swipe in place of complex ones.

  • Consistent Templates and Layouts
  • Components repeated across multiple pages in an application should be presented in a consistent layout.
    For example, If the app has a logo to the left followed by a menu bar and a search tab, make sure these elements appear in the same relative order and position on all the app screens.

  • Easy Data Entry methods
  • Multi-modal data entry is another prominent feature of mobile devices and native applications. Users can enter information using various modes like an on-screen keyboard, Bluetooth keyboard, and Voice.
    Text entry can be difficult for some users, but other data entry styles can replace it

  • Be mindful of Images and Colors
  • Colors are perceived differently by different people. The relationship between color and optimal combinations can be measured digitally to benefit people with sight disabilities and improve general legibility.

Optimizing your digital products to make sure your mobile app is accessible requires more than optimizing the designs.

Creating an accessible mobile app is a team effort:

  • Designers need to incorporate consistent, understandable, and meaningful designs.
  • Copywriters need to write short, easy-to-read, and understandable content that even reads well on a small mobile screen.
  • Developers need to write logical, well-structured, and accessible code.
  • Testers, in particular, need to go beyond the usual visual testing. They should test with screen readers, an external keyboard, or even a joystick!

Checklist for Mobile Accessibility

Based on the guidelines we have mentioned above, we have created a checklist for you to follow to build a great and accessible mobile app. By using this checklist, you can ensure the content on your app can be used independently by people with disabilities.

Screen Designs

  • The content displayed on a screen is reasonable
  • Buttons are controls are legible
  • Buttons and controls are spaced well
  • Form fields positioned below their label

Gestures

  • Simple gestures
  • Make sure alternate gestures are available
  • Controls activate upon release and not during initial touch
  • Functionality triggered by shaking, tilting, or moving the device can be disabled
  • Functionality triggered by device motion can be used by more typical interface components

Indicators for Gestures and Actions

  • Visual indicators and Text to show how to perform gestures
  • Indicators and Text to show elements are actionable
  • Actionable elements are grouped intuitively
  • Clear, Text-based instructions for complex interaction

Multiple Data entry methods

  • Virtual keyboard
  • Keyboard and other input device support
  • Speech-based input

Texts and resize

  • Ability to resize Text to 200%
  • No loss of content when resized or magnified
  • Content should not require scrolling in 2 directions when magnifies
  • Browser’s pinch to zoom is functional

Orientation and Layout

  • Supports portrait and landscape
  • Consistent and predictable page layout

Structure and Navigation

  • Descriptive Titles
  • Properly nested headings available to assistive technology
  • Menu, controls, and links work with touch and keyboard
  • Menu, controls, and links are clearly labeled

Text Alternative for Images and Media

  • Images have an accessible text alternative
  • Videos have synced and accurate captions
  • Videos provide text transcripts and audio description
  • Digital Text and not images of Text are used

Conclusion

While enterprises focus on addressing the needs of their core customer base through digital channels, they can inadvertently sideline an essential section of society, the differently-abled, and miss the opportunity of selling to them. Despite technological breakthroughs, people with disabilities continue to face barriers to computer use.

Whether users are on a desktop or mobile device, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines offer comprehensive best practices for developing and maintaining digitally accessible websites and applications. In addition, new legislation and court decisions worldwide have continually held businesses accountable for not following WCAG to make their digital products accessible, and it’s only a matter of time before mobile devices are considered an integral part of those legal requirements.

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Navya

Engineer by qualification, a professional in digital marketing. Currently based in Bangalore with experience in writing for SaaS companies.

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