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Three small things to do for World Usability Day

Today is World Usability Day. Their tagline is “No one should have to suffer through products and services that get in their way. People should not be made to feel stupid by technology.” I couldn’t agree more!

Here are three short activities you can do to check the usability of your stuff. Pick one and spend about ten minutes doing it. The three things are:

  • checking it works with just a keyboard (no mouse, no trackpad);
  • checking the colour contrast;
  • checking the complexity of the language.

We can see how people might suffer or struggle to use a product for each of these checks, or be made to feel stupid. Here are some questions they might be asking themselves.

  • If they can’t use it with just a keyboard
    • Where am I on the page? Why can’t I get this to work? Why can’t I get to that button?
  • If the colour contrast is low
    • Why can’t I read this text? Why can’t I see where the errors are?
  • If the language is full of jargon
    • Why is this so hard to read? Why is it so difficult to understand this? What do all these big words mean?

(Not so) secret agenda

Pssst! I’m not sure if you noticed, but those three things are all ((not so) secretly) accessibility checks. Usability and accessibility have a lot in common. Usability is about how easy and pleasant something is to use. If someone is struggling to use a product because of a disability that doesn’t sound like it’s “easy and pleasant to use.” If someone is being made to feel stupid because of a disability, that doesn’t sound like it’s “easy and pleasant to use” either.

Making a product more accessible makes it more usable. Making accessiblity improvements always helps people. In the best case we take something from ​can’t use​ to ​can use for some people.​ In the worst case, we make something a​ little easier to use for everyone​.

How did your site fare? :)