We’ve written some about accessibility in terms of building apps and websites — although there’s always more to learn and do — but what about accessibility and inclusion in the developer world? How can you best serve your full customer base when your customers are developers? How is designing for inclusion an essential part of the developer experience? These are the questions Pivotal Labs‘ senior designer Raquel Breternitz is trying to answer in this episode of The New Stack Makers podcast.
Why is inclusion so important to Breternitz?
“We don’t have to just make sure that someone can get there, and can understand it when they do, but we also have to find the ways in which folks are excluded and break those barriers down as well,” she told The New Stack in a follow-up conversation.
Breternitz argues user-centered design has to be driving any digital transformation. Quoting an old bit of architecture wisdom, “You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledgehammer on the construction site.”
She continued that often designers go for a certain look, perhaps a cleaner design, and then over-discombobulate the design to make it less accessible and thus less usable for everyone. This commonly is seen in a so-called clean design practice where users need to hover over to view information — but it’s unreadable for screen readers, and often all users completely overlook this information. Plus, it’s more challenging and time-consuming for the designer, which makes it more expensive for the company being designed for. Breternitz also referred to the trend for “beautiful” pale design, which is simply harder for everyone to read.
For her, accessibility is about being descriptive and meaningful. It’s as many people as possible being able to use your website or tool. And that means it’s the designer’s job to communicate clearly, conveying a clear conceptual ability.
This follows through to documentation as well. Breternitz says a lot of docs writers want to use huge graphs to explain important concepts. This isn’t usually accessible to screen readers and people who aren’t visual learners will be left behind. Everyone designing something touching on user or developer experience should force themselves to narrate whatever they are creating. How many ways can you explain it? Then write it down and include it in docs or notes or alt text, etc. Remember, accessibility and inclusion is making sure not just experts are using your tool — beginners are most likely to benefit from your documentation, so don’t take any explanation, especially onboarding, for granted.
In this Edition:
7:08: What accessibility means for a designer.
13:01: Where design factors into the traditional scrum practices.
15:24: Research-driven design.
18:09: Some common mistakes in accessibility.
24:24: Semantic code and accessibility
25:27: Why documentation should include the ‘why.’
Pivotal is a sponsor of The New Stack.