Accessibility and UI Trends

Introduction

I recently encountered a blog post about the “Top 8 Must-know UI Trends of 2017“. The post consists mostly of an infographic that describes some of the expected UI trends of 2017. I want to discuss accessibility issues I see here in three aspects.

The site itself

I don’t understand how it’s OK to post an infographic in the form of an image with just a short alt text saying “Top UI Trends of 2017 infographic blog”. I admit that the titles of those 8 trends were mentioned in text in the post, but I would expect that the full text that appeared in the infographic be available for the people who rely on it. It could be in the post itself or even on another web page, linked to the image by longdesc. Any solution that will not exclude people from getting the information in the image.

Isn’t accessibility a trend yet?

With new standards and laws in USA, EU, Israel, and other places around the world, accessibility is becoming a basic requirement. How come we don’t see designers offering cool new ways to show keyboard focus? Or trying design simpler page structures? Or more readable fonts? Or even adding some personalization features as might be required in future accessibility standards anyway?

The trends themselves

The infographic introduces trends that focus on good eyesight, large screens, scrolling abilities etc. We need to examine every point there through eyes of inclusive design. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

  1. Full screen videos. They suggest big screens will give the option to fit more information on the screen. But consider people with low vision who might have only tunnel vision. Of course people are still using mobile phones to use the web, and they might not be able to see fine details that were added under a large screen assumption.
  2. Long scroll. If I understand it correctly, this design might be problematic to say the least for people who depend on keyboard or keyboard-like interfaces.
  3. Gradients. One of the main issues with text readability for people with some vision impairment is the color contrast. Many sites don’t make sure there’s a minimum contrast ratio between the text color and the background color. Using gradients only makes it harder.
  4. Illustrations. They can be great so long as you remember not to depend on them as single source of information.
  5. Breaking the grid.  Simple designs are clear. They can be clear for people with cognitive issues, as well as for screen reader users that need the structure and reading order of the page to be clear. Creating more “fluid” designs should be fine carefully. (including usability tests with people with disabilities).
  6. Typography / fonts. The post mentions creating beautiful fonts. I’m not against it. There’s no accessibility benefit in ugly fonts. We just need to be aware of these kind of things.

Conclusion

Accessibility is the focus of legislation and we have many resources for learning how to create inclusive designs. And still we see mainstream design discussions about UI trends ignoring accessibility. I hope to see more inclusive trends in the future, and I hope people who read this post and want to follow the trends, will still keep accessibility in mind, and be careful not to exclude anyone while trying fit in the ever changing digital world.