World Usability Day 2021

Happy World Usability Day!

World Usability Day: exploring usability and accessibility in our online world

November 12 is World Usability Day – a worldwide observance that promotes usability in the technology we use every day. Otherwise known as ‘Make Things Easier Day’, it provides a chance for collaboration in the name of making technology work better for all people.

Each year, events are held around the world, allowing professionals and organizations to get together to discuss usability and technology in relation to a designated theme. This year’s theme is Design of Our Online World: Trust, Ethics and Integrity.

Trust, ethics and integrity go hand-in-hand with accessibility, and it’s more important than ever to design our online world with all users, including those with disabilities, in mind. In the spirit of World Usability Day, here’s a closer look at what usability and accessibility are and why they matter in our online world.

What is usability?

Usability provides a way of measuring how easy it is for a person to use technology to complete a task. This can be as simple as finding information on a website. It can be as complex as booking and attending a medical appointment through an app on your phone.

Usability is defined by five qualities:

  • Learnability: how easy is it to complete a task the first time using the technology?
  • Efficiency: how quickly can tasks be completed once the technology is learned?
  • Memorability: how easy is it to remember how to use the technology?
  • Errors: how many errors are made while trying to complete a task?
  • Satisfaction: how nice is it to use the technology?

Consideration and thorough testing to see how users perform in these areas helps designers, developers and engineers build better, more intuitive websites, phones, apps, devices and more.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility is the practice of designing websites, tools and technologies so people with disabilities can use them. It brings quality and consistency that makes information easier to read and understand. Think, clear, plain language, appropriate color contrast and readable text sizes.

Accessibility also helps to ensure that online content is presented through multiple sensory channels, including sight and sound. It creates greater interactivity to accommodate keyboard and voice-controlled navigation.

The aim is to make content easier to access in different ways, giving people with disabilities the opportunity to connect with the same information as people without disabilities.

Why does usability and accessibility matter?

In the last 30 years, our online world has changed dramatically. And, in the wake of a global pandemic, users are relying on technology more than ever to stay connected and carry out important daily tasks. For some, it’s about convenience. For others, it’s key to a greater quality of life.

Usability helps us understand how people use technology, and accessibility helps us design it so everyone has an equal opportunity to reap the benefits. It not only provides opportunity for people with disabilities to enjoy the convenience of our online world. In some cases, it allows them to safely navigate real life situations.

For example, Dot, the world’s first Braille smartwatch, makes it possible for people with low vision or blindness to access messages, websites, social media and more anywhere, any time. Touch free mobile phones can track small head movements through the front-facing camera, allowing people with mobility disabilities to utilize smartphones. Apps, such as assist-Mi, make it possible for people with disabilities to get help from service providers at a moment’s notice. This can include getting to work, shopping or travelling.  

Designing our online world with usability and accessibility in mind benefits all users. On the surface, it brings standards and quality to our online experiences, making them easier to understand and use. On a deeper level, it makes information more accessible to the widest possible audience while building a strong foundation that is easier to improve and innovate.