When Flipboard flipped its accessibility switch to none

Faruk Ateş was one of several designers to tear into the new Flipboard website, which throws accessibility under the bus, in order to offer a more fluid app-like experience online. On Daring Fireball, John Gruber essentially defended the move:

I’ve been a proponent of accessibility for as long as I can remember. It does not follow, however, that what Flipboard chose to do is wrong.

It is true that Flipboard’s engineering decisions prioritize animation and scrolling performance above accessibility. That’s no secret — the title of their how-we-build-this post was “60 FPS on the Mobile Web”. It does not mean they don’t care about accessibility. My understanding is that accessibility is coming — they’re working on it, but it isn’t ready yet.

John’s a smart guy, but I think he’s got this wrong. Accessibility shouldn’t be something a company ‘works on’, trying to figure out how to retro-fit it to a flashy new solution. It should just exist from day one. It’s absurd that Flipboard, a tool for reading, is now no more accessible to blind people than a Flash website would have once been. That’s not progress — that’s regression.

February 18, 2015. Read more in: Design, Opinions, Technology

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Apple, motion sickness triggers and OS X Yosemite — Why Apple should bring Reduce Motion ‘back to the Mac’

I’m not a developer, but I know enough about development to realise what a big deal WWDC 2014 was. Apple outlined the future of its two operating systems, with some major upgrades that will ensure iOS and OS X both mature and seamlessly integrate. There were also some ‘Back to the Mac’ moments, notably in terms of interface: although OS X isn’t yet as flat as iOS, Yosemite is simpler and cleaner than Mavericks.

Although all the new technology and interfaces are exciting, I’m hoping that it will be fourth time lucky regarding motion sickness and balance accessibility. I’ve been writing for over two years now about such issues as relating to Apple’s operating systems, including an open letter to Apple on this site, and then articles for Stuff magazine and The Guardian, specifically about iOS 7, which had become unusable to me and many others.

Apple listened. Within a month, major animations could be switched for a subtle cross-fade; as of iOS 7.1, the vast majority of other issues were dealt with too, as I reported on in a follow-up piece for The Guardian. Individual third-party apps are now the most common triggers (through developers getting a bit animation-happy), and those can be avoided.

I was truly thrilled at Apple’s response to the iOS 7 problems, and it meant I could use my iPad again, without fear of accidentally triggering the app-switcher and having to take a 15-minute break while trying not to throw up. (And I’m fortunate: many people with similar issues can be knocked out for days after being triggered.) But I’m also disappointed that Apple has fundamentally ignored this issue in three major versions of its desktop-based operating system.

With OS X Lion, perhaps, this is forgivable. Motion/balance accessibility is not well known, and Apple to its credit offers a huge range of accessibility controls and add-ons for people that require assistance for vision, hearing or motor. But then Mountain Lion arrived, followed a year later by Mavericks. Still the full-screen animation remained; still you transitioned between apps with a full-screen slide; still certain apps persisted in utilising similar animations.

As per iOS 7, I’m not hoping for any change in default behaviour. Apple’s existing animations provide a sense of space and location for people using them, and that’s great. What I am hoping for is that Apple brings one more thing ‘Back to the Mac’ for OS X Yosemite: Reduce Motion. Put a checkbox in accessibility that switches out these animations for something less jarring. Better: add more granular controls, and place them in context, rather than hiding them away. Given that TotalSpaces2 can override the app transition animation in full screen, offering six alternatives and an off switch, there’s no reason Apple can’t do the same. More to the point, Apple should do the same, unless it’s a company that believes, for some reason, there’s a cut-off point when it comes to accessibility and user inclusivity on the desktop.

June 9, 2014. Read more in: Apple, Design

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Thoughts on iOS 7 buttons and UX

Steven Aquino writes about iOS 7.1 beta 2’s new accessibility option:

The biggest addition, feature-wise, is the inclusion of a “Button Shapes” option under Accessibility. If enabled, what this toggle does is puts borders around the heretofore plain text, non-bordered UI buttons.

Most of the commentary I’ve read on this change has been from designers who are upset that the borders are ugly, and they question why Apple chose to add them.

That’s not what I’m questioning. My concern is more that Apple has created an operating system that clearly has a ton of UX and UI issues, and yet is now burying ‘fixes’ within accessibility, away from where the typical user will see it. To my mind, the defaults of any design should be the most usable, even if that means some kind of compromise on whatever artistic and aesthetic vision you have. With iOS 7, Apple’s strayed some way from that goal; I hope as its mobile OS continues to evolve it will trend back towards being more usable, rather than being a showcase for Jony Ive’s infatuation with a certain kind of minimalism.

Further reading: Visual Preferences by Lukas Mathis • Shaping Buttons by Eric Schwarz.

December 16, 2013. Read more in: Apple, Design

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‘Hot’ women versus ‘influential’ men in web design

What the fuck? That was my initial reaction on being told earlier today about an article featuring ‘hot female web designers’. Amazingly, it gets worse. The full article title (no link, because) is “20 Hot Female Web Designers That Will Take Your Breath Away” and is either knowingly trawling the web as link bait or has a disconnect the size of the moon.

It begins:

Sizzling hot designs from hot female web designers will prove that, though web design industry has always been viewed as a world fully packed with men, the best stuff doesn’t always come from them!

Or how about: “Great work from women in the web industry proves that although the industry has long been seen as male-dominated, men definitely don’t create all the best work”?

Female web designers constantly battle to acquire the top spot in web design industry.

And then stupid blog posts screw them over by mentioning them for their physical characteristics rather than their work. Great!

though females are considered extinct in web designing

Extinct? Certainly not. But if they were, it would probably be through being killed off my an avalanche of stupid set off by a volcano of idiocy.

But first let me ask you to hold your breath.

OK. Holding.

To escape from the wrath of the male hot web designers and being accused of being a sexist,

No longer holding. Instead thinking of just how many things can be so wrong in so few words.

let me remind you that this article is made to uplift the spirits of young female web designers.

Nothing is more uplifting than being told you’re hot rather than, say, a great designer!

This is to show the little girls out there that web designing is not just a man’s world. To prove that [site name redacted] is equal in promoting both sexes in web design, feel free to read this post: 15 Most Influential People in Web Design.

Because men are influential but women are merely hot. Got it. (And, no, before you ask, not a single woman is on the influential list—after all, they’re just too hot and, apparently, not influential enough.)

Again: what the fuck?


September 5, 2013. Read more in: Design, Opinions

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iOS 7: bold new direction or flat fashion victim?

My latest piece for Stuff.tv:

Every detail of the six-year-old OS’ aesthetics and interaction has been overhauled. Initial responses have been mixed and frequently subjective, but people often react poorly to change. So, what’s the truth? Are the major criticisms just knee-jerk noise, or is Apple about to release a mobile dud? Stuff goes in search of expert opinion to find out…

There’s a lot to say about iOS 7 from a design standpoint, but this time I didn’t want to do so myself. The idea with this piece isn’t “yet another op-ed”, but instead talking with interface design experts like Matt Gemmell and Alex Morris, along with pointing at the very best pieces so far written on the web about the subject (including Gemmell’s superb overview).

I hope you enjoy the article.

June 17, 2013. Read more in: Apple, Design, Technology

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