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Google Built An App That Critiques Other Apps
By: Fast Company
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If you haven’t heard the term "inclusive design" yet, you will soon. It’s a simple idea: By designing to accommodate people with disabilities, we can make products that are better for everyone. Just look at the typewriter, originally invented to help a blind person write letters. The idea is old, but the movement is picking up speed as companies such as Microsoft are using it at the core of their design philosophy.

Now, in its own nod to the trend, Google has released an Android app called the Accessibility Scanner. With the touch of a button, it allows you to analyze any screen or app on your phone for accessibility and inclusivity—in other words, how well it will work for people with sight or fine motor control issues.

We decided to run some of the Google Play store’s most popular apps through the Accessibility Scanner grinder. And surprise! Social networks, notorious for attempting to attract younger users, didn’t do so well. But while the app itself is very well designed, it also illustrates how complex ideas of accessibility and design can be in practice.

The Winners & the Losers
First up? Kik. In this seemingly bare-bones messaging app, literally every element on the chat screen was flagged for being too small, or not contrast-y enough. Instagram was another big problem UI: Pretty much every element is flagged for size, except the photos themselves. Then there was Snapchat. With just five suggestions, it doesn't seem like an egregious offender—until you realize that almost every one of the app’s Spartan elements has been flagged. The app recommended that buttons be enlarged, and pointed out that screen readers may not be able to identify parts of the screen for the visually impaired.

Of course, Snapchat purposefully isn’t designed for accessibility. As founder Evan Spiegel once told the Daily Mail's Jon Steinberg after he complained that the interface wasn't intuitive enough: "You’re not really the target."

Facebook was also particularly painful. A snapshot at the very top of my Facebook feed included 22 suggested improvements. They ran the entire gamut. Contrast. Size. And some item descriptions were duplicated, making navigation via automated speakable text harder. Notably, elements such as the untapped Like button were determined to be too low in contrast, as they were rendered in gray rather than black. It's an example of how information hierarchy—and the fact that the user is not supposed to be drawn to a gray Like button at the expense of the eye-catching black text of a news post—is getting flagged by Google for its limitations in accessibility.

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About the Author
This article was published on Fast Company. A link to the original piece appears after the post. www.fastcompany.com
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