Blind people using Pinterest–the app for visual inspiration–may sound like an oxymoron. But in fact, Pinterest, like all mainstream apps, has a contingent of blind users (though the company admits to not tracking them). Many use Pinterest simply to bookmark stories on the web they’d like to read later. And those who don’t use the service might like to, if they were better welcomed.
“We asked one user, would you use Pinterest? You can’t see what’s on the screen!” Long recounts. “She said, ‘of course I would.'” Visually impaired or not, we all want tasty recipes, better haircuts, and fashion advice. And Pinterest is loaded with billions of pins full of this stuff.
Over the past year, Pinterest has committed to practicing inclusive design, and making its product more accessible to everyone. With a team of a dozen designers and engineers, Cheng developed a multi-part approach to redesigning Pinterest as a product that could be more accessible to everyone, leading to a fully redesigned app and desktop experience that’s been slowly rolling out for months.
The first and most obvious step was adding all of the proper code and labeling to make sure that features like Voice Over could actually read every component on the screen. Along the same lines, the company added focus indicators–relatively standard outlines around buttons and menus that are active–that make Pinterest easier to use for people who can’t use a mouse or trackpad.
This was table stakes, of course. Other aspects of the redesign would have to be more core to the user experience. In particular, the company wanted to heighten the contrast of the UI across the entire app so that it was more legible. To do so, Cheng’s team developed a whole new color palette, full of bright jewel tones that could frame text and help it pop. This multicolor spectrum couldn’t be further from the robin’s egg blues so beloved by startups.
“So often as designers, we have to buy into the idea that maybe an accessible design isn’t as pretty or beautiful,” says Cheng. But he believes that with commitment, good designers can find a way to champion aesthetics and accessibility at the same time, even when it comes to high-contrast user interfaces. “For us to overhaul our color palette to accessible colors, there were definitely challenges! But in the end, we figured out the right way, and it was okay.”
With respect to the colorblind , Pinterest has eliminated any instance where color was once used to convey action or meaning; in the new Pinterest, it’s only there for increased legibility and visual flair. Meanwhile, the company introduced the option to increase the size of text across the app within the settings–focusing on size and boldness to denote information hierarchy, rather than tweaking words in various shades of gray, which can be low contrast and difficult to see.