Topic: Awareness of states: communicating change in content as it happens

  • Our 8th meeting, just 8 people present because of Thanksgiving week. Google Group for the meeting is still open for anyone at CU to join
  • We looked at three progressively more complex examples of user interfaces, going from no interactivity and change in content to lots of interactivity and constant change in content brought about by user input. In each case, we evaluated how the changes were communicated visually, and how those changed should be communicated to a screen reader user.
  • The main lesson was a variation on a point we discussed earlier: when thinking about a UI for a screen reader user, our goal is to replicate the visual interface as closely as possible; it is to allow access to the same content, organized and presented in a meaningful way. It also means that replicating the viusal too faithfully may result in an "over-accommodation" and degrade the screen user experience instead of improving it.
  • In the first example, we looked at a very static news site and noted that to communicate importance we use a combination of accents and ordering. Accenting is done with color, boldness, border boxes; ordering is done by positioning more important elements prominently closer to the top of the page, and in the main content area rather than sidebars or footers.
  • We then proceeded to a video playing interface where the user must interact with the controls quite a bit more to work with the video; in an overaccommodation scenario, there can be three streams of content all competing for the same audio channel - screen reader content, audio from the video itself, and a video timer insisting on reading the clock value every second. We agreed that the key to good usability is to give users immediate access to basic controls (stop / play buttons) and then allow them to choose if they want to interact with advanced controls (position in the video, quality, size, autoplay settings, etc).
  • We concluded with a brief look at a hotel booking aggregator site, which had the most complex UI that changed both on user input and on the place in the loading process as the results of the search came in. This complex UI presented the most challenges for a good experience for screen reader users - both because of the sheer amount of parameters and the number of predictive technologies used (predictive search, adjusting number of people based on the number of room input, hiding and revealing year value when entering start and stop dates, and so on).