Disabled Personas in accessible Web Design

Personas are used primarily in large web projects and in the development process of complex programs. Characters are designed that represent sample users of the website. Personas are ideal-typically designed people with real biographies who are given certain technical skills and procedures on the computer.

Scenarios are used in addition to personas. Scenarios serve to define certain typical actions on the website. The technical abilities together with the character of the person allow to describe typical behavior patterns in certain situations.

The different ways of acting can be taken into account directly in the design process. I had already described different navigation concepts elsewhere.

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Personas with disabilities

Personas with different disabilities can also be incorporated into the planning. It is particularly important that all assistive technologies are accommodated with these personas. The following personas would definitely be included:

  • Blind people with screen readers
  • Visually impaired with magnification software
  • People with learning disabilities and the deaf
  • People with motor disabilities - eye tracking or voice control

For the sake of simplicity, we assume that all personas have medium to low technical competence - not because this is the case in reality, but because this group will have the greatest problems using the offer. But if the low-skilled get along, then everyone else with higher skill will get along as well. I would almost assume that the average user with a disability knows a little more about computers than the user without a disability, if only because he has to deal with his bitchy auxiliary software on a daily basis.

Basically, these personas only have to be designed once and that's most of the work. Finally, in addition to the biographies, the typical behavior on websites must also be determined, which are partly determined by the tools. Once the personas have been created, in my opinion there is nothing wrong with using them for all projects and adapting them if necessary.

Once the personas have been designed with their typical actions, project-based scenarios must be designed. An online banking application requires different approaches than a shopping platform.

Behavioural patterns in shopping

A typical shopping application offers different approaches. Many people will first look at the special offers on the home page. The next group is looking for a specific product, using the existing categories to move through the product groups. Others, on the other hand, are looking for a specific product directly via the shop search engine.

When it comes to paying, there are also very different procedures. Blind people may try to display all form elements on a page. You will probably notice that the send button is a link with a graphic and not a form button. People with other disabilities look for certain symbols, such as shopping baskets or cash registers, as they are known from other shopping sites. Blind people look for the mask where they can enter their address or account details, while other groups may look for the typical credit card symbols. In this way, the entire process from selecting the goods to completing the purchase can be designed and optimized for different target groups and behavioral patterns.

Advantage over user testing

Personas are mainly used in the definition of requirements and in the design process. Many problems that would otherwise only come up in user tests should be solved in the design process. It's not only harder, but also significantly more expensive to make an application accessible when it's almost finished. To Tests with real users but there is no way around the final version.

Perks of Personas

One advantage of personas is that they make many typical problems clearer. It sounds a little different when you say John can't handle CAPTCHAs than when you say blind people can't handle CAPCHAs. The problem becomes much more tangible because you have a name and a person with understandable problems instead of an abstract group with abstract problems.

This is a typical journalistic trick, by the way. A problem becomes much clearer when we attach it to a specific person with a name and a story. Then it doesn't matter whether that person exists or not. The only important thing is that we can put ourselves in the position of a person, but not in the position of a group.

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