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Live: Location, Location, Location: Tweaking Modern UX for Users with Low Vision

taught by: Corbb O'Connor
co-presented by: Christina Adams

Session Summary

Just as location is the most-cited reason for a home's value, the location of elements in your UX can impede or facilitate a user with low-vision. Accessibility professionals know that some individuals will increase the font size of a website or zoom in, but—in general—we don't stop to ask enough questions of our designs and designers. Join us in this highly interactive session as we examine the impacts of proximity, leading lines, contrast, shapes, underlines, borders, dark mode, and reader view.


Watch this presentation at the Knowbility Learning Center

We know that low-vision users zoom both their font sizes and windows, but few people have seen this in action. After demonstrating the barriers faced by at least one low-vision user, we'll iterate through the solutions that can alleviate those problems with a practitioner of modern user experience design.

Photographers know the rules of thirds and leading lines to create eye-catching photos, and these see principles can be applied to web and app development. Lines can be artfully used to form boundaries of content and to guide all users, particularly those with low vision, through an experience or among pieces of content. Similarly, thinking about a web page or app screen in thirds will allow us to think about how a user with low-vision will experience the site.

Negative space (sometimes called white space) has become an important aspect of the web, allowing content, words, and impact stats to breathe. For low-vision users, though, this creates gaps and requires them to search for the relationship of content. Except for those addicted to Wordle, few users want to put a puzzle together…they just want to shop, learn, and contribute. Designing for the low-vision user, though, doesn't mean that we ignore typical users, for we can make accommodations for them, too! Negative space and proximity can co-exist as we left-align calls-to-action and related content with colors in ways that form natural borders. We could police our children about where to play, or we could plant natural barriers in our backyards; one is bound to create less friction for everyone!

Whereas the use of custom stylesheets has waned, the surge in users taking advantage of dark mode and reader view has soared. We have all benefited from the ability to read content without ads, in a standard font, and with the contrast we've come to enjoy. For users with low-vision, it's important to remember that this may be their primary means of reading on the page. The information that we choose to include in the region dramatically impacts their likelihood of converting on our sites from passive readers into active contributors. Furthermore, dark mode is bound to increase time-on-page among users with low-vision…and those surfing late at night from bed!

We can learn to interrogate all of our designs with these principles in mind. As we do, just as is so often the case with accessibility, we will increase the ease-of-use for everyone…and probably score some of those "cool" points along the way that create "moments of WOW!"

Practical Skills

  • Describe the barriers that can hinder users with low-vision user as they navigate modern UX design.
  • Demonstrate the impact of negative space and leading lines for low-vision users.
  • Going beyond color contrast, solve for the unique barriers faced by users with low vision who zoom into a website or web app on a large monitor.