Thursday, 3 April 2008

How People with Mobile Phones Use the Web

Lately the WAI Education & Outreach Working Group and the Mobile Web Best Practices Working Group have been working on ways to help their respective stakeholders better understand the relationships between Web content accessibility for people with disabilities and mobile-friendliness. We have produced a draft of a good by rather lengthy document, but it has become apparent that we need something shorter, less detailed and easier to understand. There is what we call the “shared experiences” document, Experiences Shared by People with Disabilities and by People Using Mobile Devices that illustrates that the barriers experienced by people with disabilities are often paralleled by those imposed by the design features of mobile devices but I think that there is a need for an even more high-level introductory document that would help people understand the mobile Web experience from the user's point of view. This would be for accessibility people and for inexperienced mobile Web developers. It is something that is often misunderstood.

There's a document produced by the EOWG (still an internal draft after all these years) called How People with Disabilities Use the Web. It has three main sections:

  1. Scenarios of People with Disabilities Using the Web
  2. Different Disabilities That Can Affect Web Accessibility
  3. Assistive Technologies and Adaptive Strategies

For the mobile context the first two translate into:

  1. Scenarios of people using the Web on mobile devices
  2. Different aspects of the mobile Web context that can affect the user experience

The third doesn't seem to have an equivalent as there isn't normally much the user can do about the barriers caused by web content. But then again perhaps they can plug in alphanumeric keyboards or use plug-in large screens.

Mobile scenarios might include:

  • Bill lives in a developing country, his family has a shared mobile phone that he uses to browse the Web. There are no fixed Internet connections or computers in his village. It has a small black and white screen. Connection charges are high so he can only use it occasionally
  • Ben is a frequent flier who uses his top-end smartphone to keep up with business news in airports. It has a large color screen and an alphanumeric keyboard. He carries another phone for voice calls. His company pays all his connection charges.
  • Jill is blind and uses her mobile with a screen reader to catch up on the news during her one-hour commute to work. She doesn't care about the visual layout of Web pages as she can't see them, but does appreciate a simple layout with clear structure.

The section "different aspects of the mobile Web context that can affect the user experience" would analyze the aspects covered in the scenarios, and relate them to the Mobile Web Best Practices. For example:

  • Small screen
  • High network charges
  • Numeric keypad

This document would link to the “shared experiences” document which would provide a link between the Mobile Web Best Practices and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines recommendations.

1 comment:

Zulema said...

People should read this.