Author Archives: Whitney Quesenbery

The latest from Rosenfeld Media

The latest from Rosenfeld Media

  • Personas for Accessible UX

    Posted on

    This page has a quick introduction to the personas we created for this book. The full version of the personas with more details about them and their stories will be posted over the next few weeks.


    A young man reading a tablet

    High school student with autism
    Likes games and computer worlds
    Poor reading skills and poor social skills; difficulty with visual comprehension

    Meet Trevor



    A woman using a wheelchair
    Goes to college and works in a community center
    Has cerebral palsy and uses a computer for communication
    Uses a scooter for mobility and has minimal use of her hands

    Meet Emily



    A man wearing dark glasses at a computer
    Paralegal with dreams of going to law school
    Proficient with technology; uses computers for “everything”
    Blind since birth

    Meet Jacob



    A woman wearing a headset and leaning on her hand
    Works from home, as an editor and writer for a small magazine
    Uses a split keyboard and dictation software
    Copes with fatigue and weakness from fibromyalgia

    Meet Lea


    A man signing, using his phone for video chat
    Graphic artist for a small ad agency
    Uses video chat and texting to connect with anyone else who is deaf or hard of hearing
    Deaf; uses ASL along with interpreters

    Meet Steven


    A man at a desk with a large print keyboard
    Engineer and world citizen through technology
    Low vision due to glaucoma
    Uses screen magnifiers and contrast adjustment

    Meet Vishnu



    A woman sitting in a chair
    Community health worker
    Her mobile phone is her first computer
    Uses computer translations,  needs clearly written information
    Immigrant family is Spanish/ English bilingual

    Meet Maria


    An older woman with glasses, reading a book
    Grandmother learning to use technology from her grandkids
    Macular degeneration starting to affect her reading ability and slight tremor in her hands
    Has learned to enlarge text in her browser

    Meet Carol

    Accessible UX Principles and Guidelines

    Posted on

    Designing a web for everyone combines good design and usability with accessibility to create inclusive design.

    The accessible UX principles draw on three main sources:  The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which  provide the foundation for web accessibility guidelines and best practices; the Principles of Universal Design, seven principles that work for the widest range of human abilities; and design thinking, an approach that emphasizes grounding the process in human needs.

    Using the accessible UX principles and guidelines, you can create websites and web applications that work for everyone—including people with disabilities.

    Each of the guidelines is explained and illustrated in the book, A Web for Everyone.

    People First: Designing for differences

    People are the first consideration, and sites are designed with the needs of everyone in the audience in mind.

    • Know your audience.

    Clear Purpose: Well-defined goals

    People enjoy products that are designed for the audience and guided by a defined purpose and goals.

    • Start with purpose and goals.
    • Design for clarity and simplicity.
    • Think “accessibility first.”
    • Make templates accessible.
    • Choose an accessibility strategy.

    Solid Structure: Built to standards

    People feel confident using the design because it is stable, robust, and secure.

    • Code content to be machine-readable.
    • Code to standards.
    • Use standard web technologies.
    • Organize code for clarity and flow.
    • Use stylesheets to separate content and presentation.
    • Use semantic markup for content.

    Easy Interaction: Everything works

    People can use the product across all modes of interaction and operating with a broad range of devices.

    • Identify and describe interactive elements.
    • Use basic HTML codes correctly.
    • Use WAI-ARIA for complex elements.
    • Use features of the technology platform.
    • Provide accessible instructions and feedback.
    • Support keyboard interaction.
    • Make controls large enough to operate easily.
    • Let users control the operation of the interface.
    • Design for contingencies.
    • Allow users to request more time.

    Helpful Wayfinding: Guides users

    People can navigate a site, feature, or page following self-explanatory signposts.

    • Create consistent cues for orientation and navigation.
    • Present things that are the same in the same way.
    • Differentiate things that are different.
    • Provide orientation cues.
    • Provide clear landmarks within the page.
    • Provide alternative ways to navigate.

    Clean Presentation:  Supports meaning

    People can perceive and understand elements in the design.

    • Design simply.
    • Minimize distracting clutter.
    • Design for customization of the display.
    • Support customization through the browser.
    • Design content for easy comprehension.
    • Use color contrast to separate foreground from background.
    • Use visual and semantic white space.
    • Provide enough space between lines of text.
    • Use clean typography.

    Plain Language: Creates a conversation

    People can read, understand, and use the information.

    • Write for your audience.
    • Follow plain language guidelines for writing content.
    • Write sentences and paragraphs for easy scanning.
    • Support users through their tasks.
    • Structure the whole page for scanning and comprehension.
    • Write helpful links.
    • Use language your audience is familiar with, or provide definitions.
    • Provide plain language summaries of complex content.
    • Don’t rely on readability formulas.
    • Usability test your content.

    Accessible Media: Supports all senses

    People can understand and use information contained in media, such as images, audio, video, animation, and presentations.

    • Don’t use only color to communicate meaning.
    • Provide instructions without relying on visual cues.
    • Describe the content or meaning of images.
    • Provide captions and descriptions for video.
    • Format captions to enhance meaning.
    • Provide alternatives to time-based media.
    • Use dynamic elements carefully.
    • Make presentations accessible.

    Universal Usability: Creates delight

    People can focus on the experience and their own goals because the product anticipates their needs.

    • Design for exploration and discovery:
      • Design for direct manipulation.
      • Disclose the right things at the right time.
      • Give rewards.
      • Support beginners and experts.
    • Create a conversation:
      • Layer information.
      • Tell a story.
    • Be informative and helpful
      • Give instructions at the right time, in the right place.
    • Practice usability for accessibility:
      • Do usability testing.
      • Include people with disabilities in usability work.

    In Practice: An Integrated Process

    People and organizations consider accessibility integral to their work and products.

    • Make accessibility the way you do business.
    • Make a commitment to accessibility.
    • Assess what’s needed for an integrated practice:
      • Evaluate the current site.
      • Identify ways to allocate resources.
      • Identify opportunities to integrate accessibility into current processes.
      • Assess current knowledge and readiness.
    • Support an integrated practice:
      • Set policies and develop training.
      • Choose content and development tools that support accessibility.
      • Create a style guide and media library.
      • Include people with disabilities.
      • Provide tools and assistive technology for ongoing evaluation.
      • Make accessibility part of site maintenance.


    Storytelling for UX: Designing with experience plotting

    Posted on

    Are you looking for a way to plan the structure of your UX stories better? UX Toyko’s Experience Plotting might be the answer. It’s a way to map out the framework of a story that lets you decide how to incorporate your story elements into a structure. The goal is to quickly visualize the material that will go into the story and identify how they fit into a series of clear, compelling scenes.

    • Start with the story fragments, or short anecdotes, collected in your UX research.
    • Select a few, and identify the activity, context, emotion, images and specific story elements for each anecdote.
    • Map the anecdotes onto a story structure like the hero’s journey, in a quick whiteboard sketch, or a structured matrix.
    • Identify the scenes or sections of the story, with one anecdote in each.

    The final matrix also adds the device used in each scene – a great way to plot the user experience journey for activities that happen over time or across different contexts and devices. Now you are ready to create a story that shows how the experience unfolds and can be a trigger for design ideas.

    There’s more about Visualization of UX with Stories on the UX Tokyo blog (in Japanese)

    Thanks to Yoshinori Wakizaka (@wackiesrock), the translator of the Japanese edition of Storytelling for User Experience for sharing these links and the UX Tokyo journey to create Experience Plotting.

    What’s the future of web accessibility?

    Posted on

    What’s will web accessibility be like in the future?

    This question has been knocking around in our heads for a while. We’ve always known we want to end the book with a look forward to the accessible web of the future.

    Deep in the throes of writing the book, it’s easy to get lost in all the ways we wish that web sites (and web apps) are more accessible. There are so many problems that would be so easy to avoid by thinking about designing a web for everyone – including not only different devices, but different ways of interacting.

    We also see promise in the robust community of designers, in platforms with more accessibility features built in, and every time we hear about a company that makes a commitment to developing to standards.

    But we’d like the book to reflect more than just two people’s opinions, so we’d like to hear from you.

    • What do you think the next few years will bring? 
    • How might  a web for everyone be different than the web we have today?
    • What signs are there that we are moving towards that goal?
    • And what holds us back from that vision?

    If you have some ideas, we hope you’ll contribute.

    Head over to our GoogleDocs form to share your thoughts. 

    Help create a US strategic plan for accessibility

    Posted on

    Crowdsourcing is all the rage, even in government UX work. Two projects going on right now invite you — yes, you — to contribute your ideas for making our world more accessible:

    OpenIDEO is a collaborative innovation platform that invites creative thinkers to work together to solve social problems. In the elections challenge, we’re down to the final days: evaluations of a shortlist of 20 final concepts. This challenge is part of the EAC-funded Accessible Voting Technology Initiative. Winners will be announced on March 28. 
    With the Section 508 Refresh is nearing the end of a long regulatory process (we submitted the final report of the Advisory Commitee in April 2008), The National Dialogue is a chance for the public to provide input on how to manage a strategic accessibility program. 
    You don’t have to work in government to have input. Share what’s worked in your own UX, usability or accessibility program — or your ideas for fixing what didn’t work.

    We create stories (and songs) together

    Posted on

    Some of my first musical memories are from Pete Seeger’s children’s concerts in New York many years ago, where I screamed “Abiyoyo” with an auditorium full of kids. If you don’t know his name, just Google it. You’ll find him described as America’s best-loved folksinger and a lot of other superlatives.

    One of the things that’s special about a Pete Seeger concert is the way he introduces each song with a story. He talks about where he heard it or how he thought up the tune or why the lyrics are important to him. His delivery is so understated that it’s easy to miss what great stories they are. At a recent concert I could feel the whole audience holding their breath through each story, waiting for the moment when they could connect the story to the song he was about to sing. Sometimes he timed it perfectly: the pieces didn’t fall into place until the first banjo note. And we all exhaled the opening lyrics with him.

    That’s the other thing that’s special about a Pete Seeger concert. He can get everyone in the room to come together in song, even those of us who rarely sing outside of the shower. Pete’s getting older and doesn’t have much of a voice left. But all he needed to do is remind us of the story, give us the tune, and let us sing the song. He makes music into a participatory act of community by acting less like a performer and more like a facilitator or leader.

    Peggy Seeger, Pete’s sister and a singer-songwriter in her own right, was there, too. Leading an folk song, Dear Old Buffalo Boy, she made us get into character. The song is a conversation, alternating verses between a man and a woman. The first time we sang it just fine, but without much emotion. Then, she told the audience about the context of the song and the social setting behind the humor. With a character — a persona — to imagine, the song got funnier, deeper, more alive, and so did our singing.

    The whole concert was a great example of how we create stories (and songs) together.

    Empathy and connection

    Posted on

    What’s the difference between a scenario and a story?

    I’ve always thought those sorts of definitions are trick questions, especially when we are struggling to find words to match our ideas. Perhaps it’s inevitable that we sometimes use the same word in different ways…and different words to mean the same thing.

    If we look at three ways of creating stories in UX today, we can see a difference in both the quality of the story and what its value is.

    Lets start with Agile user stories. The classic form is something like:

    As a [role] I can [do something] so that [benefit]

    Like many story forms in designing technology, the goal of these stories is to find the simplest way to express a requirement. We want to know who, what, and why, so that our design (and development) work can be grounded in that context.

    Many of the abstract modeling tools — swimlanes, flow diagrams – use case diagrams – have the same goal: to strip away the casual differences and show the underlying core.

    The next type of story is what I would call a scenario. They describe the sequence of events, adding how to the story. Whether they are storyboards that walk through an interaction, a narrative use case, or any other form, their focus is on the plot. They answer the question, “What happened?” or “What will happen?”

    Finally, we can add rich detail that lets us understand the human perspective and response. Imagery, emotion, contextual details, and deeper motivations all take us into the point of view of the characters. These stories are often tied to personas, building on the demographic and behavioral data they embody.

    When we include not just the basics of who, what, why, and how, but also the rich texture of the experience, we have created a story that is both useful and helps us connect to the people who will use the products we create.

    That’s the power of story.

    If you’d like to know more, I’m giving a full-day workshop on how to use stories and personas to design with users in mind.

    Using Personas and Storytelling Effectively

    May 7, 2012
    American Institute of Architects
    Washington DC

    Cool (and accessible) gadgets

    Posted on

    One of the basic premises of universal design is that design can have accessibility built right in, giving you both good design and good accessibility. And there are lots of examples out there of features or products that started out as assistive technologies, but work for everyone (think curb cuts, OXO good grips, and text-to-speech).

    But we don’t often think about just how a cool gadget can be just the thing to solve a need for people with disabilities. In fact, we don’t usually think of assistive technology as cool at all.

    The Enabled blog, run by a group of social entrepreneurs in India, has compiled a list of 10 gadgets that turn out to be great technology for people with disabilities.

    My favorites are:

    • MyTobiiP10, a gaze controlled computer from the makers of one of the popular eyetracking systems for usability testing
    • Panasonic’s combo washer-dryer
    • A walking stick that vibrates when you get too close to something
    • and, of course the iPad

    Read the rest of the list at Enabled:  Top 10 tech gadgets for persons with disabilities

    Negotiated Accessibility

    Posted on

    Think accessibility is just about web sites?

    The Law Office of Lainey Feingold announced that two companies they are working with “recently let us know that they believe their sites substantially comply with WCAG 2.0 AA.  Any feedback you can provide will help our monitoring and implementation efforts.”

    This progress comes through Structured Negotiations, which Feingold describes as a way of settling disputes through collaboration rather than litigation. These agreements, in which Feingold represents disability advocacy groups, often go beyond the web to cover other information formats, access in retail stores, and telephone support.

    • The American Cancer Society will make all of their cancer-related information available in alternative formats such as Braille, large print, audio and electronic formats.
    • Radio Shack also agreed (in 2008) to ensure that all of its 5000 stores across the United States will have tactile point of sale devices so that blind and visually impaired customers can independently enter their PIN and other confidential information.

    Harnessing the human cloud

    Posted on

    This is an interesting and innovative idea: mix an iPhone app with crowd-sourcing to provide real-time answers to assist the blindness community.

    “The process is quite simple – the user snaps a photo with their mobile device (currently the iPhone and iPod Touch), they are then prompted to record an audio question to be attached with their photo, and then make the decision of which means they would like to use for collecting answers and identification.”  The options are a database of images or a social network that let’s another human answer the question.

    “Let me tell you – it’s an incredible experience to have someone respond to a question in under 45 seconds or so. Life is too fast-paced to rely on a pair of eyes – but, this is a solid, very capable solution that I’ve been excited to put through its paces today.”

    Rochester HCI project site

    Hat tip to Jennifer Sutton for this link.