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Seminar 2 - Feedback on Universal Usability research

Seminar 2 gave more of a clue to the way these are going to go in future. It was interesting. Talking around the topic of universal usability and what we found. But I'm not sure how I'm going to write up the seminars. The discussion was fairly free-ranging and without constantly writing things down (and not taking part) it was pretty hopeless to try and keep up. I have taken some really sketchy notes, and I'll try to reconstruct some of the stuff we went through, because it was interesting and may be useful to look back on.

The idea is that if we design for the 'average' user, we will discriminate against various groups. Conversely, if we design for the exceptional user we can come up with designs that are actually easier to use for everyone.

Guidelines are based on the sum of previous work and learnings in a given area, so the WCAG guidelines provide an overview of the research into accessibility before the guidelines were written.

We shouldn't limit accessibility to just sensible, work-related stuff. Why should fun be inaccessible? Of course, that causes some interesting problems. How do you translate a driving game into something that a blind person can play and enjoy? Multi-modal feedback can be very helpful, but there are still issues with understanding the model in the first place. (Mind you, Lizzie and I can't really get into shoot 'em ups, but a similar concept like throwing pies at someone is fine - how would that translate for a blind or someone with poor motor control?)

We covered into "skip to content" and how blind people like to start from the bottom of a webpage - ignoring all the headers and navigation junk at the top. Interesting that this transfers to the way that mobile browsing is going. An identification of the important stuff and present that first.

Look at youtube.com user geriatric1927 - older user getting to grips with a perceived 'young' technology.

Researchers include Ben Schneiderman as found previously, and also Jenny Preece and Yvonne Rogers. Better look them up too.

On top of individual researchers and academic organisations, worth looking into corporate ones. Xerox park and HP labs are good. Commercial pressure actually means that they may be ahead of the academic stuff.

Torches for blind people - translating space information to different modes of representation. (Haptic and sound.) Worth a look.

2 types of disability groups - those disabled from birth and those disabled after an incident or with degenerative conditions. They can have very different outlooks. Like a congenitally blind person asked to draw a table will draw something very different from someone who could see at some point. Colour concepts must be a bit the same.

Universal Usability Designing Computer Interfaces for Diverse Users. Worth a look as a book on the topic. See if the library's got it?

So yeah. That's what I've got. I'm sure we talked about lots more than that I've missed. But there we are.

I volunteered to lead next week's seminar, so I've got a paper to read and research. All good. Working with Yves. Just got to hope that he's allowed to stay on the course I guess!

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