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Accessibility Guidelines for Windows Software GUI

Andreas Bleiker
May 30, 2006 12:05pm

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Hello everybody
I am currently working out a GUI concept for a windows software that should (among a 1000 other things) also be accessible in the sense that one should control the interface entirely by keyboard. Though I know a variety of tools and standards to check and implement good accessibility on the web, I never came across any guidelines or recommendations on how to make a software accessible. Can anyone name me some (non-technical) sources?

Thanks,
Andreas

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Andreas Bleiker, Usability Consultant,
Zurich, Switzerland
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Juan Lanus
May 30, 2006 3:17pm

Hi Andreas,

I made a quick search, to find out if the MS GUI book is online. There are pages like
http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnwue/html/ch05a.asp that I imagine you have already seen.

Some opinions, of mine.

1- Consider sticking to existing Windows shortcuts. There is a list somewhere in your PC. This will encourage your users to try to remember them. MS did not stick to their own standards so you might see incoherences.

2- I was toying with the idea of dymamically showing in a corner of the screen, or in the status bar, the list of available shortcuts in each state of a program. As an option. The guys of the Eclipse IDE http://www.eclipse.org implemented it in a recent release but I don't know if it was useful for the users or not. The Eclipse has lots of keyboard shortcuts. I think this idea was first said by Alan Cooper, in his first book "About Face" where he wrote about using the keyboard as a resource for power users.

3- I design so the shortcuts are almost always "Enter" and "Escape", the first for to dirll down and the other for to back up. This can lead to powerful interaction, not at all trivial, if the design if the interface is done accordingly.
For example "editor" class programs like Word, Excel and the like, do not qualify for simple keyboard interaction.
It's because they have so many options on display, all active. This means that the user has to remember too many codes, not feasible.

4- Just for the record, find out how many of your relatives at home or work, know that they can switch applicatons using Alt-Tab. My take is that I had to teach almost anybody about it, then they fint it useful. This might give you an idea of how almost everybody uses the mouse, disregarding the fact that it's much slower.
If you find out that your users are not used to keyboard shortcuts, and the success of your program depends on it, then consider providing special education.

Forgive me if what I wrote was too obvious for you. Good luck!
-- Juan Lanus
TECNOSOL
Argentina

 
Jostein Magnussen
May 31, 2006 9:14am

Hi Andreas

IBM has a good checklist which also links to more in depth explanations. The section on Keyboard equivalents is quite extensive:

IBM Software Accessibility Checklist - Version 3.5.1 http://www-306.ibm.com/able/guidelines/software/accesssoftware.html

It is important to consider what level of accessibility you are going to offer. If your software is also going to be used by users of screen readers etc., you have to consider the documentation of assistive tools like Blindows: http://www.blindows.de/ and Jaws: http://www.freedomscientific.com

Good luck!
Jostein

Jostein Magnussen | Usability Specialist
NetLife Research | Mobil 47 40 22 64 09

www.netliferesearch.com | Rådhusgaten 23
0158 Oslo | Telefon 47 22 42 46 42

Hello everybody
I am currently working out a GUI concept for a windows software that should (among a 1000 other things) also be accessible in the sense that one should control the interface entirely by keyboard. Though I know a variety of tools and standards to check and implement good accessibility on the web, I never came across any guidelines or recommendations on how to make a software accessible. Can anyone name me some (non-technical) sources?

Thanks,
Andreas

+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
Andreas Bleiker, Usability Consultant,
Zurich, Switzerland
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

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