Is video streaming only for people with a 20/20 vision?

Janus Åhlander Olsen | 3 March 2021

Streaming your favorite video on multiple platforms, like your TV, mobile device, or computer, is how most people watch this type of media today. A complex matrix of screen sizes, screen resolutions, and different touch interfaces, like a simple remote, a touchpad, or finger touch and swipe, set high requirements of navigational patterns in apps.

Add some visual impairments on top of this, and you figure out that product interface design is not just a matter of building a good-looking UI with nice buttons and fresh colors; you need to take it a step further. 

At least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment or blindness, according to WHOs World Report on Vision from 2019[1]. That is approx. 30% of the world. Do you want to exclude them from using your product?

Defining strong personas is a way to address your target users, but when building streaming apps, your target should be wide and allow all types of users to use the product as widely as possible. Specialized apps can benefit from using personas, but I want to challenge this in the streaming area, as you risk excluding types of people by leaning too much against your narrow persona definitions.

So how do you make an inclusive app design?

Every platform has its individual challenges but can be boiled down to a few headlines. I will touch on the first two in this article.

Size matters, as well as contrast. Tiny buttons with a low contrast make it hard or even impossible for users with visual impairments to use the system. But also, people with normal vision will spend more time getting an overview, navigating the platform, and even miss out on important information. I have always been a fan of a simple and (buzzword alert) intuitive interface - big clear buttons with a descriptive label. Building a design for streaming apps is not about overwhelming the user with animations and unnecessary clutter; it is about shortening the journey and guiding the user so they don’t waste valuable time on the path to finding the next video. Use the W3 WCAG[2] (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) guidelines to get started if you, like me, are passionate about building design for all people.

Use common sense. Can it really be that simple? Yes! Ever tried to sit with your phone or your laptop in the summer sun and not be able to see anything on it? Or standing further away from your TV, finding out that your eyes are not perfect anymore and everything is a little blurred, and what the heck is in focus on the TV app right now?

A study by Der-Song Lee from the Oriental Institute of Technology shows that the optimal distance to sit from your TV is 3 - 4 times the screen´s width[3]. So when you design the interface, look at it on a TV from the recommended distance and then see how it looks like if moving two steps further away. Is it still easily readable?

The same goes for your mobile device. Stretch your arm. Can you still easily navigate? What if you are on the train with the light constantly changing and small vibrations in the seat make it a little more challenging to read small text and hit the action areas, like buttons and input fields. Expanding the touch area around a button can be a way to help the user without compromising the design.

Remember to experience your design in a real or at least simulated real situation and use all the great guides and tools that are out there to make your design usable for all people.

Stay tuned for more articles, get in touch with me for tips and knowledge sharing about web accessibility and preferred viewing distance.

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