1Password Developer seeking feedback from VoiceOVer users regarding accessible design best practice and personal preferences
Hey all. App developer here.
The app I work on has a pretty custom user interface and I'm working on trying to make our VoiceOver situation a lot better for our users, starting with our Mac application. Something I am looking at currently and I have a few questions on preferences of users with regard to certain things and was hoping to get some feedback.
First, our application is a 3 pane application, left to right, like Mail. Currently our VoiceOver setup lists pane splitters in the accessibility control list. So you'll get a pane, then a splitter, then a pane, then a splitter as an example. Do VoiceOver users generally want those splitters skipped, or do they provide value by being listed? I can see low vision users maybe wanting them there, so it is pointed out to them, while those who are blind probably have no real care about those splitters as they can't see the contents anyway so why list a control that has no impact on their daily usage.
The second situation is a little different. It also revolves around the various panes. We start the user inside of search, which is in the second middle pane. Does it make sense that if the user starts in the middle pane that VO+Left/Right (after they exit the pane with Shift+VO+Up) would send them in the direction of the controls visually? I.e. Left would send them to the left pane, which controls the hierarchy of what the middle pane shows, and likewise, VO+Right would send them to the right most pane, which the middle pane controls the hierarchy of.
My concern is that if they start in the middle then it's not clear they could technically go left. Or is this generally easily learned and/or expected?
Thanks all. I'm sure I'm going to have a ton of additional questions but this is where I'm starting and will be overhauling large swaths of the app over the next 6 weeks so I would love to make sure I'm consulting with actual users of these types of features so thank you in advance for putting up with my potentially stupid questions!
Great that you're reaching out!
In terms of your question about splitters, I'd say they're unnessesary to show, as I, at least, never use them. That is just my opinion though.
Your second question is a little more tricky. What does your app do? Is it perhaps an app we know?
First, thank you very much for posting here and considering what would work best for users of Voiceover. While I can't speak for all VO users, I personally wouldn't want the splitters to be skipped. When I train people to use Voiceover on the Mac, I often tell them to listen for certain audio clues to know what is happening on the screen. A splitter is a good indication that you have reached the edge of a window and are about to move into another window. If the splitters were just skipped, this audio clue wouldn't be present. Yes, it is an extra keystroke, but the feedback a Voiceover user receives is well worth it.
As to your second question, I guess I need a little more clarification. Are the panes clearly labeled and does Voiceover speak the name of the pane when it has focus? I think most Voiceover users are quite comfortable exploring the screen, so I don't think putting focus on the most important pane is going to cause users to not know a pane to the left exists, provided things are properly labeled.
I don't think there is any such thing as a stupid question and I applaud you for posting your questions here.
I hope this initial feedback is helpful.
The app is 1Password (the macOS app in this case, iOS will see its improvements after macOS I think), if you're familiar. Perhaps that context can be useful for this particular scenario.
So it sounds like my first step should probably be auditing to make sure all the labels are clearly defined for each object on screen. Then I suppose I can worry more about getting the right order, and fix any other odd issues that pop up. The splitters being an order or exclusionary situation, and it sounds like those should probably stick around even if they're generally not relevant for all users.
I appreciate the feedback. If you do happen to be a user and have any feedback beyond what I've asked I'd certainly welcome it but don't go out of your way to try to provide it. I'm just trying to set some ground work for improving our accessibility support going forward and fixing up the issues we've introduced over the last year or so of major revamps. Unfortunately we did a pretty awful job of taking accessibility into account on those so this should be an interesting learning experience for me.
Ah awesome! I'm a heavy user of 1Password. In that case I think focus on the search field is excellent, both in mini and the full app.
Thank you for reaching out! It's great when developers take action on accessibility. I'm a 1Password user myself, and I've always loved your product and commitment to accessibility.
With regards to the splitters, I'm definitely on the side of excluding them. The les keystrokes I can use while navigating the interface, the better, and the user will know that s/he's moved into a different pane regardless, if the table is labeled. The splitters serve no practical purpose for VoiceOver users, and efficiency is key in my opinion.
I agree with the rest about initial focus being in the search field. That would also maximise efficiency.
I share the same sentiments of the group, thanks for being proactive.
My thoughts about the splitters are to follow Apple's lead in their applications.
The splitter is an easy identifier for the learning and casual VoiceOver user. It provides a clear and recognizable indicator that the user is moving in to another section of the application.
Apple also uses these splitters throughout apps like Mail, Messages, Notes, etc. The convention has also been adopted by other third party developers.
When it comes down to efficient navigation for the more advanced VoiceOver users, using keyboard shortcuts and VoiceOver features like hotspots are available. This is one of the great things about both macOs and VoiceOver is the level of personal customization available.
On your second question, I agree with Jim D, you get used to exploring applications.
Once again, Apple drops users in the message list of Mail, with plenty of interface to the left that is important.
Speaking personally, I am usually searching or adding things in 1Password, so starting in the search field is great.
I hope my comments have been of some help.
Thanks for the feedback all. I appreciate the time you've taken to provide it. I'm sure I'll have more as I run into them!
Just want to chime in with my opinion that splitter announcements should be kept. As someone already said, this is convention and if the splitters weren't there, it would feel odd. Also, I feel like if something is shown visually, the point of accessibility is to get all information the sighted get. If splitters are excluded, then the blind are just presumed to not need that information, and I feel that people should come from the premise that there should be no difference in treatment between blind and sighted people. Certainly, it's fine to present the information in a different format or in a different way, but the information should be available.
ETA: I'm a loyal 1Password user on both a Mac and iOS. In my opinion, it is Windows that has had accessibility problems. If the macOS and iOS apps were truly inaccessible, I would not have stuck around so long. The mini version had its problems, but since this new version, it's working much better.
As others have already said, it's awesome to see a member of the team of such a great, essential product here. It's gestures like these that make me like not only the product, but the company behind it.
I am a 1Password user of iOS, Mac OSX at home, and Windows7 at work, but my workplace will upgrade my computer to a new Windows10 computer in the very near future. Honestly, I don't use my Mac very much anymore. I use my iPhone for almost everything for personal use.
I find all three apps to be very useable. There are workarounds for just about every accessibility quirk. I have one suggestion for the Windows app. I would like the JAWS screen reader to not echo the master password when unlocking the 1Password app on Windows. Most password fields on Windows echo star, star, star, star, etc. Maybe you can pass this along to the Windows developers.
Look forward to the improvements with any of the 1Password apps. You have a wonderful product. Thank you so much for reaching out to our community!