Computer Design with Diverse User Populations in Mind
Computers have become such an integrated part of daily life that it’s become difficult to navigate today’s world without using one nearly every day. Accessing your bank account, reading the news, and communicating with friends and family are just a few of the tasks that computers (along with the internet) allow people to accomplish without even having to leave the home.
But the enormous rise in popularity and usage has brought with it a special challenge, and that is to make the power of computers available across the diverse spectrum of the population. Accessibility, website translation, and adaptable interface options are a few of the ways that this challenge can be met.
One of the main groups of people to consider when it comes to computer design that is accessible to a diverse population is the elderly. Most seniors have not spent the majority of their lives using computers, so things that would seem intuitive and second nature to others often do not come as easily to them. To address this, the use of the system, from the means by which the computer is turned on to the methods for opening and using the various applications should be designed to be as self-evident as possible.
Another consideration that applies to seniors – as well as people with certain physical disabilities – is that both the interface (i.e. keyboard, mouse, etc.) and audio/visual feedback should be easy to use and understand, even for someone who with vision, hearing, or motor skills impairments.
The interface and feedback aspect of the design is also a primary consideration when it comes to non-English speaking users, for instance ensuring that non-US standard keyboards can be used. This is very important for languages like Spanish, where a word’s meaning can completely change depending on the accent symbol above a letter. While it is possible for someone use certain key combinations for accented characters, requiring such acrobatics from users is very poor design.
And further considering non-English speaking users, the ability to translate information into their native language is a must. Thanks to the ready availability of website translation, this task is made simpler than in the past. But it is still imperative to consider it during the design process, and to ensure that the user is able to easily access the appropriate tools to utilize the website translation service in the first place.
Computer design has never been more exciting, and with new technologies and capabilities being constantly released, the future is bright indeed. And by considering the needs of a diverse user population in your design, you can do your part to ensure that the broadest spectrum of people possible get to share in that bright future.