Posts Tagged ‘apps’

Apple continuing to innovate for accessibility in iOS6

Apple announced the feature-set of the upcoming iOS release yesterday, and I’m always interested to see the new accessibility features. And like with everything else Apple do, they’re not standing still in this area at all:

iOS 6 comes with even more features to make it easier for people with vision, hearing, learning, and mobility disabilities to get the most from their iOS devices. Guided Access helps students with disabilities such as autism remain on task and focused on content. It allows a parent, teacher, or administrator to limit an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button, as well as restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen. VoiceOver, the revolutionary screen reader for blind and low-vision users, is now integrated with Maps, AssistiveTouch, and Zoom. And Apple is working with top manufacturers to introduce Made for iPhone hearing aids that will deliver a power-efficient, high-quality digital audio experience.

It’s easy to be cynical when Apple make a song and dance about how empowering their technology and software can be, like in this video aired at WWDC yesterday — but the fact is, this kind of thoughtful and inclusive application of technology does improve people’s lives.

The blind shooting the blind

If you were ever in doubt about how empowering technology can be for people with disabilities:

I simply gawped when one blind woman pulled out an iPhone then snapped a perfect shot, guided by the built-in Camera app.

Eventually a common theme became apparent: Apple’s applications — Calendar, Messages, Mail, iPhoto, even Maps and most surprisingly Camera — are completely usable by blind people. These applications aren’t using any kind of secret API sauce. They’re using the same UIAccessibility framework you and I have access to.

The meat of this article si less inspiring though, as it discusses the failure of so many app developers to pu the powerful APIs at their fingertips, to good use for creating accessible apps.

This seems to be a common theme, and something which desperately needs to change. I love this little snippet from this post:

Here, then, lies the answer to how to tell whether some developer you’ve just met (or are interviewing) is serious about their craft in five seconds flat: borrow their device, and triple-click the home button. If you don’t hear “VoiceOver on”, or get prompted about VoiceOver, consider that −3 points on the Steve Test.

Hot new iPhone apps fail when it comes to accessibility

Joe Clark has some strong words for the current crop of popular iPhone apps:

iPhones and iPads are the easiest systems to make accessible in the history of computing. iOS, moreover, is the funnest accessible development environment there ever was. You’ll have a whale of a time testing this shit out. VoiceOver, like an Oscar Pistorius prosthesis, is actually cool.

But if you can’t make it happen in the first place, you suck as a developer.

Accessibility seems to be getting sidelined when it comes to creating apps, and it’s a worrying trend.

The old print model just doesn’t work

In an article comparing the latest crop of paid-for newspaper apps, Rory Cellan-Jones picks up on what is lacking from a traditional approach to publishing on digital devices: He says of The Times iPad app:

What it does not do is take advantage of those things that online products can deliver which a paper cannot. Search, for instance, is absent – trying to find out whether today’s Times has an article on a particular subject means flicking through every section.

More seriously, the app is not a “live” newspaper – what you get each morning is the edition that went to bed about the time you did. Take today’s iPad Times for instance. There is a long article about Apple and the challenges it faces from rivals now that Steve Jobs is taking sick leave.

But not only does it quote a share price that is way out of date – the 6% fall at Tuesday’s NASDAQ opening – it also fails to mention the startlingly good results published at 2130 GMT on Tuesday evening.

This shows exactly why the old print model just doesn’t translate effectively to the digital world — modern-day journalism needs to be responsive; be more relevant.

News groups appear to be groping in the dark, unsure of what readers want from an app.

What readers want from an app is what readers have been getting from the web: searchable, relevant, up-to-date journalism and content. But they want that experience to be enhanced through the use of intelligent, intuitive design which digital devices can provide.

Publishers aren’t learning from the web

Oliver Bothwell ponders the current state of publication apps on tablets, concluding that publishers just aren’t learning lessons from the web:

And now it is quite easy to see why the media apps are failing. They are all difficult to navigate requiring too many swipes, flicks and scrolls to find things. Eureka has a lovely opening navigation and the magazines have contents pages but where are the search bars? Have they learnt nothing from the web? Where are the related articles, tags and comments. They are not taking advantage of the fundamental tools available to them. Instead they are creating gimmicky apps without any real substance. Media companies are changing but without realising what is their best asset, their quality journalism and ability to edit, which they sacrifice to fads and pointless interactive content. Newspaper and magazine sales are down because the internet allows easy consumption and access to lots of information; the only way to start making money is by championing this in their apps and combining with excellent user-interface and editorial design. At the moment there isn’t an app which is better to use than the newspaper or website equivalent and this should be worrying to an ailing industry. The approach is entirely wrong; it is not the content that is the problem, it’s the way it’s being presented.

I’ve, personally, yet to find a media app which feels “right” — even the very popular and innovative Flipboard doesn’t fit the bill, for the may of the reasons that Oliver flags up: too many swipes, no way to effectively filter and search.