The picture above is a heat map of CELA‘s home page (see Introducing CELA), specifically the top half of the page. The map is a prediction of where the eye will linger on first presentation of the page to the user. The redder the superimposed heat colour, the more likely it is that the eye will linger there.
It’s a prediction from am AI tool called Foresight created by a team at the University of Toronto. Happily, it says our search box (I’m the web developer for CELA) is in the 97th percentile, and is likely to be very easily found on the page. This being a book lending service, that’s kind of important.
What is interesting for today however, is….
- What data is used to make that prediction?
- Who is the basis of the data?
- Age? Gender? Disability, if any?
- How was it collected?
- Any glare on the screen?
- And with UoT‘s algorithm, does it really matter?
Well, yes it kind of does.
So let’s delve down.
It’s great to see that heat map support our layout choices but not all people have 20/20 vision, and the CELA library website is used primarily by patrons with disabilities, often visual. But not necessarily visual.
CELA supports library patrons with print disabilities. Print disability covers all visual, physical, and learning disabilities that get in the way of reading a book, a magazine, or watching video.
Then there are patron’s technical skills and comfort level to consider. Approximately half of CELA’s current client don’t have an email address. And it’s not because they are on Facebook. This is why CELA provides multiple ways to contact them: by through their website, phone, by email, and by social media. One size does not fit all, and just having an “accessible” website doesn’t help if the clients don’t have the skills to master it.
With an ageing population adult vision loss is often something experienced later in life, which is why our vision impaired patrons tend to be older folks. It also means they are having to cope with the upheaval and life changes that come with vision loss, and learning computer skills may not feature very highly on their radar. And that I suspect, goes some way to explaining the 50% of clients without an email address.
It’s also what makes CELA very special. We design for print disabled users, and so we design for those older adults with vision loss, in addition to everyone else.
Including by the way, blind kids and teens, which would be a talk all on their own. Many of our adult patrons with vision loss, went blind later in life, kids often have congenital conditions and have never had any sight, and the metaphors and allegories you may think appropriate to wrap user navigation in, are viewed quite differently by folks that have never experienced them with vision.
You have to design for your audience.