Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why is color contrast important in software design?

Designers and product managers often ask me why color contrast and the ability to zoom in is important in software design. There are two groups of people who benefit from color contrast.

1. Color blindness. 1 in 12 men are color blind. 1 in 200 women are color blind. Any design that adjoins two different colors with the same or similar value can be tricky for color blind users to navigate. Additionally, the use of color only as an indicator of system status becomes meaningless. For example, red for alert and green for ok. If those two colors appear the same to a user, the meaning is lost. Therefore, any time a design uses color for meaning, it should be accompanied by a symbol or text that also provides meaning. A red exclamation for alert and a green checkmark for ok will provide a way to convey meaning without color alone.

2. Low vision. Around 3-3.5% of the world population has low vision.  Low vision users can be aided by increased color contrast in addition to the ability to zoom in or magnify their view of software on a screen. Zooming and contrast can be enhanced by peripheral hardware and software, but at a minimum, software should have a certain amount of contrast built in as well as the ability to adjust the zoom.

Further reading:

Why is the the ability to navigate by keyboard important?

I often have designers and developers asking me why it is important to be able to navigate a web page with a keyboard only and why it is bad to require users to hover over something with a mouse.

Let me be clear that I'm not against adding motion or delightful visual effects when the mouse moves around the page. However, there needs to be a clear and easy path for users to interact with all features using a keyboard. Here is why:

1. Power users. People who use a web app heavily for productivity don't want to move their hand back and forth from a keyboard to a mouse. Doing everything with a keyboard is preferred. If that functionality is available and intuitive, it will be used. In addition to the ability to navigate by keyboard, these users require the ability to see where their cursor focus is on screen at all times.
web page on a tablet

2. Navigating via tablet. Today, a lot of users will access a web page on a tablet device. Tablets have touch screens that are not able to simulate a hovering action as the mouse can. As such, all controls need to be visible and able to be activated by a touch, which is interpreted the same way as the click of the mouse or hitting the enter key.

3. Minor ailments. A lot of users suffer from minor ailments including arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome, diminished dexterity or temporary injuries like sprained wrists. For these users, long periods of mousing can be excruciating. Making things available via keyboard allows these users to continue being productive while healing from and avoiding aggravating their injuries. In addition to the ability to navigate by keyboard, these users require the ability to see where their cursor focus is on screen at all times.

using a switch
4. Profound motor disabilities. People with conditions like MS, Parkinsons, ALS, muscular dystrophy or who are missing a limb or digits still have a need to participate in our digital society. Creating web applications that are navigable via keyboard allows them to access information and services using a keyboard or a switch, which is a large button that can be plugged in as an alternative to a mouse pointer and used to toggle between web page controls. In addition to the ability to navigate by keyboard, these users require the ability to see where their cursor focus is on screen at all times.
navigating with a screen reader

5. Profound visual impairment. Users with profound visual impairment will typically use screen reading software to navigate a web page. Because they cannot see a pointer on screen, they need to be able to toggle through controls on a page using the keyboard. Additionally, all "active" elements like buttons, links and form fields need proper text labeling or alternatives, so they know what to expect when they activate the element. This is especially important with icons which need to be described to the screen reading software.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ireland's Wicklow Way - May 2014

Full Photoset:

Day 1 May 18 Sunday
Arrived in Dublin around 12:30 pm. Got to hotel around 2 pm. Saw LinkedIn folks on plane and survived the screamer - a 2 year old boy.

Went to Guinness storehouse and survived the crowds in the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor to enjoy the views of Dublin while drinking a pint. 

Dinner was at Bison Bar on the way back. We had ribs, fries, and coleslaw. I enjoyed a warm whiskey drink with honey and orange.

Struggled to stay awake until 8 when we took our "reset sleep".

Day 2 - May 19 Monday

Kilmainham Jail
After a big breakfast at Brooks Hotel we headed to Kilmainham Jail via bus. The tour got a lot into Irish history, the revolts against British rule, and the civil war. After the tour we walked the 4 km back stopping at a coffee shop for a big salad and vegetable soup on the way. 

We did a short refresh before heading out to St. Patricks cathedral. We also stopped at Sheridan's cheese shop for some meat and cheese for tomorrow's lunch. 
St. Patrick's

We took a short nap and then went to Stag's Head Pub for a pint. I had cider. Then, we went to Gallagher's Boxty House for dinner. We had a three course meal. I had seafood chowder (excellent) and dumplings which were gnocchi with mushrooms and blue cheese cream sauce (also excellent). Dessert was a warm chocolate, nut and fruit brownie with ice cream and salted caramel. It sounded better than it was. 

Day 3 - May 20 Tuesday 
Wicklow Trailhead, Marlay Park
We started our walk today. A 50 minute bus ride got us to Marlay Park where we dropped our bag with the transfer service and got our start. It was raining pretty steadily.

It rained for the first hour or two as we climbed the first ridge. Then we got thick fog reminding us of Port de la Bonaigua in Spain. It cleared and we had our 100 gram lunch (chocolate, cheese, crackers and salami) while watching the baby sheep. 

We climbed over another ridge and descended until we got to the Knockree youth hostel. We were soaked in a heavy downpour so when we got directions, they told us they would call for a ride.

We got a ride to Coolakey House where Yvonne greeted us. After coffee and a shower, we got a ride to Eniskerry for dinner at the Old Forge Inn. I had a beef pie, fries and salad. Rick had ham with cabbage and potatoes. We had whiskey for dessert - black bush and padding tons.

Day 4 - May 21 Wednesday 
Plank Walk Over Bogs

I had a full Irish breakfast at Coolakey house. We chatted with the international crowd of Italian, Dutch, Korean, Aussies and the other Americans.

Loch Te
The day was sunny and beautiful. We headed south with the Koreans. The first climb took us above a lovely falls. Then, we passed just below the summit of the highest peak in the area, Djouce Mountain. Then there was 3km on a plank walk downhill and then a rolling ramble to the junction toward Roundwood. We turned off for Lough Dan House and fortunately got a ride the last km from one of the farm hands. The house is lovely and the owners sweet. 

They made us some lamb and vegetables for dinner with red wine. The lamb was raised here. We spent the evening chatting with Sean and Theresa the owners and other guests John and Jane from England.

Day 5 - May 23 Thursday
Loch Dan

Scarr Mtn. Summit
Theresa and Sean convinced us all that the Wicklow way route for today was mostly on road and boring. So, they sent us over Scarr mountain. We headed out around 10 with John and Jane. The climb was tough through deep bogs and mud. We did see a large herd of deer at the ridge line and a waterfall from near the top. We argued over whether we had reached our official turn at an "egg shaped rock". John bet me three leprechauns that we had not yet turned. So that became a running joke.

We made it to Heather House in Laragh around 2:30 after saying goodbye to Jane and John who headed to Glendalough - and had time for ample laundry and napping. We dined in their restaurant and I had pear cider, haddock fish and chips with a salad. We finished with Irish coffee for dessert.

Day 6 - May 24 - Friday
The Monastic City
We had a hearty breakfast, got packed lunches and headed out toward Glendalough. As soon as we got to the monastic city and started taking pictures, the rain started falling.

From there it was a national forest path along a waterfall and up a mountain for about 10km. It was extremely windy and cold. I thought we'd be done with the hard part upon summitimg, but we then had a bog path, a steep boggy descent and a stone stairway all in epic winds. Finally we were back to forest road and it stopped raining. From there it was an easy 6km to the Glenmalure Lodge where I enjoyed hot chocolate and Baileys.

For dinner we shared tips of venison and a burger at the pub attached to the lodge, which was hopping with Friday evening frivolity.

Day 7 - May 25 Saturday
Descent to Iron Bridge

We had a smallish full Irish and got suited up. We chatted at breakfast with a couple from Idaho as the rain cleared.

After settling our bill, we headed out. The rain flirted with us most of the day as we traipsed through the conifer forest.

We were mixing up with some sort of trail race relay. Runners passed us intermittently and we saw a handoff point at Ironbridge. We had one tricky ascent through deep mud and one tricky descent on bog path, which was slippery. The descent to Ironbridge was the most scenic part of the day. We finally emerged from the forest into a pretty valley and slogged the remaining 8 km to Kyle Farmhouse. The day ended with 26 km and over 3000 feet climbing and descending. We had dinner at Kyle Farmhouse - butternut squash soup, baked salmon, and chocolate cake. 

I had a quick chat with Adrienne and finished up Crime and Punishment before going to bed.

Day 9 - May 26 Sunday
Emerald View

Margaret made us a nice breakfast before we hit the road. The day started nice as we wandered through country lanes and sheep pastures. We ate lunch in glorious sunshine before starting our last leg. 

Mamma and Baby Sheep
As we headed up our last climb of the day, the skies opened and it poured for about an hour and the rained lightly for the next hour. We were happy to see the Dying Cow pub (Tallons) which meant we were 1.5 km from the end. We stopped for some refreshment and then continued to Lugnaquillia View B and B. 

We met Matthew and Anne who run the house and were invited in for a hurling match and coffee. After the match we cleaned up and joined them for their family dinner of lamb, veggies and potatoes (two ways).

Day 10 - May 27 Monday
Trail's End, Clonegal

We ate Matthew's breakfast and headed out under gloomy skies. The first 10k were pretty easy going mostly on roads and easy tracks.

Bunclody Church
Our first ascent into the forest was super steep and very circuitous. We had some light showers. Once back on the road, we stopped for lunch and then headed for the second bit of forest. The sky got black and we had a severe crack of lightening in the very worst spot and then we hightailed out of the forest and down the last 5km to Clonegal in a stiff downpour.

It took us some effort to locate a taxi and a 40 minute wait before the final leg to Bunclody. After a very hot bath at the Millrace Hotel, we headed downstairs to celebrate with two for one steak night and a bottle of wine.

Day 11 - May 28 Tuesday
Dublin Docks
We had room service breakfast and then headed out to catch the bus to Dublin. It was a short ride and we arrived early - well before lunch 

Trinity College Library
Our hotel was oversold and so hooked us up with lattes, a fancy room at their sister hotel across the river and a taxi ride over. So, after getting settled at The  Spencer, we headed out for lunch and sightseeing. We stopped at JW Sweetmans for lunch and craft beer. The pale ale was fabulous. Then, we walked to Trinity College where we took in the Book of Kells exhibit and the old library. 

We rested at the hotel befor heading back out for dinner at the Winding Stair, which was recommended. Dinner was good. The most memorable part was the bread pudding Rick had for dessert. I had a ginger cake that was also quite good - preceded by a nice salad and sole.