UX Accessibility for Video Games

Accessibility in video games has never been more important. As games have become increasingly popular, it's important to remember to design for all of your users. By ignoring accessibility and possible accessibility settings, video game designers risk excluding many players and setting a poor standard. Furthermore, as the years have gone by, the increase in demand for accessibility to video games has become more apparent.

Industry leaders like Microsoft and Sony have developed adaptive controllers to enable gamers of all abilities to play video games in their way. These R&D products are helping shape the landscape of accessibility from a controller standpoint.

So, what can game designers and developers do to help create a more accessible experience from within the game itself?

 

1. Audio Disabilities:
Subtitles are probably the first thing you think about when considering accessible design for people with auditory disabilities. Subtitles are a popular accessibility option, but it is not always a simple solution with games. Sometimes it can be hard to read the subtitles and still interact with the gameplay.

So, subtitles should be large, use simple fonts, and contrast well against all the games' different backgrounds. In addition, the subtitled words need to be condensed and not stretch the whole screen so a user can stay engaged with the game and not have to move their head like a typewriter when trying to read. The words also need to stay on screen long enough for a user to be able to read them, and it should be clear who is speaking when multiple characters are present.

Subtitles should cover all dialogue and sounds a player can hear so the player can understand what is happening, even if they can't hear it immediately. Minecraft is a great example of this, allowing the sounds of in-game events to be indicated with a subtitle and a directional arrow to show you where it's coming from. Ultimately, if a player is hearing impaired, providing audio that enhances and allows the player to enjoy your game is very important.

2. Vision Disabilities:

There are many visual disabilities and impairments that will require accessibility options. One common visual impairment is color blindness. People have either deuteranopia, which affects the perception of green tones, protanopia, which affects red tones, tritanopia, which affects yellow and, to a lesser extent, blue, and the very rare achromatopsia where you see the world in black and white.

Developers can check if their games are readable by testing with color blind players or using free filter tools such as color oracle, which allows you to see static images in all modes of color blindness, or Sim Daltonism, where you can see the world in real-time.

Similarly, game engines like Unity or Unreal Engine provide filters to allow game designers and developers to check these settings as they build the game. The best way to design around this issue is to avoid using color alone when providing information or distinguishing between two different things. Instead, designers should use shapes, symbols, shading, animation, and other visual tricks to make critical parts of the game stand out from one another. Providing key ways to distinguish between different elements in your video game is very important to a player's overall experience.

3. Motor Disabilities:

More and more UX accessibility options have been developed to cater to people with various motor disabilities, such as Microsoft's Adaptive Controller referenced earlier. However, designers and developers can also implement features that help players that don't have access to accessible controllers with their own accessibility options.

For example, users can now fully remap controls to access any mechanic with any button or key. Most console games do not allow this, yet this is the most frequently requested accessibility option from games. Another great design method enables the user to different input methods if the game has fine motor movements such as a mouse or gyro, allowing those options to be turned off and accessed with one control or button.

Furthermore, reducing the number of buttons you use and making it easier to operate the game without needing to hold down or repeatedly tap a button is also a great accessible design option. Providing more granular customization for the player is important. For example, rumble has a huge impact on players with motor disabilities, and thus you should allow the player to change the rumble sensitivity. Lastly, the ability to pause a game is important for motor disabled gamers as they might need to take a break from playing because of fatigue or discomfort.

4. Cognitive Disabilities:

Many different types of cognitive disabilities require other design solutions within video games. Common cognitive disabilities recognized by video game makers include epilepsy, dyslexia, and learning disabilities.

Some of the key design features implemented to improve the playing experience of people with cognitive disabilities include:

  • Options for how a player perceives your world, such as a Field of View (FOV) slider or Motion Blur slider
  • The ability to turn off quick flashes or regular moving patterns
  • Providing simplified information and objectives to players
  • The ability to turn on navigation cues
  • Access to play tutorials whenever for a quick refresher
  • Implementing pause screens with information that reminds the player what they're doing
  • The ability to pause your game
  • Fully customizable difficulty levels

Customization is Key

Providing options to the player is the key to being inclusive and accessible. Customization options within your setting allow players to have the freedom to enjoy your game in their own way and express who they are. Whether you allow a player to customize how subtitles look, remap controls to their liking, or turn off motion blur because it makes them feel nauseous, customization enables users to unlock an extra layer of potential within your game. From a design perspective, it's a no-brainer!

One of the beautiful elements of video games is that they are interactive entertainment whose potential is dependent on how you approach them. This makes them uniquely different from most other forms of media. Options and customization allow players to tailor their experience and properly immerse themselves in your game. Remember to design for everyone. Test your designs with disabled players in all four categories before shipping your game to ensure the best overall experience for all players.

Want to Learn More About Accessibility in Video Games? 

Awareness of accessibility in video games has grown in recent years thanks to the efforts of a number of organizations, individuals, and advocates. There are many great places, particularly online, where you can learn more about accessibility for video games and keep up to date with recent accessibility developments.

We recommend checking out this Youtube Playlist from the Game Maker's Toolkit that features a number of videos all about video game accessibility.

You should also watch the Video Game Accessibility Awards, which take place annually, and were founded by Able Gamers senior director Steven Spohn and Sony Santa Monica writer and Youtube personality Alanah Pearce. The awards show, which is streamed live on Youtube, is a great place to learn about and recognize the video games that are succeeding with UX accessibility in video games in recent years.

To learn more about UX accessibility for video games, please get in touch with our UX experts.


Designing Future Products to Last

How do you know whether your product will endure? And why would you want to build long-lasting designs when the market steers you towards efficient, disposable items and short-term gains? In this blog, we wanted to take a brief look at what designing future products to last means and how you can create successful, enduring designs.

The Right to Repair

The right to repair regulations were introduced in the UK in 2021. These regulations aim to ensure that once you own something, you have the freedom to do what you want with that product, i.e., repairs, upgrades, and alterations. Similar rules were also brought into US legislation via President Biden’s executive order in July 2021. Although each state in the US has the right to set their own laws in place regarding the right to repair, these broad developments in the US and the UK that come from the top are indicative of the growth and development of the right to repair movement around the world. 

The right to repair movement has been gaining in popularity for years. For example, IFixit, an American e-commerce and how-to website that sells repair parts and publishes free wiki-like online repair guides for consumer electronics and gadgets has over 3 million members and has been steadily growing for years.

In July 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) unanimously voted to approve a policy statement announcing increased antitrust and consumer protection enforcement against business practices that make it difficult for consumers to repair their own products or use independent repair shops. Businesses will have to be aware that as they design new products, their users will be empowered to make their own alterations.

It is also important to note that the right to repair isn’t just physical. This repair applies to digital products and services and ensures that users have the right to download and change how the product functions to their liking. These changes should encourage designers to alter their approach and create designs capable of lasting and evolving. By all indications, the right to repair is here to stay.

Designing for the Future

Is your product robust? Will consumers be able to use your product in five years in the same way that they use it today? When we design products, we should be thinking about how we are contributing to a culture of e-waste. We must think about the lifecycle of our products and how the life cycle can be improved and extended. Designing for the future means designing products that are long-lasting, modular, and capable of being disassembled. Making long-lasting products is by forging an emotional connection with the consumer. If you can create something, authentic users will be more likely to care about it and prefer to repair it rather than throwing it out. This isn’t solely a designer problem. Consumers will also need to adjust their attitude towards products and not always choose the latest and greatest thing. 

On the design side, repairable items capable of being disassembled will also help extend the life cycle of your designs. Indeed, modular devices that allow users to swap out faulty components for new ones will enable consumers to fully understand the structure and keep them functioning long after buying them. Please take a look at companies like Frameworks and Fairphone, which will allow modularity in their devices and empower their consumers to take ownership of their products. There are limits to this route when it comes to proprietary information, designs, or software; however, it is still an idea that is worth thinking about if you are hoping to design for the future.

Documentation is Key

Companies should create guides and manuals that provide a step-by-step walkthrough of how to disassemble and reassemble their devices. Similar to manuals for IKEA furniture or toy models, this documentation should be user-friendly, engaging and allow users to interact with your product to extend its shelf life.

You could include illustrations or QR codes that link to video tutorials and simple instructional videos. You can even allow consumers to publish their own documentation online about their own alterations. This will help to create a community around your designs that can grow organically and evolve into something unexpected.

Then you should nurture the ecosystem that has developed around your product. If your device needs special tools or instructions, make sure that they are as accessible as possible. As you engage with your consumer through this documentation, you will be able to show that you care about your product and you’re excited about the potential of your design when it’s in the hands of users. All of this will help to show the flexibility and value of your product in the long term.

Products that Last

It is clear that the landscape for product design is changing. Businesses must keep their fingers on the pulse of the industry and users if they want to succeed.

Whether it is with the right to repair, designing lasting products, or creating a community around your product, designers have a lot to pay attention to today if they want to create something that endures and improves the lives of their users.

 

It is exciting to think about the products that await us in the future. If you want to be at the forefront of this next wave of change, get in contact with our design, UI, and UX experts at Radiant digital.

 


Inclusivity in UX Design: How to Better Represent Everyone

How can we ensure that as many people as possible are considered in the UX design process? Are we prioritizing inclusivity when we are developing the designs of tomorrow? These are the sorts of questions that are necessary for progress in the world of digital design. Below we explore the importance of inclusivity in UX design, how it can improve the design, and how inclusivity can be maintained throughout the industry.

What does inclusivity in UX design mean?

No two people are alike. This is an essential thing for UX designers to remember. There are so many ways to categorize people that it would take another article to describe them all. Everyone has unique needs, wants, and characteristics.
Inclusivity in design is about recognizing that we have a responsibility to acknowledge, create, design, and serve as many people as we can. Users will typically come from a vast array of backgrounds, both economic and ethnic, will be of different genders, and have additional physical capabilities. And these are just a few of the factors that need to be considered in discussions about inclusivity. Inclusivity in design means that anyone should use your design and achieve successful results. Inclusivity in design also means anyone should contribute to the development process. If designs are only made by one type of person with only one kind in mind, the design is bound to fail when presented to a diverse user base.

Why is inclusivity in UX design important?

The consequences of not embracing inclusivity can be enormous. For example, initially, Apple Health launched without a simple period tracking function which effectively excluded half of their users from properly experiencing their product. Similarly, research has shown that cars are 71% less safe for women because crash test dummies are primarily based on the male physique. This shows how our products are designed mainly by one kind of person. Unfortunately, it can be easy to forget to represent everyone.
Inclusivity doesn't merely mean accessibility. Even the word 'Accessibility' can be reductive and create an "Us versus Them" dynamic. Inclusivity doesn't mean creating a base product that suits one type of person and adding bits and pieces to your design to include 'other' types of people. Inclusivity must be at the root of the creative process. This will help to ensure innovative and enduring solutions are made that serve a broad and diverse user base. When we look at it from a viewpoint that at any point in time, we might have to change the way we operate in this world, it becomes easier to empathize with others. Therefore, designers must put themselves in the shoes of their users and understand how they serve them as best as possible.


How can we achieve and maintain inclusivity in UX Design?

While it's often said that you can't make everyone happy, the second best thing to recognize is that we, as designers, are not our users. This means recognizing our own biases and understanding the perspective of our users. To design is to empathize, not merely sympathize, intending to improve the world around us. In practical terms improving inclusivity in UX design may mean diversity in decision making, research groups, meeting rooms, etc. Equally, being inclusive means being thorough in how we think about how diverse users can use our designs. Inclusivity should inform every stage of the design and development process. For example, designers should constantly be questioning themselves when creating a web page. First, they might ask, "Who is the target audience for this page?" or "How can I expand the options available on the page and widen that target audience?" Then they might ask themselves, "How accessible is the page to someone who is partially sighted?" or "How accessible is the page to someone who does not have English as their first language?". This self-scrutiny is key to creating and maintaining inclusive designs.

Here are some literal examples:

1. Consider Users with Reading Disabilities
2. Optimize Clicks and Navigation
3. Provide Captions or Transcripts
4. Offer Multiple Options for Contact

And here are some more general examples:

1. Provide a comparable experience for all users
2. Consider situational differences in location, interaction, and ability
3. Be consistent with user patterns and functionality
4. Give control to users when it makes sense
5. Offer choices and alternative user journeys
6. Prioritize content with one thing to do or focus on at a time
7. Add value with features, content, and visual frameworks

All of the examples have one goal in mind: inclusivity in UX design. Hopefully, you will take some of the tips on board and continue creating designs that serve all kinds of users.
To learn more about inclusivity and innovation in UX design, reach out to our UX experts at Radiant Digital.


Why the User Experience Inside the Car is just as Important as Outside the Car

Electric vehicles have been around for a long time. Still, they have experienced somewhat of a renaissance in the last ten years with the emergence of industry-leading companies like TeslaThe number of electric passenger cars used globally increased from close to zero to 10.2 million between 2010 and 2020. Owning an electric vehicle has become more affordable, practical, and fashionable. In electric cars, several topics draw particular attention within the industry. One of the most critical issues for manufacturers, designers, and users is charging stations. In this post, we wanted to highlight how the user experience of EV charging stations has evolved and how it can improve in the future. 

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations 

The history of electric vehicles is longer than most people expect. Since the 1800s, electric cars have been used worldwide, but the 'Charging Station' concept didn't become apparent until the 2010s. Today, EV Charging Stations, otherwise known as Electric Vehicle Charging Stations, are sprouting up everywhere across the U.S. and the world. In the past, you would have had to swap your battery out for a whole new battery for your electric vehicles to run for an extended period. Tesla wanted to break that mold. So they developed the first charging station for electric cars. It works just the same as a gas or petrol station. Drivers pull up to a charging station, pay, and plug in their vehicle. 

Nowadays, with thousands of charging stations across the United States, it's hard to imagine not seeing this simplistic approach to building a network of charging stations. But that wasn't always the case. Tesla had to make the first step and got a headstart on many other electric vehicle companies. This has been reflected in how different companies currently run their charging stations and how many struggles to keep up with Tesla's EV charging station experience. 

Image: Tesla Model S

Emerging Problems 

So what problems are companies experiencing in their attempts to keep up with the established UX of Tesla's charging stations? 

Many companies struggled with identifying users early on and did not know how to manage their user base to hold an RFID card to pay at their stations. This was one of the old pain points of EV charging stations, but plenty of pain points still emerge today. For example, today, many EV charging stations are still excessively loud during the charging process. Additionally, the cable lengths at the charging stations are often inconveniently short, and it can be difficult for users to even plug in their vehicle. 

On top of these problems sometimes even the charging station is broken and it's impossible to charge up your vehicle. Many charging stations also lack weather protection. Although this is not a vital issue, it still dramatically impacts the user experience. There are several problems with EV charging stations, and currently, the charging network in many countries is fractured.  

Tesla dominates the world of EV charging, and in 2020 they will own 7,600 supercharger stations compared to 1,400 owned by ChargePoint in North America. The good news for EV owners is that many proprietary networks like Tesla's charging stations are opening up to all EV owners. This increased accessibility is key to the future of electric vehicles. So, how can companies improve their network and make better use of previously proprietary networks that are now becoming more accessible? 

Solving the Urgent EV User Experience Problems

EV owners' central pain point is finding a place to charge their vehicles. In the past, it's hard to imagine owners not having to worry about where they might charge up. Many car companies have struggled with this dilemma since creating the cars themselves. Tesla has spent time perfecting the user experience of their charging station, and their work has been groundbreaking. A massive benefit for Tesla is that they are a software company more than a car company. This has a significant impact on how their EV charging network is displayed and run. They have a system that is attuned to modern user sensibilities, and they understand how the details of their interface impact their customer's experience. 

Tesla has solved the big user experience problem ("Where can I charge my vehicle?") by allowing drivers to set GPS routes and auto-populate the closest charging stations to help drivers never feel lost when they need to charge up. Furthermore, Tesla also provides users with detailed information on how fast a station charges, how much it costs to charge at a particular station, whether it's out of order or occupied by another car. Finding an EV charging station navigation represents all this necessary and valuable user experience information. Other electric car companies must take a cue from Tesla regarding designing their user experience for EV charging stations. They'll succeed by being open, connected, and informative about what is happening on a station-by-station basis. The EV companies that will endure for years to come will make their charging point experience transparent, interactive, and effective. 

To learn more about creating a first-class user experience, feel free to contact our UX experts here at Radiant Digital.