Element is accessible by design

August 04, 2023

At Element, our mission is to provide secure communications to all. We believe that everyone deserves the right to private and safe online interactions. And, everyone means everyone. 🧑‍🤝‍🧑

In today's digital age, accessibility is a vital aspect of any product or service. When websites, applications or products are not accessible, it limits certain users’ ability to fully participate.

Accessibility is a journey of continuous improvement

We are maintaining a strong focus on accessibility in 2023 and beyond. This is important not just to us, but to our customers as well. We know that customers in many regulated industries must ensure their software solutions meet certain accessibility standards. But great accessibility is not about avoiding trouble; it's about doing what's right and, in the process, making the world a better place.

As part of our accessibility enhancements, we have been speaking to our users and working closely with them to understand their experiences and priorities.

To build a clearer picture of our product’s strengths and weaknesses we have been:

  • Working on accessibility reports with key customers
  • Reviewing GitHub issues raised by users
  • Interviewing a number of individual users
  • Analysing the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines)

Examples of recent accessibility improvements

Using our research as a starting point, over the past few months, we made numerous small tweaks and fixes that have significantly improved the accessibility of our product.

One example is improving the quality of experience for users who rely on screen readers. We achieved this by changing our labelling throughout our desktop app to provide clearer and more intuitive information. This ensures individuals with visual impairments can more easily navigate and interact with our product.

Below are two short videos showing what it’s like to send a message and change a setting with the screen reader. Watch them with the sound on to hear the voiceover.

Sending a message

Changing a setting

We’ve also improved keyboard shortcuts and navigation on our desktop app. This allows users to navigate through our platform efficiently without solely relying on a mouse or touchpad.

But what about our mobile legacy apps? Don't worry, we've got those covered too! Although our main focus is on the Element desktop app and Element X (our next generation Element app), we have also made some bug fixes in our current iOS and Android apps to ensure a more accessible experience across all platforms. For instance we’ve changed the order in which the screen is read out; optimised the alt text for all graphics; and improved the translation within the screen reader meaning it now performs better in other languages.

We’ve updated the colours in our message timeline. For example the location sharing pin is darker which makes it clearer 📍🗺️
We’ve updated the colours in our message timeline. See how the location sharing pin is darker which makes it easier to see on the map 📍🗺️
We’ve increased the contrast of our icons in the app. It might be a subtle change but it makes a big difference 📞🎥⬜🔍💬🔔ℹ️
We’We’ve increased the contrast of our icons in the app. Key interactions are now easier to see for anyone with visual impairments. 📞🎥⬜🔍💬🔔ℹ️

Other changes that you’ll start to see in the product include updates to our typeface (for improved legibility) and colours (for increased contrast). Both of these also fall into our larger work as part of our new design system… 🖌️🎨

Broadening our accessibility horizons with ‘Compound’

As we embed more and more accessibility best practices, we are making sure these changes are locked into our product’s visual language. Part of achieving this involves applying an ‘accessibility by design’ approach to our new design system: Compound. We'll be announcing more details about this soon.

What exactly is a design system? It’s a collection of reusable components, guidelines, and best practices that enable us to create cohesive and consistent designs across our product.

As we put our design system in place, we can ensure that every interaction, every colour, and every component adheres to a unified set of standards, resulting in a delightful user experience and better accessibility allround.

The examples mentioned above, such as the typeface and colours, are reflected in Compound. We’re really proud of our new design system so we’ve made it available online for everyone. Take a look and let us know what you think!

Our commitment to accessibility and inclusivity

Through listening to our users’ feedback, conducting thorough research, updating our screen reader compatibility, and introducing our new design system, we are dedicated to creating a better user experience for everyone. So get ready for an amazing year ahead filled with improved accessibility and a more seamless user experience across all our platforms.

Start using Element (get started) to join us on this exciting journey as we work towards a more accessible future for everyone. Together, we can create a secure and inclusive space for all to connect, collaborate, and communicate.

Stay tuned for more updates! 💪🌟

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