The Journey of Short Menu

Short Menu UI

On March 16th 2012 at 01:39 AM, Short Menu 1.0 first saw the light of the world. Today, more than five years later, Short Menu took a major leap forward. Version 3.0 brings the most drastic redesign yet, but at the same time not much changed for existing users in terms of using the app.

Hold on a second, that’s not entirely true. For some users, 3.0 changes a lot. Sure — if a user of 1.0 went straight to 3.0, the change would certainly be massive, but that‘s not what I‘m talking about here. Version 3.0 is the first release with a focus on Accessibility. Admittedly, five years is a long time, but better late than never. Version 1 and 2 were basically accessible, but, as I discovered in the past year, didn‘t provide a great experience for users relying on Voice Over. I want all users to have a great experience using the app, no matter how they use it.

Turn on Voice Over on your Mac and imagine the words you hear to be the only way for you to know what’s going on (I know this isn’t the only use-case for Accessibility, but probably the most evident example). Now imagine instead of Preferences or Tweet, something would just be called Button or Row — or imagine there’s a label describing a feature, but the element you need to use in order to use the feature can’t be detected by Voice Over at all. It’s like teasing you about something really cool and ignoring you afterwards.

The worst thing about those scenarios is that it’s actually pretty easy for developers to prevent them. Apple provides a great, easy-to-use Accessibility API on all its platforms. Most of the time improving Accessibility is as easy as adding a certain attribute to an element. Sometimes a little more work is needed, but even for medium sized projects it shouldn’t take more than a day to ensure everything is accessible.

Of course no one is perfect. For people who don’t use Voice Over like me, it’s sometimes hard to know what the best way is to describe complex UI through voice commands. If you‘re a Voice Over user and feel like Short Menu could do a better job, please let me know!

If you‘re a developer and unsure how to make your app accessible, check out Apple‘s materials as well as resources created by fellow developers. I‘ve seen a major increase in talks about Accessibility at conferences during the last year, most of which are available online.

The redesign of Short Menu follows the same key concepts I already laid out in a previous post about Short Menu‘s iOS companion, so make sure to check that out if you‘re interested in the design aspect.

Download on the Mac App Store

About the Author

Florian Schliep is a software engineer & entrepreneur based in Berlin, Germany. He is available for consulting in mobile engineering strategy, hiring and due diligence.

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