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Much like digital interfaces, your phone conferences should best abide by some accessibility and user experience principles.
When you work with a wide range of people, you learn “savoir-vivre” and a number of best practices. For example, when it comes to phone conferences, you announce yourself when you speak (needed for a scribe or an interpreter to be able to tell who’s speaking); you describe what you’re showing on your screen (needed for low vision and blindness), and a few other good ideas like these.
These are valuable habits, and since we’re living in a moment where most of us must play the“work from home” game, they become useful to everyone. As we often say in the accessibility gig: needed for some, useful to all!
There are six main principles to follow:
Let’s tackle them from both an UX and accessibility point of view.
If more than one person speaks at once, chaos ensues: it makes it nearly impossible for your audience to understand what’s being said, and meetings become hard to follow. It’s already a challenge when in physical meetings, but on the phone it’s something of a feat.
When I started to extrapolate a bit, I ended up realizing that user experience relies on similar principles:
On the phone, voices can sound very similar. It’s often difficult, even if you’re not deaf, to pinpoint who’s speaking. Announcing yourself reminds everybody who you are, simplifies going from one speaker to the next, and can even cool down the discussion, thus reducing the risk of people speaking all at the same time.
What can we draw from it for our user experience?
When I’m having a hard time understanding and I need explanations, I can use a chat window on the side without interrupting the person talking (for instance: “Who is she talking about? What was that word?”).
An accessible approach to speaking:
Teachers, performers well know that they have to project their voice when adressing the public or a group of people. Projecting one’s voice means pushing it a few meters forward. Instead of talking to yourself, think of your audience as if they were two or three meters away from you. You don’t have to yell, just push your voice a bit louder and further. On the phone you’ll avoid mumbling, which happens frequently because you can hear yourself without imagining, for one second, that people on the other side can’t.
From a graphical point of view, what comes to mind is:
Small noises from all around are just that: noise. The more noise there is, the less signal. And the less signal, the more exhausting the experience.
What about our web and mobile interface? It’s not vocal but visual, so how can we reduce the cognitive load?
If I can’t see your screen, it’s not only because of low vision or of blindness: these days the network is on heavy duty, you can’t be sure that I am able to follow your frantic mouse. Tell me what’s happening.
A few accessibility gifts?
It’s often a good thing to remember that accessibility is not useful only to people with a disability, even though it’s critical for them. Accessibility is a genuine part of usability and user experience. A bit of accessibility in phone conferences goes a long way!
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