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Can design trends lead to broken accessibility?

Why using the platform defaults is a good idea

16 June, 2023

This week I gave a talk on “Accessibility by Default for Developers” at my workplace. The talk focused on what the development team can do to ensure that our application is accessible to as many people as possible. That’s me, talking about accessibility.

One of simpler methods I talked about is to Use The Platform. By this I mean, rather than jumping through hoops to create overly complex user interfaces which may break basic accessibility, try and incorporate platform standards into your designs and applications.

A lot of this complexity comes from following the latest design trends (or even worse, getting an A.I. like Midjourney to design a UI for you). Whether it be Skeuomorphism, Neumorphism, Glassmorphism or whatever the heck is nextmorphism, these trends can often break the basics of building functional and accessible applications.

Trends change, but a solid foundation based on tried and tested principles will last a lifetime.

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This isn’t limited to web development either. In a recent interview on the Daily Stoic podcast (part 1, part 2), music producer Rick Ruben talked about how he doesn’t follow trends to ensure his music remains timeless.

If you use the latest sounds, the newest sounds, the sounds of today—then tomorrow, they’ll sound like the sounds of yesterday… The newest of sounds can quickly sound very dated.
Rick Ruben, Music Producer

And Stoicism is the perfect example of this. The majority of stoic philosophy was written hundreds of years ago, by philosophers who are quoting stoics from hundreds of years before them. Generations of timeless wisdom which is as pertinent today as the day it was first thought up. Image generated with Adobe Firefly

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t innovate and create new trends. Society would not progress if that was the case. But when it comes to developing, writing, capturing or any other form of creating content for consumption by a wide audience, take a moment to ask whether the design choices we make are benefiting our audience or blocking their access.

If you can’t access it, it doesn’t exist.