Design

Secrets of accessible design, as told by MDS

4 min read
Matt D. Smith  •  Nov 19, 2018
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There’s no good design that isn’t accessible. In partnership with Dribbble, we’ve put together a series of Q&As with designers on the forefront of accessibility and inclusivity—this time, MDS—for their thoughts, stories, and helpful hints.

Tell us about yourself!

Hey, I’m Matt! I’m a designer running my own little independent studio from Athens, GA. I specialize in interface design for native mobile and web-based apps. I also make resources for other designers in the form of YouTube videos, apps, design libraries, and online courses.

What made you realize accessible design is important? When did it click?

One of my first experiences with accessible color contrast was a Wells Fargo project I worked on many years ago.

They had fairly rigorous branding guidelines and were big sticklers about their standards. There was a whole page dedicated to color swatches and typography and about how all of the text on their websites and apps must pass an AA accessibility score. It turns out that it’s pretty important that people can read the balance of their bank account from a digital screen.

Prior to this project, I was only vaguely aware that some type of standards existed, but I had never fully explored all of the implications.

From this point forward, I made checking contrast a critical part of my design process. I began making heavy use of Brent Jackson’s Colorable website to check colors in new projects, but I always yearned for a quicker way without having to navigate to a website every time.

What’s the most heartwarming feedback you’ve gotten from this project? What makes you keep trekking on?

It’s really tough to narrow down to one piece of feedback. A simple search for “usecontrast.com” on Twitter shows an overwhelmingly positive stream for the app. The reception of the app in general has been absolutely amazing.

Plus, this was primarily built as an app that I could use myself for all of my own design work. I’ve been using it on every single project since Sam Soffes and I made it.

It’s been humbling to get messages from people who work at startups, agencies, and even big companies like Apple about how they’ve used Contrast as a tool to push more accessibility awareness in their organization.

It also puts the pressure on me to make sure the things I design adhere to the same standard I’m pushing others towards.

What do you want the standard for accessible design to be in 2019?

My hope for 2019 is that designers, whether just starting out or seasoned pros, would view accessibility as a constraint that allows for more creativity, not less.

I’d love to see all designers checking their colors from the very beginning and committing to memory some the minimum contrast requirement hex codes—like #767676 on #FFFFFF.

Question from a reader:

I work for a pretty traditional organization, and I’ve been struggling to explain the importance of accessible design. What are the magic words that will get my old-school team on board?

A little education goes a long way. That’s one of the main reasons I wrote this Color Contrast Guide, to educate designers and others why this is important.

Saying, “This color should be darker…” carries much less weight than, “There are an estimated 285 million visually impaired people in the world. The WCAG color contrast standards were specifically created to make sure interfaces were readable by these people. This color needs to be [insert very specific hex code] in order to pass accessibility standards.”

Check out MDS’s Dribbble account here for more examples of his work.