Google has partnered with UK loss of sight charity RNIB and The Guardian newspaper to throw Auditor, an experimental and ultra-accessible online storytelling experience.
The Auditorial site is online today to mark World Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), an annual global event that began in 2012 to raise awareness and promote thought leadership around digital accessibility.
Editorial relays the fascinating story of “The Silent Spring” focusing on the life work of an octogenarian environmentalist Bernie krause, which has been tracking the effects of climate change for half a century by measuring changes in the sounds of natural habitats.
With the expert editorial contribution of the creative team of The Guardian, Krause’s story, relayed in a 17-minute immersive photographic, video and audio presentation, represents truly engaging content in itself.
However, the real purpose of creating Editorial was to demonstrate how it is endlessly possible to create super accessible online experiences without any compromise on creative flair.
Google lent its web design expertise to the project to complement The gardians RNIB’s editorial know-how, accessibility advice and user tests.
As Kate Baker, Creative Lead at Google Brand Studios in EMEA, explains, “With Auditorial, we look at accessibility specifically through a creative lens.
“For a long time there have been two schools of thought in web design, in direct conflict with each other.
“On the one hand, you have visual, gaudy web designers for whom the North Star is typically acrobatic, daring websites with unconventional navigation structures and fresh, unusual design features.
“On the other hand, you have an accessibility conversation that has gained visibility and importance, where designers are implored to make their websites simpler, more expected, more familiar, more stripped down, more linear and ( dare we say it) a little more boring.
She continues: “With Auditorial, we wanted to prove that you can do both. It’s good to design experiences in an adventurous and creative way, as long as you simply offer safe and accessible alternatives to those who need them. “
An imposing ambition
To that end, Editorial’s luxury accessibility provisions take website personalization to a whole new level.
Blind users with sensitive hearing can listen to the story but remove the background noise to focus only on the narrator, while those who have difficulty with the brightness can simply switch the story to dark mode at any time.
Users with discolored color perception can enhance all images and those with motion sickness can choose to switch all moving images to keyframes.
As part of the overall mission to give the web design industry a pause for thought and a glimpse of what can be accomplished with determination and intentionality around digital accessibility, the creators of Editorial also provided a Accessibility notebook containing the main lessons of the development process.
Here, the provision of alternative formats such as a fully customizable narrated audio-visual experience, written article or closed captions, is identified as being of paramount importance.
The value of using professional human storytelling to convey the required emotion and the appropriate cadence for storytelling, as opposed to using synthetic speech or screen reading software, is also emphasized. .
Good stories sell products
In 2021, to view storytelling as the purview of a small number of creativity-focused websites would indeed be a big mistake.
On the contrary, storytelling through video, audio, photos, animation and interactive elements is becoming an increasingly popular digital trend for major global consumer brands of Nike at Peugeot to differentiate themselves and create memorable user experiences.
Searches for websites containing only text show that users read only 20 to 28% of the words on a screen, while oculometric usability studies show a typical tendency to scan, rather than immerse themselves in the content.
Therefore, in the never-ending battle of brands competing for eyeballs and attention, harnessing the timeless ability of stories to engage, captivate, arouse emotions and showcase shared cultural experiences, becomes an integral component of the marketing and communications.
While increasingly sophisticated online storytelling experiences are going to be a key aspect of our digital future, it is essential that people with disabilities, which constitute 15 to 20% of the global audience, are brought for the journey by integrating accessibility from the earliest possible design stage.
Excluding and restricting people with sensory and motor disabilities to purely text-based websites would almost be to say that television is not really an appropriate medium for blind users and that they should just stick to radio or to simplistic talking heads broadcasts.
Additionally, like all other facets of digital accessibility, accessible online storytelling will not only benefit people with disabilities. This can be of great help for the elderly, the very young and those who do not speak English as a first language.
As David Clarke, Director of Services at RNIB says, “Auditorial is an example of how accessible online storytelling can be rich and engaging for everyone. Using accessibility features and simple design features, the website proves that inclusive design doesn’t have to limit creativity. “