Mobile Dashboard and Accessibility

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If you are CANVAS user—maybe even a mobile CANVAS user—you might have noticed that we have introduced some dashboard-related changes in the following app versions:

  • iOS Student v6.14.2
  • iOS Teacher v1.14.1

I think we might owe you some explanation: Accessibility

In normal circumstances I could just end the blog post here as the explanation was given, but we all know life is never that simple, so let me explain a bit more.

The problem statement 

Course description text is cut off the home screen when dynamic text is enabled. (Impact on user: Users may not be able to see the text that describes the course where they are enrolled. This could be confusing for users with neurological or intellectual disabilities, especially when they are enrolled into multiple, similarly named courses. 

The motivation of this change

This is Instructure, and in Instructure we take accessibility very seriously. It is one of our core values, and we don’t compromise on core values. We have a dedicated team to ensure the accessibility guidelines all around our applications, and we have dedicated automated test layers to catch any a11y problems way before the code goes to production. If that is not enough, we from time to time ask our external partners to do a11y audits for us. So you get the point how important this topic is for us. In this special case, our motivation was to avoid an accessibility problem with the course cards. As you read in the problem statement, when the font size was enlarged, the course cards were not big enough anymore, and the course titles got trimmed. The accessibility tools VoiceOver and TalkBack did not have a problem with the trimmed text, but it was not easily readable for humans, so we had to make some room for the text.    

The solution is not a solution?

The solution we came up with is to replace the 2 cards/line to 1 card/line on the dashboard. This is a good answer for the accessibility problem, but it means the information we can show on the dashboard will be less. Therefore this solution might be less than ideal for other use cases. We continuously receive customer/user feedback about this change. The feedback is mixed, but what seems to be visible is that there are use cases where more course cards seen at once is highly anticipated. Personally, I don’t (yet) know all the reasons, probably many and vary. But it seems there is one particular pattern which comes back many times:

  • “Was loving the canvas app before they randomly decided scrolling to see more classes was a good idea.”
  • “I can no longer see what all of my class grades are on the front page. I should not have to scroll to find my classes.”
  • “I want to see all of my classes at once on [the] dashboard.”
  • “I can only see 4 classes on the screen now instead of the 8 I could before”
  • “I normally memorize my classes when they are in a grid style but now they are in a list where I have to scroll. ”
  • etc.

From these and a handful of other feedback it seems the less information on the dashboard is causing pain for many.  

The real solution?

I want to make it clear, too: We listen to you! Not just saying it—we actually do! We create the apps for you, so they must serve you well. I can’t share any “final” solution here yet, but something will happen to the apps in the near future. Both challenges will be answered:

  • The accessibility requirement, and 
  • Information requested to be seen on the dashboard 

If you have any questions or comments, I encourage you to comment here. I keep an eye on this post and the comments.

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