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Serious games to improve engagement with web accessibility guidelines

There is a growing recognition of the importance of designing for accessibility in recent years. This is underpinned by legal drivers such as Section 508 of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act in the USA and the Equality Act of 2010 in the UK. Accessibility design is an essential part of the design and development process of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and it is a concept that designers need to learn and apply in their practice. This in turn can prove to be beneficial for all involved parties, as accessible products are 35% more usable by everyone and are typically cheaper to run and maintain.

However, a flagship investigation by the Disability Rights Commission identified that only 19% of the 1,000 UK Web sites examined complied with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). In a seminal article that brought WCAG to the forefront, it is identified that there are concerns with WCAG, especially with regards to its documentation size and its inscrutable language that can lead to their limited adoption.

Motivating users through serious games

In this research we present GATE – a serious game implemented with an aim to improve designers’ engagement with, and ultimately, raise awareness of the WCAG in a fun and interactive manner. In response to the need to identify better means to engage and motivate users, serious games have quickly become an established practice. The motivation behind leveraging serious games is typically related to improving education and training, employee engagement, and motivation and wellness, to name but just a few examples.

Games design

GATE is designed based on player models which was achieved through an online survey with designers using the HEXAD player types model. Player modelling is an important part of designing serious games that best respond to user needs, as it can significantly improve both a game’s effectiveness and player engagement. Past research revealed that such a user-centred approach can improve gameplay experiences. In addition, it has been revealed that video games in general have the potential to increase adoption of new programmes, which is in line with the envisioned potential of this work. Identifying player preferences and how those could be applied to serious games is key in this effort.

GATE was designed based on two dimensions of requirements: 1. Mechanics proposed by HEXAD that cater for the identified user types, and 2. Scenarios that would enable implementation of the WCAG and the identified mechanics in (1).

Our findings

The results highlighted a consensus that our game was a usable system that ranked high in terms of user engagement whilst retaining effectiveness similar to existing online documentation. Our findings showed that participants found GATE considerably more engaging than going through the online documentation. 

A serious game can turn complex work activities into informative play activities for designers. The foundation of GATE is turning a laborious, yet important workplace activity i.e. accessibility design using the WCAG, into a playful activity. Our findings from the comparative user study indicated that designers found the activity of engaging with WCAG through play as an attractive approach. This is in line with previous findings that employees enjoy work activities that include elements of play. No “one size fits all” user type for designers in games. 

Our findings point to the fact that there is no single, optimal user type appealing to designers. In fact, participants indicated that they identified themselves with all six user types in the HEXAD Framework. It is therefore suggested that design for designer populations should not only consider the intrinsic types, but extrinsic types and types looking to influence a game must also be attended to by ensuring that they can be transitioned to more engaged types.

Publications

  • Spyridonis, F. and Daylamani-Zad, D., 2021. A serious game to improve engagement with web accessibility guidelines. Behaviour & Information Technology, 40(6), pp.578-596.
  • Spyridonis, F. and Daylamani-Zad, D., 2019, September. A Serious Game for Raising Designer Awareness of Web Accessibility Guidelines. In IFIP Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 3-12).
  • Springer, Cham. Spyridonis, F., Daylamani-Zad, D. and Paraskevopoulos, I.T., 2017, September. The gamification of accessibility design: A proposed framework. In 2017 9th international conference on virtual worlds and games for serious applications (vs-games) (pp. 233-236). IEEE.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project


Related Research Group(s)

Creative Computing

Creative Computing - Multidisciplinary research at the intersection of Artificial Intelligence (machine learning), serious and fun gaming, and cognitive modelling to simulate a physical world either as a virtual, augmented or mixed reality environment.

Interactive Multimedia Systems

Interactive Multimedia Systems - Building sensor and media-rich, cross-layer, inclusive e-systems, with an interest in human-machine interaction, sensorial-based interfaces, data visualisation and multimedia.


Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.


Project last modified 20/04/2022