Case study: Embedding accessibility into Barclays mobile banking app


Technology Taskforce members understand that there is a powerful case for ensuring that older people and those with disabilities can participate fully online through the use of digital technologies. Understanding that giving everyone full access to technology results in a more inclusive and productive society and the digital economy depends on making sure that everyone can contribute and benefit.

Besides the legal and ethical reasons, accessibility enables businesses to develop products that deliver value to customers, thereby reducing the demands made on customer service departments. Businesses are increasingly finding that the innovative technologies they have created are easier for everyone when they are using mobile technologies. The cost of considering accessibility early on has also been found to be negligible.
Moreover, embedding accessibility as a business-as-usual practice enables businesses to employ people with disabilities, and draw on a larger pool of talent whose skills it would not otherwise have access to.

Consider, co-ordinate and comply

Technology Taskforce member Barclays, has embedded a number of accessibility practices into its development lifecycle. This ensures that accessibility is included throughout all phases of a project, including product and supplier selection, as well as evaluation throughout the design, build and test phases.

The latest version of their mobile banking app was recently accredited for accessibility by the pan-disability charity AbilityNet – the first time this accolade has been given to an app. A relaunch in late 2014 provided full banking services to millions of customers via their smartphones and tablets. This case study explains the process behind the app’s development, which has been completely redesigned, with accessibility embedded at every stage.

Barclays Mobile Banking App

Barclays’ mobile app is used by 3.8 million customers with 1.5 million logins per day across the four major mobile platforms. Nearly half of Barclays’ customers use mobile platforms as their primary method of banking making the impact of inaccessibility significant.

Consider Accessibility Early

Barclays understands that if accessibility is included as early as possible costly retrospective enhancements can be avoided.

In the early stages of the project Barclays defined a clear scope for the accreditation to core banking functionality and embedded accessibility compliance as a key requirement as part of the redesign. To focus the project accreditation was set as a target as well as acknowledging that embedding inclusive design principles was critical.

A number of resources were developed to guide the project such as personas that highlighted users with various disabilities, accessibility-specific annotations within UI guidelines as well as design and development patterns which were referenced throughout the project. As a consequence knowledge and skills across the project team was increased.

Co-ordinate Activities

Throughout the project a number of co-ordinated activities took place to ensure accessibility was a key consideration.

It was important to factor extra time and costs to allow for consultation and testing for accessibility. Issues raised in early versions of the app were sized, cost estimated and prioritised. These issues were included in the planning for the updated app.

To ensure business-as-usual accessibility consideration, designated accessibility champions were identified and given specific responsibilities. External consultants were incorporated as part of the core team and took part in weekly design reviews from concept stage and at regular intervals throughout the project. The use of Agile development practices ensured a quicker turnaround for defects, making for a shorter time between their identification and resolution.

At the design stage reviews were carried out to identify potential issues early on and feedback was provided to designers and developers based on best practice guidelines, standards and design patterns. Regular expert reviews were carried out during the app’s development on various mobile platforms with defects being raised and managed to resolution against the standards and accreditation criteria. These reviews were found to be useful as an interim progress indicator, and as a final pre-launch check.

During their time on-site the consultants were available to provide support and ad-hoc training to the developers leaving a legacy of knowledgeable team members and accessibility champions.

A vital complement to the accessibility reviews was the use of regular user testing sessions set to coincide with project build iterations. These sessions were conducted with participants encompassing a range of impairments typically involving six users over a period of 2 days. The feedback received gave the project team an indication of real world accessibility issues which were incorporated as part of the defect remediation process.

Comply with legislation

Ensuring that their services are accessible and usable by people with disabilities is not only a legal requirement in the UK but, at Barclays, a statement of intent. It is widely accepted that by adhering to accessibility best practice guidelines a website or application is more likely to be compliant with legislation. This may not always be the case but is a good starting point. Barclays has therefore developed standards based on recognised global accessibility guidelines for various device types which projects must comply with. To ensure adherence to guidelines and internal standards the Barclays app was tested against their own Accessibility Standards for Mobile systems and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 AA.

Testing of the app was primarily conducted using manual methods, in light of there being very few automated testing tools available; however for other platforms automated testing tools can be used to quickly evaluate large amounts of content. It must be noted that automated tools cannot test all guideline criteria but they can reduce the time to conduct reviews as opposed to exclusive manual testing. Testing was conducted by Barclays’ testing teams in addition to the reviews conducted by AbilityNet with all defects being rated by severity and priority within their defect management systems and addressed in the same way as any other defect.

Lessons learned

Barclays realise that accreditation is only a snapshot of compliance at a particular point in time and they therefore continue to re-evaluate the app on an ongoing basis using the embedded processes. They have also learned some valuable lessons, which reinforced the need to:

  • Ensure support from senior executives and managers. It was necessary to encourage them to think differently about accessibility by re-framing the accessibility business case through focusing on the realised benefits of accessibility. 
  • Understand all of their customers’ expectations during the scoping process by involving users, be it through user testing or diverse user personas, consulting with experts via training and awareness sessions. 
  • Embed accessibility early and throughout, planning and co-ordinating for accessibility and constantly ensuring compliance via testing and feedback, which is essential to ensuring that services that can be used and enjoyed by all are being provided.

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