Testing, testing, testing: making designs accessible

Designer Chee Ching & UX Researcher Mineke Rezelman

How do you use internet banking when you have reduced vision? Or when you are low-literate? Or have little digital skills? Rabobank has more than 8 million individual clients – and all these people have their own needs and challenges. Making the digital services of Rabobank accessible plays a major role in the work of Designer Chee Ching and UX Researcher Mineke Rezelman. 'Accessibility is not an afterthought. Accessibility for everyone, regardless of their challenges, is essential.'

“Design can help you solve a problem.” That is Chee’s motto, who has worked as a Senior Designer at Rabobank since 2020. For her, design is more than just the aesthetic value, she says. “With good design, you can really make a difference in people’s lives, for example, by simplifying complex tasks. But you cannot do that from behind your desk alone. You have to work with colleagues and talk to the people who will be using it.” UX Researcher Mineke agrees. As a researcher, she often talks to clients. “To make a good accessible design, you have to step out of your bubble. You need to learn to look through someone else’s eyes. How do users view the website? How do they use the app?”

Designing for accessibility does not have to limit you. Think of it as a challenge to find creative solutions.
Chee Ching, Senior Designer

Design at Rabobank

Mineke and Chee both work for the design chapter, the internal design department of Rabobank. Chee: “Here, we work with about 50 designers and researchers on the various parts of the bank’s website and app. We do that in teams focusing on specific products. I myself work in the team that works on everything concerning payments and accounts. There are also teams focused on mortgages, savings, and investments. We work together with developers, product owners, business analysts, and researchers.”

Mineke: “As a researcher, I give advice to designers on how to set up and carry out research. This can be evaluative, to test a hypothesis, or explorative, to form a hypothesis. I also carry out exploratory research myself. I regularly visit clients at home for observations or in-depth interviews in order to understand needs and behavior. All the insights I gain from these studies are then shared with designers such as Chee.”

Services for the whole of the Netherlands

“Only by doing research do you find out if everyone can use our products. I find that very interesting to discover,” says Chee. Mineke also believes it fits Rabobank’s cooperative character: “I think financial independence is extremely important. Therefore, it is of great importance that our services are accessible to everyone. People should all be able to have an overview of their finances so that they know their current situation. It provides financial peace of mind. Online banking without problems is not something everyone can take for granted. Worldwide, 1 billion people have a challenge. This can be a visual challenge, reduced vision or blindness, Chee: “I can’t find out how a partially sighted person or someone with dyslexia uses the app if I just stay behind my desk. Because Dutch is not my first language, I often work with Dutch colleagues on research projects. For instance, Mineke and I interviewed someone who was low-literate. He asked us: ‘Why do you use words like ‘transactions’? I don’t understand those difficult words. For him, credit and debit were much clearer. These kinds of insights are so valuable.”or motor impairment, dyslexia, or low literacy. People with a challenge want to be able to manage their own banking, just like you and me. Who wants to ask their neighbours to check their account balances for them?”

Chee: “I can’t find out how a partially sighted person or someone with dyslexia uses the app if I just stay behind my desk. Because Dutch is not my first language, I often work with Dutch colleagues on research projects. For instance, Mineke and I interviewed someone who was low-literate. He asked us: ‘Why do you use words like ‘transactions’? I don’t understand those difficult words. For him, credit and debit were much clearer. These kinds of insights are so valuable.”

Digitally accessible and secure

Sometimes it is difficult to directly apply the insights from research in practice, says Mineke. “In a recent observational study among elderly people, we found that this group of customers had difficulty logging on, within the time limit set by the Rabobank scanner. We wanted to extend this time, but as a bank, you need to balance user-friendliness and security. Unfortunately, if we extend the time, fraudsters would have more room to maneuver. Together with colleagues, I try to find a good middle way, so that it is both accessible and secure.”

Part of our way of working

Chee and Mineke are committed to putting the issue of accessibility on the agenda at Rabobank. Mineke: “It really is a challenge, but I see that it is catching on. However, there is still room for improvement. I think we should focus on accessibility from the very start of a project. As part of our way of working, we should continuously test with a real, diverse user group.”

Chee: “If you only check for accessibility once a design is finished, then it is much more difficult and costly to improve something retroactively. In addition to testing, you can do so much to prevent accessibility problems. Think about the readability of text, logical and consistent navigation, easy to click fields. Designing for accessibility does not have to limit you. Think of it as a challenge to find creative solutions. Solutions that should always be tested with users!”