Apple-friendly debugger helps make apps and websites accessible

At a time when accessibility in apps and websites matters more than ever, Evinced is a new debugging tool that helps developers achieve just that.

Apple, iOS, macOS, development, mobile, accessibility, Evinced
IDG/Jason Cross

With millions still sheltering from the COVID-19 threat, there never has been a more important time to ensure mobile apps, websites, and web apps are accessible — and a new solution from Evinced hopes to empower developers to achieve that.

What is the scale of the problem?

When it comes to accessibility, the World Health Organization (WHO) says there are more than 1 billion people worldwide living with some form of disability. That statistic alone should reinforce how important it has been that mobile apps and websites are built to be accessible, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The problem is that perhaps 70% of mobile apps in some key categories have accessibility problems, some of which (such as support for pointing devices) may not be so easy to catch. (A Deque report claims 62% of accessibility practitioners surveyed in March/April 2020 said COVID-19 increased the awareness and impact of accessibility on digital channels.)

Evinced is a free Xcode-compatible debugging tool aimed at enterprise IT developers and designed to help identify accessibility problems within apps, websites, and web apps.

What is Evinced?

Evinced is implemented during the software development process and provides those building the code with alerts at different stages of that process.

"The root cause of accessibility problems is the fact that large parts of the web are not machine readable; instead, they were designed for visual consumption,” Evinced founder and CEO Navin Thadani said in a statement.

“Evinced has developed technology that visually analyzes websites and applications, builds a structural semantic model, and then compares it to the actual code to detect potential accessibility issues. This fundamentally new technology approach enables us to significantly outperform legacy approaches.”

Unlike most code-first checking tools, Evinced uses artificial intelligence to analyze both the inherent code as well as the user interface. In the event a coding problem is identified, the solution is smart enough to suggest ways to resolve it, leaving developers in control.

This short video gives some sense of what it does.

Capital One evidences Evinced

In a case study, Capital One explains how it (like Apple) has prioritized digital accessibility for years.

It found it required a testing solution suitable to meet the challenges of our current world of dynamic, JavaScript-heavy web and mobile apps as well as websites. Existing website accessibilit- checking tools aren’t necessarily good at analyzing apps, which is why Capital One worked with Evinced.

The bank also wanted a solution that could accelerate the journey from development to product release. Capital One claims Evinced helped identify 10 times as many accessibility issues as were found using its previous testing methods — in a fraction of the time (hours, not days). These included keyboard and screen reader issues.

“With the ability to automate testing of code repositories at scale, on demand, and before release we can create a snapshot at any given moment of the accessibility issues in dev and quality assurance environments all over the company,” the case study said.

Evinced recently announced $17 million in Series A funding in a round co-led by BGV and Capital One Ventures.

Why it matters

There are plenty of reasons enterprise developers should prioritize accessibility in their apps. Not only is doing so the right thing to do, but accessible websites gain better SEO rankings, which usually equates to more customer loyalty and revenue. The same logic applies to web and mobile apps. 

There’s also the benefit that accessibility technologies will form part of the foundations for future voice-first and gesture-based computing models as these emerge and evolve across the next few years.

Consider mobile search in Siri, in which local results are presented — even the smallest business needs to ensure it scores as highly as possible when it comes to such searches; accessibility may help with this.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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