Websites are fundamental tools for communication, information dissemination, and provision of services, particularly for the visually impaired. The web is an essential element in the social and occupational integration of people with special needs. However, for millions of people around the world, interaction with websites and web applications can be challenging or even impossible. This challenge is due to noncompliance with accessibility guidelines. Although accessibility is a legal prerequisite in most countries, many websites currently have accessibility barriers, often making their usage impossible for people with special needs.
In addition, studies suggest that compliance with accessibility guidelines does not by itself guarantee a satisfactory user experience (UX) in website interaction (see the “Related Work” sidebar).
Even websites that comply with accessibility guidelines can become ineffective, inefficient, and unpleasant in specific situations, thus leading to problems with UX. The information and tools might be accessible, but they’re neither easy nor agreeable to use. In recent years, websites have undergone radical changes regarding design, development, and construction. Today, several aspects must be considered in web design; for example, a single design must adapt itself to different devices. This requirement resulted in the emergence of responsive web design (RWD), which enables website layouts to adapt to the screen resolution of the user’s device.
This design style has become a common feature in web interface constructs. However, in responsive design, the topics of usability and UX problems for blind users have not been addressed. Thus, an investigation of the impact of this new trend on the experiences of blind users is very relevant. In this study, we compare the emotional impact of RWD and nonresponsive web design (NWD) on blind users, based on a classification of emotional aspects during web interaction. To accomplish this objective, we selected six websites, three responsive and three nonresponsive, and asked nine users to perform six tasks on each website. The experience data of the blind users was extracted by applying the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) method.
Using this method, we can classify users’ emotions during interactions as negative affect or positive affect. The results of this study demonstrate that although the responsive websites investigated had acceptable levels of accessibility, they posed many barriers and triggered intense, negative emotions. We conclude that the average number of negative emotional reactions is higher in the case of RWD than in the case of NWD.