How we built Tesco's new accessible groceries app

Jay Clark
By Jay Clark under Insights 09 April 2019

Our aim at TAB is to create products which make the world better for billions of people. However, our own cognitive biases often mean that we intrinsically think about problems from our own point of view. Breaking down the barriers between ourselves and the people who use our products is key to unlocking human potential.

We’re passionate about championing diversity and being inclusive throughout the whole of our business, and part of that means making an explicit effort to create products that anyone can use.

 

Why we’re so passionate about accessibility

It’s estimated that 15% of the world’s population lives with some sort of disability. This means that each design, product or technical decision we make with accessibility in mind has the opportunity to lower the barrier of entry, and positively impact millions of people. And the benefits of accessibility don’t stop there.

Creating accessible products has a compounding effect. For example, if you create an app which is going to be usable by visually impaired customers, the app also becomes easier to use for people with various situational limitations; such as somebody on the move, somebody using a phone with a poor display and people using their phones on a sunny day with screen glare.

Ensuring inclusivity when creating the Tesco groceries app

Tesco is the third largest retailer in the world, with an annual revenue last year of £57 Billion. Tesco tasked TAB with creating a new native groceries app for iOS and Android, to replace their existing cross-platform app.

With Tesco serving millions of people through their app every month, we knew it was key to build an app which was accessible to as many people as possible. We decided to focus on two main areas; Voice Over/TalkBack and Dynamic Type.

Get buy-in across the team

We’ve learned from experience that building in accessibility from the start saves a bunch of time in the long run, so this has become standard procedure when building products for our clients. Alex Newnham, one of TAB’s senior test engineers said “Getting everyone’s buy-in at the start of the project on these two accessibility areas allowed the whole team to get aligned. We found that after an initial learning period, and the right cross-functional conversations, our overall speed of delivery wasn’t impacted.”

Building on strong foundations

By working closely with our engineers, we were able to design flexible layouts which enabled us to provide support for a variety of dynamic text sizes. Supporting voice over also ensures the app’s content is structured logically, which benefits all customers. Sam Dods, TAB’s tech lead on the project said “40% of Tesco’s iOS customers use non-default font sizes on their device”, demonstrating the scale of the accessibility opportunity we’re dealing with.

Design, engineering and testing worked closely together to ensure that our design system was built to be accessible from the ground up. Accessibility was a regular topic of conversation in our design reviews and critiques. Constant communication, regular feedback and using a shared language about accessibility were all key in creating an accessible grocery app for Tesco. We were extremely fortunate to have had a dependable team of Tesco designers & product owners to work with to push this forward.

 

"I think we were particularly fortunate to be working with The App Business who provided pretty much everyone in the team working on engineering, testing and delivery as well as some truly great designers. TAB totally understood what we were trying to do, and the whole team there were as passionate and interested as we were about making the new app accessible to everyone — rather than seeing accessibility as an option or an aspiration, they shared our belief that it needed to be baked in from the very beginning: in our UI design, in our development process, and in our tests and reviews. The team chose to use accessibility and inclusion as healthy constraints which guided us towards building a better product."

Justin Stach

Former Head of Product Design at Tesco 

Making a difference

 

Seeing reviews like the ones above drives home just how much of a difference an accessible app can make. Empowering somebody to do their own shopping for the first time since going blind is incredibly gratifying.

Since releasing both the Android and iOS apps, the analytics and reviews have both shown excellent results. It’s clear that the efforts put into ensuring the app works well for everybody have had a real impact. The analytics show that average basket value has increased and positive reviews have increased by 1,000%.

The feedback received and the positive data is something we’re truly proud of. We’re excited to keep iterating and improving the new products alongside Tesco, and we plan to keep pushing accessibility along the way.