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Horizon, our new visual theme, has been available as a preview in SAP S/4HANA Cloud since November 2021. Users taking part in research and feedback studies have welcomed this new aesthetic as an elegant, modern, and approachable design.

The Horizon theme family underlines SAP’s commitment to accessibility and inclusive design as a key pillar of our design approach. One of the central attributes of Horizon is that it was designed from the ground up to adhere to best practice inclusive design research and testing and comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) accessibility standard WCAG 2.2 in its current draft version.

Accessible Design is Modern and Attractive

Providing accessible software has long been a major concern for SAP and the technologies on which the products are built. Nevertheless, there is often a misconception that designing accessible software leads to boring design and constrains innovation. Or, that making software accessible is something that should be applied afterwards by a specialist team. This can be especially true around visual accessibility where desirability and attractiveness of a visual theme is considered key.

Horizon has four high quality visual themes. The Morning Horizon light theme and Evening Horizon dark theme are designed to meet WCAG 2.2 minimum color contrast requirements. The High Contrast White and High Contrast Black themes use a limited color palette and enhanced color contrast to maximize legibility for those with low vision for example. Users can choose the theme that provides the best level of visual comfort for their needs.

An illustration showing thumbnails of the four Horizon themes

Designing and developing accessible software is challenging. Constructing a theme that complies with visual accessibility standard WCAG 2.2, expresses product brand excellence, and stands out among modern software was a challenge. Our panel of user testers from diverse backgrounds and with diverse needs challenged our designs and our assumptions. Considering the design from different angles and perspectives resulted in a theme that optimizes the experience and desirability for all users, not just a subset of them.

Accessible Design Benefits All Users

Accessibility experts explain that inclusive design is good for everyone. A few highlights of the Morning Horizon visual theme illustrate this.

Paying attention to typeface is important for users with vision impairments but respecting minimum type sizes and color contrast ratios makes text more legible for everyone. Indeed, the bold text and improved visual hierarchy has been one of the most commented features of the Horizon theme.

The word Accessibility written in the SAP bespoke 72 font family and that was designed to ensure character recognition and differentiation.

Information should not be carried by color only. For example, an error should not be conveyed by a red outline or highlight as people who are color blind, have low vision or are blind cannot distinguish one color from another. Making a screen more accessible by providing additional feedback markers such as symbols benefits everyone as it’s easier to scan a page and identify semantic markers.

An illustration of message labels that use color and symbol to convey information.

One important aspect for users with visual impairment is making sure that the currently selected screen element is easy to identify, that is seeing where the focus is. To meet the requirements of the latest WCAG 2.2 standard, we have re-designed the focus indicators to make them easier to see (designers call this providing more visual affordance). Focus indicators are fundamental to all those who use keyboard navigation to move through a user interface. This includes power users who use this feature for fast data entry.

An illustration showing the enhanced visual affordance of the focus indicator in the Horizon theme.

An illustration showing the former visual affordance of the focus indicator in the Quartz theme.

Accessible Design is Not Optional

Visual accessibility is only one aspect of accessible design. SAP is committed to maximizing all accessibility aspects of SAP S/4HANA Cloud products and our SAP Fiori user interface and bring an optimal SAP S/4HANA user experience to all. This includes ensuring compliance to accessibility standards and ensuring accessibility features are included in the technology framework and product design from inception. Beyond this, it’s essential to bring increased focus to inclusive design throughout all phases of the software design lifecycle, starting with inclusive user research, iterative user feedback, and validation cycles.

As nicowin2018 states in her article outlining SAP’s inclusive design strategy:

“As we continue to cultivate an inclusive experience mindset, we should not forget that apart from all the tools and frameworks we could provide, true success is dependent on our people. A “product inclusion checklist” will only get us so far.”

More Information

I would love to hear your feedback, thoughts, and experiences around this subject in the comments section. Ensuring software experiences are fully accessible is not optional, benefits all users, and is good for business. Feel free to follow me if you are interested in hearing more on user experience, designing with an inclusive mindset, and accessible design in SAP Fiori. In the meantime check out the blog posts below:

Blog post: Beyond Checklists: Growing Our Inclusive Mindset

Blog post: Accessibility is Good for Business
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