Measuring your return on investment from improving accessibility – Digital Accessibility Experts Podcast 6
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Welcome to podcast 6 of our Digital Accessibility Experts Podcast series.
The business case for accessibility is really important for motivating organisations to invest in improving the accessibility of their digital products.
But the identification and measurement of the return on that investment is the thing that will keep them making accessibility a priority over time.
So this month we’re talking about all the different ways you can capture whether all the time and money that you’ve spent on accessibility has been worth it. We’ve some great insights on:
- Could improving your digital product’s accessibility help you to sleep better?
- Could your product’s accessibility affect your reputation?
- Could accessibility minimise your customer complaints?
- Could accessibility help you minimise the cost of customer service?
- Could accessibility bring you more customers?
- Should you try and measure the number of people with disabilities using your site?
- If you create web services, could accessibility be an essential part of your sales pitch to customers?
- If you make your website accessible, will it make it easier to find via google?
- If you get good at accessibility, will it enable you to recruit a more diverse workforce?
- Can accessibility get you positive PR and help with innovation?
We hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed recording it! And if you’d prefer to read the podcast, rather than listen to it, read the transcript.
What do you think?
We’d love to know your thoughts on this podcast. Please share your comments below.
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Transcript of audio
Jonathan Hassell: Welcome to the Digital Accessibility Experts Podcast from Hassell Inclusion. So this month we’re going to be talking about return on investment. So with me in the room today, I have Graham Armfield, I have Jon Gooday, Rob Wemyss, and myself, Jonathan Hassell.
People like us are forever saying that accessibility is a great thing to do. So we just want to get under the surface of really is it? What factors can we pull into play to say, “You know what? If you listen to us, if you do what we say, if you take some of the advice and some of the expertise that you hear on these podcasts, and you make your website, your mobile app, more accessible, then is it going to be good for your organisation? What sort of return on investment are you going to get on things?” So that’s what we’re about today.
The first return on investment that you can get from doing accessibility is you can sleep better. As an organisation you are, if you like, insuring yourself against fines that can come from people either suing you, certainly if you’re in the States, or maybe regulators coming and saying that you’re doing the wrong thing.
Everyone knows this one. In some ways it’s been done to death by the disabled community and by the accessibility community: “If you don’t get your accessibility right, you will have to pay for it in other ways.” Jon, I want to come to you. So what do we think about newer things around accessibility and litigation? We all know that we need to get a WCAG 2.0 AA. What about 2.1? It’s come out. Do you think that you could be sued if you don’t live up to 2.1?
Jon Gooday: I think this is, yes, definitely an interesting question because I think the public sector recently came out, I think November last year, and they’re using 2.1 as the benchmark. So I think there’s an awareness, but a lot of teams, a lot of organisations, haven’t started to look at 2.1 in any detail yet.
I think one of the challenges we have around 2.1 is we haven’t really- I’m not sure if we’ve had a court case. Maybe in America someone has looked at it, I’m not 100% sure, but I think the reality is some of the new guidelines need a little bit more filling out, a bit more testing, and a little bit more support and advice. I think there is some ambiguity about how some of those could be implemented.
So I think there’ll be a window of opportunity here. I don’t know how long that will last. I think from the public sector, I think 2020 was the guide point in terms of getting the sites accessible. So I think it’s something to watch and I’d be very interested to see if there are any cases that come up which actually explore 2.1.
Jonathan Hassell: Yes, absolutely.
Jon Gooday: So probably America would come first, so I’d be interested to see what comes out. But I think to be pragmatic I think organisations should start looking at 2.1 now.
Obviously, there are challenges because there’s a lot more mobile-focused stuff. We’re obviously not going to today talk about some of those specifics, but I think there are quite a few challenges for anybody that’s building mobile apps. They need to start thinking about it now.
Jonathan Hassell: Yes, because I think if you don’t think about it now- I mean we know that iterative product cycles are just normal, so products go through maybe monthly releases, but decisions that are being made in products at the moment, to say, “Okay, we’re just going to go 2.0”, if that product’s life cycle is maybe supposed to be, say, 3 years, then it could be that at the moment 2.0 is probably a reasonable bet. But, actually, at some point you might have to revisit that decision, that actually 2.1 is now a much better thing to do, and you’ve got a whole host of code and design that may not have taken it into account already.
Jon Gooday: Yes, I think there’s one particular new success criteria that I would probably flag that is really important to consider, and this is the fact that a site should work in both landscape and portrait. I think that could be a really big one for organisations to think about from a budgetary point of view, the team and resource point of view, and I think that’s something that needs to be thought about.
Jonathan Hassell: Yes, we’ve had pushback from teams on that already. Designers saying that actually if they’re going to do landscape as well as portrait, that’s going to add x% of cost to the design of the project. Are these sensible decisions, to say, “We’re not going to do landscape at the moment”? Well, we don’t know. We do know that it makes commercial sense to not do landscape at the moment, but maybe in the future some of those decisions might need to be revisited.
Obviously, just to round things out a little, we’ve got the usual thing that gets trotted out. If you get this wrong and people do see you, then it’s not a great place to be. Two thousand two hundred and eighty-five legal cases were tracked in the States, and also organisations that aren’t just in the States but are multinational.
Graham Armfield: Was that last year, Jonathan?
Jonathan Hassell: That was 2018. The thing that I wanted to also note is that that’s all of that external stuff, that’s customers. And our anecdotal evidence is, certainly here in the UK, most of the lawsuits actually are from staff of an organisation taking their organisation to court. Normally these things get settled in tribunals, but I know there are actually a lot of things happening in that area.
But I mean let’s not dwell on that sort of stuff because, certainly here in the UK, it’s not our bread and butter. People don’t do accessibility all of the time because they’re going to be sued. They do accessibility because they either think it’s the right thing or they think that, actually, if they don’t do it, they might get embarrassed. So reputation…
Beyoncé recently, her production company has been accused of creating inaccessible ways for people to get tickets for her concerts. Was it Domino’s Pizza as well, that they’re also being sued? Rob, you were looking at something. So everybody thinks that Apple is brilliant at accessibility, yes?
Rob Wemyss: Yes.
Jonathan Hassell: What did you find?
Rob Wemyss: I think Apple are brilliant at accessibility, but they are actually being sued at the moment. I think it was the desktop site. Somebody trying to buy a product online, not being able to do that. Could have been around alt-text of an image, but they couldn’t actually complete the checkout process. So even Apple can get this wrong.
And how does that make you feel when you hear that somebody like Apple, who do so much for accessibility…? If you look at their comms around accessibility. What they’ve done, they’ve built in a screen reader to every single device that they sell, which I think is incredible. How does that make you feel? Well, it shows you that even the very best, leading companies can take their eye off the ball.
So it’s a continuous journey for businesses. Even if they think they’re getting this right, they need to continue to invest and continue to make sure that they’re talking and testing with customers.
Jonathan Hassell: And I mean when you get it wrong – presumably the Apple PR department have to work even harder to combat these sorts of things. It’s difficult to get it right absolutely everywhere. I learned this at the BBC more than anything. It’s normally the products that people really, really love – things like iPlayer when I was at the BBC – that was forever the place that people attacked from a PR point of view and also attacked from a customer service point of view. I was the one who sat there and had to deal with emails from people saying, “It’s not perfect. There are various places in this groundbreaking product that aren’t working for me.”
Jon Gooday: I’m afraid life isn’t that simple. However good a website is, there are always potentially going to be some challenges. I think realistically it can sometimes be a weak point in terms of how issues come up and how they’re dealt with. Even if you get a perfectly accessible website, you communicate if there’s a problem, you still have the issue of: does the person that receives that understand the seriousness of it and how does an organisation actually step through in a timely way to deal with that particular issue?
I think it’s often a challenge for whether the individuals dealing with these complaints understand what people are telling them the issues are. Have they been given proper training to actually understand okay, we have a screen reader user, will they understand what that means, will they understand what the problem is, and will they then make sure it gets allocated the right priority and taken through the process of actually being dealt with by the right people in the organisation?
I mean – obviously anecdotal – but generally where the problem is, is from a breakdown at some point in that process, which will more likely cause a potential litigation because if people don’t treat an issue with seriousness, and in a timely way, people tend to get annoyed and they tend to go and talk to lawyers. That can happen.
So I think there is a real area here that organisations need to look at, and that they need to take ownership of, and it needs to be done with confidence, to say, “Okay, we have some issues. What’s the process, how do we deal with it, and how do we communicate back effectively in a time frame that is acceptable?” Obviously, there needs to be some flexibility in that, but I think it’s a really important area for businesses to look at.
Graham Armfield: Managing people’s expectations as to what’s going to happen.
Jon Gooday: Yes, very important, yes.
Jonathan Hassell: Rob?
Rob Wemyss: I think visibility of customer complaints is really important. I’ve had some exposure to that recently. But more so is customers being able to complain and feed back to the organisation rather than just leave the product completely, which probably tends to happen more often than not, unless you’re really motivated to make a complaint and it was easy to do so, accessible to actually make the complaint, rather than just say, “Okay, I’m just not going to use this product then.”
Jonathan Hassell: Yes, and the way we describe it in our training is “all feedback is a gift”. Because actually anybody giving you feedback is effectively allowing you to know that you can do something to actually stop them leaving. When I was at the BBC, it’s the perfect place to learn this sort of stuff because everyone had already paid for the BBC services. So people weren’t shy of complaining when they saw things that they didn’t like (Laughter).
I went to the customer call service centre as part of my induction into the organisation and listened in on some of the sort of calls that were coming in. It was really, really fascinating. Huge amount of respect for the call centre people who were trying to deal with some pretty angry people on occasions.
One of the things that I learned from that was that all of these customer complaints come in in all sorts of different ways. At the time, it was just the call centre and emails, but these days it’s things like Twitter. And the thing about Twitter, which is an absolute nightmare, is that that is your customers complaining about you in public. That’s even worse because effectively if you can’t deal with that in the right sort of way, then suddenly it can go viral.
Graham Armfield: The train companies come in for a lot of stick on Twitter. The point we are making is it’s about completing the circle, isn’t it? It’s that actually when you do get feedback, it’s about handling it right, but then actually making changes to your organisation.
Sometimes in development projects you can almost be stuck in there and developing for yourself. You need to realise that you’re developing for everyone, and explaining to people what’s going on.
I’ve seen a lot of websites at organisations I’ve worked with where there are a lot of good instructions for customers in plain language, and then you work for other organisations where there are hardly any instructions on how to use it. So it’s about leading people in. It’s not just about the accessibility experience. It’s about people understanding. You can make a website that is totally accessible that’s really hard to use.
Jonathan Hassell: Yes. So certainly just making sure that people don’t have a reason to complain. Make your product good because either you need to spend your money on people who can do that, or you need to spend your money on people who can apologise for it all of the time.
How about this? Disabled people want to use the web as much as everyone else. And actually most organisations- When we go in, every single project that we’re working on is some form of digital transformation project. It’s hardly ever the case that we are helping an organisation creating something completely from scratch. There’s been a previous version that you can get in a branch or via a call centre or whatever.
So for me one of the big things, and certainly one of the things that I’ve learned recently, I want to give a call-out to a guy called James Hall at Horlix who let me in on this information. Not just me but a load of people at the London Accessibility Meetup last year. If you haven’t been to the Meetup, it’s a really great thing; you can find it online. He works with local councils, governments. And these are the different costs of dealing with queries that come from various different things. So it costs about 17p to deal with a query if it comes online, £5 if that query is being dealt with via a call centre, and £14 if people actually have to drop in to the branch. Those are the economics of digital transformation. That’s why we all have a job.
So to say, “Well, actually, accessibility isn’t really important. 20% of the people, do they really need to be able to use our mobile app, our website?” If they’re having a bad experience, you’re taking them potentially from 17p up to £5 or even more to deal with that. So I think there’s a lot there to be gained.
Let’s move on. That assumes that people are already customers. That assumes that, if you like, they’re self-serving on that website because they’ve already bought in- Maybe it’s dealing with a bank account or something like that. But what about the purchasing power of people who have disabilities? If you don’t make your retail website accessible to someone with a disability, then are you losing huge amounts of information? We hear about this all of the time. What do you reckon about that?
Jon Gooday: I think that the slight problem is there’s quite a big figure which you can’t really relate to, and I think we probably need to bring it down and make it more real.
Jonathan Hassell: So this is the £249 billion every year?
Jon Gooday: Yes, it’s just a stat, and the reality is: how does that equate to a customer actually going in and using-? I think there is a bit of a gap in terms of how is this perceived? It’s great to have a number, but how does this relate to a particular organisation?
I think there’s a gap here, and I think we need to probably look at this and say how can we better communicate the fact that disabled people – and their families. I think it’s important to understand. Disabled people often have families and relatives that will want to support and help them. They will use the same services, because if they find that they can use them their families will as well. So there’s that connection. Maybe it needs to be teased out a bit more. Loads of people in the community have money to spend, but we need a better way, I think, to communicate how that relates to you know their day-to-day purchasing activity.
Jonathan Hassell: Yes, sure. I mean the thing I tend to think about is Field of Dreams: ‘If you build it, then they’ll come’. It’s like okay, so my website at the moment is not accessible. I make it accessible, so do I suddenly get a deluge of disabled people who are going, “Thank God, at last”, and rushing in and making my bank account sort of like go through? It would be nice to think that that were the case. Do we have proof, do we have proof?
Rob Wemyss: I think that’s always been the problem. This figure grows every year, year-on-year. And it should be the main selling point for a business with regards to accessibility. Your website will potentially be opened up to more people, enabling them to spend their money with you. Why would you want to exclude anybody from being able to buy on your website? It’s there as one of the key drivers, but I still don’t think businesses yet take it seriously, basically.
So we do need those case studies where people have put the effort in to make their site accessible and seen that uplift. That’s where we really start to win with this type of information.
Jon Gooday: And I think that’s a really important point, how those changes are communicated.
Jonathan Hassell: Yes. So case studies. So you go to the W3C, WAI, the Web Accessibility Initiative website, and you will find the business case for accessibility where some of these things are at. It’s not just us talking about it, people are talking about this all over the world.
And one of the things that they have on there is from 2005. So this is how fresh and new this particular one is.This is Legal & General. It would be really great to have something from at least this decade on that website to say “hey, in 2019, or if not, 2016, when people made things more accessible it was better”.
But let’s just look at that Legal & General case. They did prove quite conclusively on that website- They had a website that wasn’t doing particularly well. They made it more accessible. And they made more money. They had a lot more people getting all the way through that process to buying that insurance policy. Their transaction funnels, people got all the way through. And so that’s a massive win for accessibility, yes?
But the thing that I always worry about- Because I know the people who worked on that, I know what they did, and it wasn’t just accessibility, the way we think about it in terms of screen readers and stuff. What they did was they actually took apart all the language, all of the complex language on that website. They were looking at things for the 5.2 million adults that had sub-GCSE level English. The average reading age of the UK is 9. Trying to make things really, really simple.
And I’ve banged on about it and I’ll keep on banging on about it until they change it in WCAG, we need to get ‘simple’, in terms of language, back into there. It seems to me that if we can just get people thinking more simply, in terms of the language that they use, then people will get a huge amount of return on investment from that.
Jon Gooday: It’s a really important part of it, the Cinderella, if you like, of accessibility, but it also is part of that wider picture. You need the navigation, you need the pages, you need the labelling to all be simple, clear and effective. I think content is that thing that really joins it all up and makes it a good experience to use a website rather than a chore.
As we were saying, you can have a technically good, accessible website, but it’s a really challenging thing to use because the content is obscure, the language that’s used is very ‘marketing’ and you don’t get the clarity about what you’re trying to do. So I think content is a really core part. As you say, I think it’s really important that we look at that and it is something that is looked at more. I know in 2.1, the new guidelines that are coming in, does a little bit, a tiny bit, but it needs to be more…
Jonathan Hassell: It’s heading in that direction.
Jon Gooday: It tiptoes in the right direction, but I think you’re right. It’s one thing that got lost when we moved from version one of WCAG to version two. I think it’s really important as a community that we can explore that. Let’s hope with the next version of the guidelines we can start to integrate some of those.
Jonathan Hassell: Fingers crossed. I mean it is hard to get right. I’m going to put my hands in the air here. We are doing our new version of our website at the moment. And I wrote a lot of the initial content for it. And it’s too complicated. But at least I have a great team around me who are able to say, “Actually, I don’t think everybody’s really going to understand that, Jonathan. Maybe we need to get in a copywriter who would be able to both make that simpler to understand but get the tone of language, the tone of voice, right across all of the site.” Because we think that if we do that, then people are going to think better about us and the sort of things we do as an organisation. A lot of the time in accessibility we are too complicated. I am too complicated.
Jon Gooday: I think it’s also important to- The reality, probably more with the commercial side, so you’re always going to have a little bit of tension between the marketing on a website and the clarity of language. So just there needs to be some balance with that as well, and I think it’s how can we be creative in that area as well?
Jonathan Hassell: Sure.
Jon Gooday: I know we’ve been thinking about marketing as an area to explore and do some training in. And I think it’s something that would be quite a challenging area, to say to marketeers, “We need to be more accessible with how the language…”- How can we be creative in that field, how can we work with them, rather than put them as the, “Oh, you’re getting it wrong”? We need to explore that, I think. That’s a really important area.
Rob Wemyss: I think if it can be sold as this is a benefit for all customers, not just a certain group of customers, then that’s a way forward.
Jon Gooday: Yes, I think that’s really important, Rob. That, how do we join it up and make it a win-win?
Rob Wemyss: So not siloed, yes.
Jonathan Hassell: Yes, absolutely, and that would be the same about pretty much all of the things that we’re talking about here. Customer complaints, they go into the wrong email box or whatever, they don’t get treated very well, and that’s generally where lawsuits arrive.
Back to where we were… So you get your website more accessible and hopefully you get more people coming to the website. It would be really good to prove it. I think that’s one of the things that I’ve been obsessed with for as long as I can remember, really, in that it’s all well and good to have the theoretical understanding that if you do the right thing good things will come back to you, but that’s not the way that analytics professionals work. The way they work is: “I want to measure it, I want to look at it.”
And, Rob, you were pointing out something that Apple have done recently with VoiceOver that plays in that space.
Rob Wemyss: Yes, so the new version of iOS has actually- You are now able to switch on by default. You can track if somebody is using VoiceOver on their device. So this has caused a bit of an accessibility, security, privacy concern, which is really, really interesting.
As you say, Jonathan, it’s always been one of those things, to prove the business case on how many people are actually coming to use your website, we need these kinds of metrics. But, again, we need to make sure that we don’t switch things like this on by default. We give people the opportunity to opt out of any tracking. So it’s a very, very interesting topic which, yes, is going to play out this year.
Jonathan Hassell: So these sorts of things need to be opt-in rather than opt-out, as it were?
Jon Gooday: Absolutely.
Jonathan Hassell: I mean, Graham, because people do opt in, don’t they? You’ve been working in the banking industry for a long time.
Graham Armfield: Yes.
Jonathan Hassell: Back in the old days, Braille statements and things like that. If I were blind and I had a bank account, I would need my statements in Braille, so therefore the bank would know that I had a particular sight condition that needed that.
Graham Armfield: Yes, definitely. An organisation I used to work for, they certainly had a series of flags where people could, if they needed special delivery of statements, like, as you say, in Braille or whatever, there was a whole series of flags on their accounts which covered that sort of thing.
Jonathan Hassell: Yes. Did you ever get any people saying, “I don’t want that”?
Graham Armfield: No, because- It was kind of not switched on by default because the default setting was obviously you got printed paper statements. But it was something that people knew about and they could opt to receive their statements in Braille if they wanted to. They were obviously giving their permission to do so. It’s a bit like- Also, they had a flag for “I actually speak Welsh as well”, which was one of the flags that the company had as well. So from then on everything was delivered to them in Welsh. So people did opt in to it, so definitely, yes.
Jonathan Hassell: Somebody’s abilities and disabilities are massively private to them.
Graham Armfield: Yes.
Jonathan Hassell: You wouldn’t want everybody in the world to have access to that information, especially if that disability is something which isn’t visual. If I had a cognitive difficulty or something like that, you wouldn’t know if you looked at me.
Graham Armfield: Yes, that’s right.
Jonathan Hassell: Obviously, a lot of people in the disability community have experienced a lot of discrimination in the past, which has made them- I guess the word I use is “squeamish”.
Graham Armfield: Yes.
Jonathan Hassell: I guess the interesting thing is that it would be good for people to understand what a good, supported, opt-in way of saying, “Actually, I want a better service and I’m quite happy for you to have some data to go with that” is, in comparison to one where maybe the organisation tries to find things out about you that you didn’t want.
Graham Armfield: I think that’s really important because I mean it’s been possible for quite a while, certainly on mobile phones, to know whether or not people are using a screen reader. In fact, a banking app that I use myself, on my Android phone, if I have TalkBack running, actually the log-in process is completely different if I’m running TalkBack. So people are actually branching the functionality of their apps to cater for screen readers in a different way.
But I think the issue that Rob is referring to here is very important. People have lost trust with companies like Facebook and Google and Apple about what it is that they’re going to do with the data. So it might be okay to change the functionality of your product based on whether I’m running a screen reader, but then, if I’m collecting stats on that and it could be identified, then that’s a completely different ball game, isn’t it, really?
Jonathan Hassell: I’m not totally sure, actually. If those stats are anonymised, I think that’s-
Graham Armfield: Well, that’s a matter of trust, isn’t it, really?
Jonathan Hassell: Yes.
Graham Armfield: That’s a matter of trust. Some people obviously don’t care, but others are quite worried about providing information for larger companies, like social media companies, etc.
Jonathan Hassell: Sure, absolutely. I guess the point here is… what we were saying earlier, which is that we look at that Purple Pound, we look at that 249 billion, and we kind of think, “Yes, but people just aren’t buying it.” The reason they’re not buying it is they can’t count it.
Graham Armfield: Yes, yes. I understand, I understand, yes.
Jonathan Hassell: And I know from my side I’m all for privacy. But I’m also all for communities actually helping themselves by saying that if we give you a certain amount of information in a certain way, then actually we might get a better experience on things. That just in a small way – In terms of those Braille statements, obviously those people did get a better experience – but also I think, as a community, that proves to organisations that some of the things they’re doing in accessibility are actually having a really good, positive impact.
Otherwise, you have to try and find surveys and all those sorts of things, which don’t really work either. It’s a really hard one…
Jon Gooday: I think you talk about the purple pound, but I think really important areas to think about are customers- They’re growing. Everybody in the Western world, we’re getting an older population. You need to think about their needs. I’m not saying have a category of disability per se. Their needs are going to be very similar, their vision impairments, mobility areas. We need to think about those.
Particularly, organisations want to keep their customers long term, so they need to think about: as a customer gets older, are we providing services and products that they can use effectively and easily? I think it’s a really important area to explore.
Graham Armfield: Yes. My parents are in their eighties now and no way would they think of themselves as disabled, but they do need things to be very clear, simple, easy to use. They don’t like sort of pastel websites because they can’t see them, but they never would see themselves as having a disability.
Jonathan Hassell: Yes, so it’s not so much just the Purple Pound. I think we’re talking about the Grey Pound here as well.
Graham Armfield: Yes, exactly, and in the UK this is people who do actually have quite a lot of money to spend on stuff.
Jonathan Hassell: Effectively, if we’re looking at the older population as well, we’re not just talking about, if you like, that 20% of the population that has a disability. We’re actually maybe up to around 60% of the population who need this accessibility thing to be in their products to give them a good experience. And it’s probably even more frustrating for them if they’re losing some of their capabilities, that things that they were able to do in the past they’re not able to do now. So, yes, another great reason that this is so important.
I want to move on. So let’s go to a completely different place for a second. One of the things that I’ve found, and we’re finding for actually two different types of customers. So we have some clients who create services that other clients then use to create web experiences from.
So Graham and Mike Gifford last month were looking at CMSs. But also we’ve got things like if you had a service- So I had one client who did lots of training for volunteers, and they needed a means of booking that training. So they bought a product off the shelf that was an online training booking system. So it didn’t do the training, it just enabled that to happen – something that in the past had happened on a phone line. And they then suddenly realised about five minutes later, after they signed the bit of paper to buy this product, that they hadn’t actually checked it was accessible.
And suddenly, they had a real, real problem. I was in the situation, in the room, where I was having to say to the people who created the product, “I know you don’t have to. I know your contract doesn’t say anything about accessibility in it. So you don’t have to make this product accessible for my client. But please do, because actually they’re in a real problem here and they need your product to be fixed.”
So we were in this really difficult situation for a while. Governments have been trying to use their purchasing power to change this over the years. Things like Section 508 in the States and things like that. VPATs and all of these sorts of things. So certainly for me, I think more and more going forwards it would be really good for organisations who create products that other organisations take and then use, to make them work in an accessible way.
So one of the other things that people have been saying for years is that if you make your website accessible you get some great SEO benefits, so search engine optimisation for those of you not in the know. You get some benefits for people to find your site better on Google if you make it more accessible. Rob, what do you reckon?
Rob Wemyss: This is a really interesting one. I still think there are definite SEO benefits that we can get from accessibility. Not just SEO benefits but code quality benefits as well.
One company I was working for, it was travel insurance, and it was ranked on Google. They made a few changes to the page. It was ranked on the first page of Google. They dropped off, and made it much more accessible, and got back onto the first page, up to number two or even number one in the rankings. The monetary effect of that was really, really huge. I mean it’s quite an old story now, but it was one of the ones that really woke me up with regards to how SEO can actually benefit accessibility as well.
Jonathan Hassell: Or vice versa, yes? So accessibility benefitting the SEO. I agree, but presumably the things that mattered there were things like headings and- Well, headings, really. It’s headings, yes? I mean headings are the thing-
Graham Armfield: What about- Alternate text for images as well.
Jonathan Hassell: Oh, alternative text for images. I’m not so sure on that. So here’s the theory about alternate text on images increasing your SEO for your website. So I go into Google image search looking for an image about something, and then, because it’s tagged in the right way, so the alt-text is sensible, I find that image and then I go to the website and buy something. That’s the theory, right?
I don’t think that holds. If I’m on Google image search, it’s because I want an image of something, normally for a presentation. So I think it’s quite cute that when I’ve found that image, it will take me to the website. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything from any of those websites.
Any thoughts? Because I think the SEO thing is a little bit overplayed. I like it on captions. So I think the stuff around captions, especially these days, is really, really right. It’s normally the companies that sell the captions that do it. So 3Play Media, got loads of stuff out there about all these sorts of things. YouTube did a study: videos with captions earn 4% more views than those that don’t. That’s worth having.
The other thing, I think, that is really interesting there is: they know. So back to what we were talking about earlier in terms of those stats. If they hadn’t been counting, if there wasn’t a way of saying, “Well, how many people are looking at videos compared to how many people are looking at captioned videos?”, if there wasn’t a way of doing those stats, we wouldn’t know that. So we couldn’t say that actually making captions on your video is a good thing for you if you’re creating a video.
The only thing we’d have to look at is people like CNET who did some stuff on transcripts back in the day, where they reported a 30% traffic increase because of putting transcripts there, because all of the stuff in the video wasn’t being indexed by the search engine. So by pulling all of the text out of it, putting it on a page, you’ve got some good stuff.
But, again, I mean my feeling is that SEO, yes, back in the day- Rob, as you say, I completely agree. Those sorts of things where people just had no idea about headings and that sort of stuff, that was massively valuable for SEO. But these days I think we need to be really careful that we don’t overstep the bounds, on thinking, “Hey, if you do accessibility, you get that for free.” Because, actually, a lot of the time SEO is about keywords and all the rest of it, which sometimes can actually play against accessibility in some of those headings.
Graham Armfield: Oh, we need an SEO expert to tell us…
Jonathan Hassell: We do, we do. Let’s bring one on next time. (Laughter)
Jon Gooday: We’ve talked about external websites, but also thinking about internal websites for organisations with employees. A lot of the stuff we’ve talked about also relates to internal intranet websites and using-
There are often campaigns to bring people with disability in as employees, but are the systems in place, or do they work, do they have the right technology? There’s nothing more frustrating than being employed and finding you don’t have the right kit and you can’t use the same systems. So I think there’s a whole area there that probably needs a whole section of itself.
But I think as organisations get more skilled and aware of accessibility externally, I think they should bring those lessons in and focus also internally, on employees. I think that’s often an area which is not so well known, but I think it’s a really important one that organisations can actually see some real benefits with as well. Particularly thinking about the diversity of employment. Can bring in new ways of thinking, new ways of trying things out. I think there’s a great opportunity there as well.
Jonathan Hassell: Yes, and also, if you’re bringing those disabled people into your organisation, you’re likely to get better at accessibility anyway because you have someone in your team who needs it. So creating products that don’t work for the person sitting next to you? Very few people think that’s a great idea. So I think actually, yes, these things are in a kind of virtuous circle.
Hey, let’s end with some really, really positive stuff. The thing that I think that people miss, but I think people are starting to get to in accessibility, is that if you do it, the PR is really good.
We talked earlier about Apple. Everyone thinks that Apple is brilliant at accessibility. They probably have bad days, like that person found; products that don’t quite rise to the level they wanted. But how do we know that Apple are so brilliant at accessibility? Because they tell us. Often.
They’ve won awards all over the place. And, again, that’s probably the other way of actually bringing disabled people to your site, if you’ve made it more accessible. To me, it seems like awards are underused in our area.
I want to see more awards out there. Actually, it’s less for the people who make the sites, although certainly if you’ve got an award you feel better about it – we’ve won loads and it’s always a good thing. Every time you win an award, it makes people more likely to give you money to do accessibility in the future.
But I’m also interested in- People who have disabilities, they want to know where the good, accessible things are. The good, accessible sites. What is the most accessible retailer? What is the most accessible video-on-demand service? Actually giving awards for doing the right thing I think is something which is underestimated.
I think the innovation that comes out of stuff as well. We are now not putting stuff out there about Microsoft and their XboxAdaptive Controller and how wonderful the controller is and how fabulous the box of that controller is. Because everybody, it seems, is talking about it out there. Just a few little steps to say, “Let’s do something different” and actually go beyond where most people are thinking about accessibility, has brought them a lot of kudos.
So certainly for me, I think that if you do accessibility well, and talk about it lots, then you could have a lot of really good stuff coming out of it.
Any final points from anybody?
Rob Wemyss: One thing that’s interesting for me is what I would like to see: when it comes down to procurement, if there were two vendors in the running, I would like to see the vendor who has taken on accessibility, or maybe even won an award for their product, gain that- If the costings were the same, they actually win the business based on putting the effort in, the time and effort, to make their product more accessible. I’d like to see that. It’s almost positive discrimination for equal products with regards to accessibility in the future.
Jonathan Hassell: Yes, absolutely, and most governments in the US and Europe would completely agree with you. In fact, they won’t buy the product that doesn’t have that, so if you like it’s up to everyone else to fall in behind that.
Thanks so much, guys. Hopefully people on the call are now thinking, “Okay, that was a lot of stuff about what good things can happen when you get accessibility right.” So thanks everybody for your insights, your examples, stuff from your experience over time.
As I say, this is a big one for us, so we’re going to touch on this again in the future because, as far as we’re concerned, all of the work that you do with organisations like ourselves here at Hassell Inclusion, we want our clients to not just have accessible products coming out of their work with us. We want them to actually achieve their business goals. We want them to get all of these great benefits from return on investment.
So if that sounds like you as an organisation, please get in touch. We really do care about this stuff.
Thanks everyone for today, and a lot more next month.