January 12, 2021 5 min read
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Some businesses want their products to appeal to a small niche; others to a large market. But no business wants customers to be unable to use their products at all. As the world’s consumer base grows, so too do the number of users who need to be considered when optimizing accessibility.
Disability rights group Click-Away Pound found that 61% of users with accessibility needs would leave a site and take their business elsewhere if they weren’t properly accommodated — a serious thing for businesses to consider given that disabled individuals spend a combined half a trillion dollars annually.
Increasing your product’s accessibility is something that could benefit all of your customers, but it’s difficult to know exactly where to start. Here are a few options:
1. Adapt to different platforms
You’ve experienced it yourself plenty of times: a website that works great on browsers and terrible on phones or a service with an app for some platforms but not others. To make room for the widest possible usership, the largest possible number of platforms need to be accounted for. The key, however, is not to roll out onto as many devices as possible but to optimize the platforms that you are on and expand when you can.
Consider The New York Times’s famous 2018 redesign: Instead of clicking through pages, browser-based Times readers could scroll through articles to mimic the more popular digital experience. The Times also added a feature that allows subscribers to swipe left or right with their mouse to change stories as if they were reading an actual newspaper. Instead of following the dogma of design, the Times embraced the best of what different platforms had to offer, creating an eminently user-friendly experience in the process.
2. Prioritize scalability
A product can’t be usable without being durable. If high influxes of activity crash your site or slow down your service, you’re already losing customers based on accessibility issues alone. Your product needs to be able to handle whatever is thrown at it if you want it to work effectively for everyone.
Rather than rebuild your site, invest in APIs built for high traffic volumes. Telehealth tools like InputHealth did this during the pandemic to scale data-intensive videoconferencing services. Dolby.io’s Interactivity API enabled it to handle a 635% jump in the use of its video functionality.
Your scalability hurdle may not be large volumes of data, but different sources of data. If so, look into REST APIs. Short for “Representational State Transfer,” these APIs can handle different data formats and types of calls. REST APIs are important for mobile accessibility and database interoperability.
3. Take user feedback
No one knows your users like, well, your users. If you want to build products that suit their needs, you’ll have to ask them what their needs are first. Listening to your customers is the first step towards developing a truly optimized product, one that offers as few barriers to usership as possible.
The first step towards getting high volumes of user feedback is to develop a good way to take it in. Most businesses already have some kind of customer survey system in place, but these are often clunky and don’t incentivize candid responses. Usabilia, a digital CRM platform, optimized its feedback system by offering several different ways to respond — with text, emojis, a number scale and more. The more routes you give your customers to express themselves, the more willing they’ll be to do so.
4. Listen to the experts
If you’ve got a shy customer base, try learning from those with valuable insight to share. Nearly 20% of Americans have some kind of disability and listening to them, their advocates, and the advice they offer can go a long way in helping you maximize your product’s accessibility.
The Americans with Disabilities Act mandated several laws and guidelines for businesses to follow, many of which are great starting points for any company looking to give their accessibility a boost. Large employment agencies are also prepared to offer helpful advice given the wide range of people they work with. Any effort you put into listening will be rewarded tenfold in the knowledge you glean.
Every time you make your product more accessible, even by a small margin, you’re adding potential customers. This isn’t just about your bottom line, though: the more people who can engage with your product, the more people whose lives you’ll be impacting. Accessibility isn’t a luxury; it’s a responsibility that business owners are finally waking up to.