Top 5% Websites: The Accessibility Secret with Chris Hinds

Episode 111 April 04, 2024 00:57:46
Top 5% Websites: The Accessibility Secret with Chris Hinds
The Agency Hour
Top 5% Websites: The Accessibility Secret with Chris Hinds

Apr 04 2024 | 00:57:46


Hosted By

Troy Dean Johnny Flash

Show Notes

This week on The Agency Hour podcast, we're venturing into the crucial yet often overlooked realm of digital accessibility with the insightful Chris Hinds, part owner of Equalize Digital.

Since 2015, Chris has focused on WordPress and accessibility, working from a business development and project management standpoint. With an impressive track record of enhancing accessibility for organizations as diverse as small businesses to NASA, Chris shares invaluable insights on why prioritizing digital accessibility is not just about compliance—it's a golden opportunity for growth, innovation, and reaching wider audiences.

Join us as Troy Dean and Chris Hinds unravel the layers of digital accessibility, demonstrating its significance beyond legal compliance to its role as a powerful tool for agency growth and client satisfaction.

Discover how addressing simple, detectable issues on a website’s homepage can catapult it into the top 5% of accessible websites globally, and why this matters more than you think.


Handy Links:

Equalize Digital

Chris Hinds Twitter

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Website Accessibility Checklist

WebA Million Report

Accessibility Checker (WordPress Plugin)

Wave Browser Extension

E2M Solutions




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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: 95% of websites have easily detectable and preventable issues on their homepage. So if you can fix every accessibility problem that a automated scanning tool identifies, that website will be effectively in the top 5% of websites on the web in terms of accessibility. [00:00:18] Speaker B: Welcome to the agency Hour podcast, where we help web design and digital agency owners create abundance for themselves, their teams, and their communities. This week we're joined by Chris Hinds. Chris is part owner of Equalize Digital and has been involved in accessibility projects for a wide range of organizations, from small businesses to NASA. Yes, that NASA. And in this episode, we dive deep into digital accessibility and why it should be at the top of your priority list. There's some real opportunity here. It's not just about being compliant. So if you're looking for some additional revenue drivers and want to stay ahead of the game and also want to help your clients increase their capacity to reach new people, this episode is for you. I'm Troy Dean. Stay with us. Ladies and gentlemen, it's a great pleasure of mine to introduce Chris Hinds from equalize digital onto the agency hour podcast. Hey, Chris, how are you? [00:01:09] Speaker A: Hey, Troy. It's great to be here. I'm doing great today. [00:01:12] Speaker B: Excellent. Thanks for being here. I appreciate you and just want to give people a little bit of context. We've known each other for a long time now. Do you remember the first time we met? Not in person, but the first time you and I actually connected online. [00:01:25] Speaker A: So it's been a minute. I believe I originally came across you and your work through WP elevation back in the day, and this would have been in the mid 2010s. So, like 2014, 2015. I was in a different career at that point entirely. I used to be in food and Amber and I were trying to get an agency going because I have a business degree in addition to a food degree. And at night, after I got done with work, we would sit down on our couch and we would watch WP elevation videos and implement things from that original course that you had back in the day. And we've since stayed connected over the years. We were in Mavericks club for a year, which was super valuable and helped catapult us to where we are now, where we have a digital product. Yoast SEO. The founders of Yoast SEO have invested in our accessibility scanning solution. Our tools and services are being used on NASA dot gov with the new NASA dot gov launch onto WordPress. So from my formative years, you've been a mentor and a coach, and it's an absolute pleasure to be here and to be talking with you about accessibility. [00:02:44] Speaker B: That's awesome. I had no idea that SEO, that Yoast had invested in you guys. And I didn't know that you were on NASA. One of our mavericks members, I think, JJ Toothman, was involved in the NASA build. I remember you and I first connected on a Skype call back in the day before Zoom. I had a late night. It was late night for you, early morning for me, and we jumped on Skype with you and Amber, and I answered some questions and hopefully added some value. And then you and I actually met in real life at Wordcamp USA in Philadelphia, I want to say. Is that right? [00:03:17] Speaker A: Yeah, it was the inaugural word camp, and I was a speaker and talking about my transition out of the food industry. And, yeah, we met at a museum, I think it was, or something. And I remember I got to meet you in person. That was the first in person meeting. But there had been a couple of years of taking your courses in coaching before we'd ever met. [00:03:37] Speaker B: Yeah. I'm saying this not for any reason other than to celebrate what a great time it is to be alive, that we can capture what we know, we can document what we know, we can share it on the Internet. And you end up connecting with people all over the world and forming these relationships and these friendships. And it's just. I mean, it's an incredible thing. I tell Oscar my six year old stories of when I was a kid. At night, I tell him I read a chapter book, and then he says, oh, dad, tell me a story about when you grow up. And I have to explain to him what it was like before mobile phones and before text messages and before the Internet. Like, he. It's like the dark ages. Anyway, it's a great time to be alive. You're here on the agency hour, and we're talking about accessibility for those that don't know, let's first. And I can hear people, some people listening to this going, oh, accessibility. This thing that we have to do to be compliant this episode. We are going to make the case as to why accessibility should be on the top of your priority list. We're also going to help you understand the business case, the economics behind it, how it can actually help you grow your agency and make more revenue. And it's not just a compliance thing. And this is a journey that I've been on. I've had to educate myself over the years, and Chris and Amber have been a big part of that. So before we dive into that, just tell people, what is accessibility, and how did you get into this? Into the accessibility space. [00:04:54] Speaker A: So let's start with what accessibility is at its most fundamental level. If we're talking about digital accessibility, it's the idea that any piece of digital content, and for our conversation today, this being the agency hour, we're going to focus on websites. Although there are other aspects, it needs to be usable by everyone. And so there's a couple different layers to this. First is it needs to be usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities or their disabilities. So they need to be able to access the content, navigate through it, use the interface, etcetera, regardless of how they need to interact or what their ability levels are. There are some different considerations here. What we most often think of with sex ability are people that maybe are blind or visually impaired, or maybe they're deaf or hard of hearing, and so they need captions on their videos, on the blindness side or low vision side. They might have to zoom their browser into 400% in order to access the website, or they might be using a screen reader to actually read the website's content to them. Kind of like it's a book almost. So those are some common examples, but there are less common ones, too. So one that often gets, you know, we're both guys here, and actually, a good percentage of guys have colorblindness to some degree. So color blindness is not a readily apparent disability, but it is one nonetheless. So if you're trying to denote or share information with someone using color alone, say, you know, like, a lot of us like to do this, right? Green good, red bad, right? If you're not using text or iconography or things like that to also convey the information, things could completely slip past people. And then there's the idea of temporary disabilities or abilities. So the idea that, you know, maybe I typically use my mouse, but I've broken my arm, and I can't use a mouse or my trackpad for six, eight weeks sometimes, or even extending beyond that, you know that in this day and age, a lot of us maybe are tired or overworked or stressed at times, and maybe our cognitive abilities are just a little bit low. Maybe it's late at night and something just slips right by us or goes over our head because the reading level is too high or the information wasn't presented in a clear way. And so accessibility really considers all of those things, but even taking and extending it beyond that and into the idea of different access points and different devices. So whether we're on gigabit fiber or on a rural 3g connection on a potato Nokia phone, we should be able to access the interface and be able to do what we need to do. And across that, too, is different technologies. So tablets, mobile phones, whether we're using a screen reader or a keyboard to navigate, there's just all of these different layers of configurations and abilities and disability that we have to consider when we're considering accessibility. And I know that's very complicated, but we're human beings. We are complicated, and our technology is complicated with how we interact with the web. In terms of how I got into accessibility, I'll share a very quick story. And it was maybe a year, year and a half after I got into the agency world. So this would have been about 2016 or so. We started doing a lot of work with Colorado State University. And in that work, we became rapidly exposed to the accessibility world because you can imagine at an institution of higher learning in the United States, accessibility is a big deal from a regulatory standpoint for these organizations that are receiving government funding. And that's kind of the baseline of where accessibility gets mentioned a lot is in this sort of context, right, where it's a government entity. And so as part of that delivery process, we started bringing in testers. We started testing with screen readers and keyboards and these things, and we built up this internal knowledge. And for me, kind of the light switch moment was later on when we were building a website for a workforce center that we had won in an RFP. We actually brought in students from the Texas school, from the blind, to our physical office, because we had physical offices in those days, unlike today. Right? But they came in, and these were individuals who happened to be blind, and they were using their screen readers to access this website and test all of our team's hard work right in front of me. And we had put so much thought and so much care into this because we were like, these kids are coming up to test this. It has to be the best possible experience, right? We really wanted to wow them. And I remember sitting down to lunch with this kid. His name is Devin. He's blind. He's a musician now. He puts out amazing music and has, since years ago, graduated their high school program at the Texas school for the blind. But he was just telling me over lunch that if every website was like the website we had done, which this made me so proud, he wouldn't have to, you know, call a cousin or an aunt or an uncle or his parents into his room every five freaking minutes just to do basic shit on the Internet. Sorry. I don't know if we're allowed to curse on this podcast. You can bleep me if you need to, but just basic stuff. And without having to ask an adult for help. Stuff that you and I would take for granted, just filling out a web form or buying a book or renting a movie, whatever it is that those kinds of fundamental things are just the light bulb flip for me. It's like there's an entire world out there that I have not seen that is completely or partially cut off from things that are essential to my everyday life and that they need to because we're in an increasingly digital world. So that's the background, that's the light switch moment. [00:10:50] Speaker B: Got it. Thanks. Thank you for sharing that. I'm going to play devil's advocate here and I'm going to be the conduit for the audience listening to this. And I'm going to say, this sounds like a lot of work, Chris. It sounds like something I should do. It's feel good. Yes, it makes me feel better about it, but man, it sounds like a lot of work. I've built this website, I'm on a budget, I'm dealing with small to medium business owners. This is just going to take more work and that's going to cost me my profit. Right. [00:11:15] Speaker A: Well, here's the rub, right? There's this fun statistic that I like to share with people that is. Well, it's just interesting. So I don't know if you've heard of the webaim million, but they go out every single year and they test the top million websites for accessibility using a very simple front end scanner and some basic tests, and they came back in 2023 and they found that over 95% of websites have easily detectable accessibility issues just on their homepage. So this is really simple stuff, right? So it's things like headings being the proper order or alternative text on images, stuff that can be easily detected through automated means. And when you have something like this, where 95% of the websites aren't even following the most basic, fundamental level, best practices that for many professionals in the space, are at least somewhat second nature to do. The thing for me is, yes, there's work that needs to be done, but the way things currently sit, and this is completely true, there are literally not enough accessibility specialists in the world to deal with the amount of accessibility gap that we have on the Internet today. And if you look at the legal landscape of accessibility and the overall business landscape of accessibility, there are some clear indicators that this is coming and it's going to become increasingly a priority among businesses of all sizes. It's not just government anymore that's going to care about this stuff. I think that really what I'm advocating for is to just ask freelancers and web agencies for help to start to try to find strategic ways to introduce accessibility into existing processes and service offerings. But charge accordingly. And increasingly, as awareness for this builds, I believe firmly that people are going to step up and they're going to pay for this if the right value proposition is made. Troy, just to give a few ideas here, this idea of an accessibility as a service model, rolling that into existing offerings, this could take shape as something like a quarterly accessibility status report that an agency can deliver on the homepage, header and footer of their customers websites. This could be done with an automated scanning tool and about maybe 30 minutes of keyboard and screen reader testing to just generate a basic report that gives them some ideas, some action items. Or maybe we're adding automated accessibility scanning to maintenance plans. So we talk a lot about care plans as a growth model for agencies to build recurring revenue, why not add automated accessibility scanning enabled with a third party tool that you can just layer and install and go into a maintenance plan so that you're reporting on this and so that you're giving your customer something to ask you to do, right? So it can be a revenue driver. Like we talk about the idea of turning red things green, right? The idea of creating progress, showing growth and showing progress on improving a website. And then we have ongoing accessibility monitoring. So like you can have offer retesting a website for accessibility at routine intervals to make sure that it's still compliant if you've already engaged in an audit or a remediation with them. So there's numerous opportunities within things that agencies are already doing to turn this into a revenue driver and to show their customers that theyre creating a new result in a new area. By the way, backtracking just a little bit to this legal landscape, because I did reference that one pin that your audience is going to want to put into their calendars is summer of 2025, which is when the European Accessibility act goes into effect. And at that point, the overwhelming majority of businesses and organizations that do business in or are physically located in the EU are going to have to have accessible websites by law. So this is coming and it's now what the EU does. Many other countries are going to follow, and I think that agencies would be well served to start paying attention to this for numerous reasons. I think there are economic drivers, there are legal drivers, and there's just a huge opportunity here to build solutions in for businesses and for your customers before they bring it up. Be ready, be proactive. [00:16:01] Speaker B: Can we talk about. Because if 95% of the top 1 million websites on the planet are not accessible, if they don't care about it enough to make it happen, how do I get Jim, who owns an accounting practice in the suburbs here and is going to invest $12,000 or $15,000 in a website, how do I get Jim to care about accessibility other than saying, well, you know, one, you need to do this for legal reasons so you don't get sued to, you know, because, you know, I hear the conversation already. It's like, okay, sure, there's, you know, there's g, there's GDPR, there's the California Privacy act. There are, you know, a gazillion websites on the planet. It's impossible for the authorities to police and fine everyone. So I'm just going to slip under the radar. I'm a small business. We're turning over a couple of million dollars a year. No one cares. It's not going to affect us. So legally I'm not worried about it. It might be the right thing to do from a social conscience point of view. But hey, none of my clients are disabled, so I don't care. How do I get Jim the accountant to care about this enough? Because even if I care about it as an agency, I'm not prepared to invest an extra 30 hours into a build to make it accessible just so that I know I'm doing the right thing. Someone's got to pay for this, right? What im curious about is what are the statistics around? How do I show Jim if we do this, the potential upside is x. Yeah. [00:17:30] Speaker A: And I think that goes back to this idea of what percentage of the population actually experiences with a disability and kind of what the ripple effect of making these accessibility improvements actually is a report out from the World Health Organization from a couple years ago that says that about 1 billion people, or about 15% of the world's population, has some form of a disability. Now let's play Devil's advocate and let's say that, okay, let's say that maybe three quarters to half of those people have some form of a disability that doesn't actually impact their ability to use the Internet at all, which I don't know if that is a reasonable assumption or not, but let's just play devil's advocate and let's say that it's maybe, maybe it's seven one 2%, maybe it's 5%. Actually have a disability that meaningfully impacts their ability to use the online world. In that case, I think that the main question that I would ask small businesses, and the answer may be different depending on their volume of customer, right? But imagine you had this brick and mortar business, and imagine you put an obstacle course in front of your front door that ensured, guaranteed that you excluded and made it impossible for anywhere between five and 15% of your customers to walk through it. What business in their right mind would make that decision consciously? I think the issue that we have here with this 95% statistic, it's not that they don't, that people don't care. I think it's actually fundamentally that people just don't know. And if you look at the context of the web and how it's evolved, and our CTO Steve can probably put this better than I can, but basically you started from a point of HTML and there wasn't much else going on. And it's very easy to make semantic HTML accessible if that's all you're coding. But once you start to layer on CSS, Sass, JavaScript, animated elements, video, all of these other things. As the web has gotten more complex and more layered, it has become increasingly difficult to keep it accessible because the, the pace at which the web is changing is outstripping the capability for people who understand the best practices to keep up. That is fundamentally the problem. And then layer on top of that, the fact that since around 85% of the population doesn't have a disability, the majority of us, this is an invisible problem that we don't really think about unless we are educated on it. I think the idea that educating customers, helping them understand that, no, these are, these are real barriers that real people are experiencing that are preventing them from buying something off of your store or booking an appointment with you or whatever it is, that is a very real thing. I think that the other thing that's often overlooked is metrics around SEO and search performance. If you have a website that is inherently more usable, more understandable, it has, you know, the best possible color contrast, the most clear interface based on all of the standard and web content accessibility guidelines, you are virtually guaranteed. In everything that I have seen. When we do pre and post analysis on websites that we build or that we remediate, you are guaranteed to see increased time on page, more and deeper browsing of your website, longer consumption of your content, and the great algorithm that governs over us all is going to take notice of people engaging with your website more frequently and for longer. Because it is inherently more usable. So even, and I don't mean to assume anything about you, Troy, but guys like you and I, who are typically abled, right, we don't necessarily notice why. We just know that, hey, I like the experience on this website, right? It's good, it's clean, it's timeless. I can use it. The information is clearly laid out. I don't get confused. I don't get lost. There are these ripple effects, these side benefits to implementing accessibility that can enhance a website's overall performance quite substantially, then if you have customers that are bringing out these other things, whether it's SEO or getting more conversions, because conversion optimization is a big deal, and if your website is accessible, you're going to get more conversions. There's not even a question mark there. It's not a maybe, it's a win. And like, the idea of just observing core quality and best practices in general, I think resonates with more people than necessarily you or I would think, right. So I've spoken to plenty of business owners over the years that wouldn't have typically considered an accessible website as a priority. But when we start to talk about quality of the code, quality of the interface, the idea of maximizing the utility of this thing you're building for them, I think if you can speak to accessibility in terms that don't make it sound like it's just. And I don't mean this in a minimizing way, but not just for disabled people, I think that that really helps drive the conversation forward. [00:22:51] Speaker B: So, accessibility. I was building a landing page the other day and we had a look at the traffic coming from a campaign that we were running, and 85% of it was from mobile Facebook ads, Facebook lead ads that were driving and they end up on a landing page. And 85% of it's coming from Facebook mobile. And so I had to rebuild this landing page and I. So I built it mobile first. It's kind of. I mean, I know this, I'm probably a bit of a dinosaur here, but this is the first time I actually went into a page builder and shrunk it down to mobile and said, right, I'm just gonna. I don't care what it looks like on desktop, I'm gonna build this mobile first and then I'm going to embellish it for the desktop experience. Right. It changed the way I built the page. It changed the performance of the page. It made the page better on desktop. Because what I did is I built it just with text. Even the, even the logo at the top I had a text placeholder there to begin with, which became the alt text for the image and the video that was going to be on the page. I actually included the transcript in an accordion before I loaded the video onto the page. So I built it for a super fast mobile experience and then I embellished it for desktop. What I'm hearing is that if we follow best practices and if we build a great user experience and we build it accessible first, and then we add the multimedia elements to provide an augmented, embellished experience for those who can enjoy it, that we're going to have a better performing page on all devices. So instead of building a website for people like you and I and then attaching accessibility on as an afterthought, we should really be building accessible websites and then making them augmenting the experience for people who can enjoy multimedia. Am I, am I in the ballpark here? [00:24:40] Speaker A: Yeah, you are. I think from an operational standpoint you're spot on. Right? The earlier and the more often that we can consider accessibility in a process, the better the outcome is going to be. And in the accessibility world's vernacular, we call this shifting left with accessibility. So earlier, in a waterfall process, considering accessibility discovery, content design, et cetera. And I think that agencies certainly can and should do that. And they, and at least for now, when arguably most agencies and freelancers aren't really paying all that much attention to accessibility, being able to speak to that intelligently is going to allow you to close larger deals for organizations that maybe wouldn't otherwise consider you. Right? So just case in point, right now we are in a high dollar RFP process with a large organization on the East coast, large nonprofit that serves individuals with disabilities, about $80 to $150,000 price range on the website project. So pretty sizable. And there are, I want to say, ten respondents to the RFP, of which we are one. Seven of the ten on the accessibility requirement eliminate or recommended overlays, which caused them to immediately be disqualified from the RF RFP process. So 70% of my competition for these eliminated itself by recommending an automated solution versus actually speaking to the best practices and observing these best practices that we're talking about. And so I think what would be good for agencies to start to consider is to figure out ways to actually adopt these best practices into their processes. And the point being that you can sell more bigger projects to organizations with higher standards for themselves versus being stuck in small business land. Not that that's a bad place to be if you have really dialed in processes. I'm not saying that. [00:26:48] Speaker B: Yeah, but again, if you optimize your workflow to build mobile first accessible first websites, and then augment the content with an experience that people can enjoy, for example, video or audio or infographics or animation. But if you build the website to best practices for accessibility and mobile experience first, then augment it, it's just a matter of getting that workflow dialed in once rather than because the problem is, I made a video recently about how, and we know this to be true, how signup forms generally work better inside a pop up because of micro commitment and what's called behavioral congruence. In other words, if I see something on a website and say, yes, I'm interested in that, and I click the button and then the opt in form appears in a pop up, I'm way more likely to complete that form rather than if the form is just on the page. However, now I'm thinking about this, and just because you and I have this conversation going, I bet you there is an accessibility issue with pop ups. Am I right? [00:27:56] Speaker A: Yeah, there definitely is. You can have pop ups and have them be accessible, but there's just like, there's a checklist of things you need. [00:28:03] Speaker B: To do and I don't know what that checklist is and I didn't think about it and I'm like, so my question is, where is the checklist? Is there somewhere I can go that says, right, build it? These are the best practices to follow. Then attach the embellishments, if you like, on top. Once we've built it to these best practices, what is the best practice? Skeleton. Where is the checklist? And I'm sure you can share some resources with me. We'll stick them in the show notes. [00:28:29] Speaker A: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think at a fundamental level, everyone should bookmark the web content accessibility guidelines by w three C and try to internalize those. I'll be frank, they're very dry reading. But we also have a shift left with accessibility checklist that I can share a link in your show notes here that we share with anybody who wants it. But this is literally our checklist that we use internally for every project phase. You were alluding to the fact that you can dial in these processes once and then it's there and it's become second nature over time. And what I was going to share was we actually did this study internally and you and some of your coaches at Mavericks know that at equalize digital we clock our time religiously. So we've done that going back years. And so what's interesting is we looked at our clocked time on website projects before and after we started to just do accessibility on every single one of them. And for the project as a whole, what we've observed is maybe a between ten and 20% difference in time, fundamentally. [00:29:40] Speaker B: Reduction or increase like increase. [00:29:43] Speaker A: So, so it does. I mean, if you're actively testing for something you weren't testing for before, I don't want to sugarcoat it, it is going to take more time. But I think some people imagine in their head that it's going to take twice as long or three times as long or whatever it is. But from a practical standpoint, once you have a dialed in process, it is maybe ten to 20% more time. And so you can factor that into pricing, you can factor that into how you plan your projects out. If you want to start introducing these best practices. [00:30:19] Speaker B: If you like the idea of dialing in accessibility for your clients, but you're currently overwhelmed with too much client work on your desk, then you might want to hit up our friends over at e two m solutions e two m solutions are a large white label WordPress development agency based out of India. They are the exclusive sponsor of the agency hour podcast and Manish has built an incredible team of over 180 WordPress specialists, all operating out of their head office in India. And they specialize in doing white label WordPress development work for your clients, for you and your clients. And so if you are at capacity now and you need more bandwidth, just check out e two agency Mavericks. We'll put a link under this podcast episode. In the show notes, you get a discount off your first month and they will be able to take off your desk a lot of the work that you've currently got so that you can then think about how you're going to use accessibility to pitch clients, find better clients, find higher value clients, and dial in your accessibility process so that you can turn it into a revenue stream or maybe add it to your WordPress care plan workflow, which by the way, the guys at e two m can manage that for you so that you can focus on growing your business. So check out e two agency Mavericks I want to talk about how to find clients who need this in your existing network or clients that you've worked with in the past. How do you identify those clients that you know are more, I don't want to say vulnerable, but are more likely to benefit from this. But before we do that, what's the fastest way? Is there a tool, is there a plugin that I can go, hey, here's a website, run this scanner over it and it shows me what's broken. Is there a way I can do that so that I can identify the low hanging fruit and what the gap is? [00:32:14] Speaker A: Yeah, so we actually built a tool for that. It's called equalize digital accessibility checker. And if you are using WordPress at all, or you're maintaining WordPress websites, of which I think most of your folks are, you can go to the plugin repository, search up accessibility checker will be right there. You can find the yellow emblem with the check mark. Get that installed and it will allow you to scan unlimited pages and posts for over 40 different automated accessibility checks. If you don't like the idea of having a plugin for that, I will also plug the wav browser extension, which is free, open source, available for anyone to use. And you can install that on edge fiberfox, et cetera. And that's just wave, wave. The nice thing about that is you don't have to install it on anything. So you can go check out competitor websites or scan someone's website with it before you reach out for a sales conversation and be able to speak intelligently to their accessibility. [00:33:12] Speaker B: That's interesting. So that's a browser extension called wave. And the accessibility checker, the equalize digital accessibility checker plugin, we will put links to both of those things in the show notes. Is it a freemium model, your plugin? There's a free version and a paid version, I imagine. [00:33:31] Speaker A: Yeah. And the paid version is definitely not necessary for smaller websites. So our idea is we really want to democratize accessibility for all, much like WordPress democratized publishing. And there's definitely a social good component to that. But for larger organizations who need advanced features and advanced reporting, we do have a paid version. [00:33:51] Speaker B: Got it. Now, how do we. I still a lot of, and look this, I see the world through a very specific lens, right? Because most conversations I have with people are how do we get more clients? How do we get more high value clients? How do we make more revenue? Because revenue pays for problems. Revenue solves problems and also creates them. But anyway, that's a whole other conversation. So how do we find, how do we, how do we prospect for the right type of clients? And then what's the, how do we start the conversation? Rather than coming in and saying, well, if you're not, if you're not come, if you're not compliant, the european government are going to throw you in jail because we dont want to start the conversation like that. So how do we find the high need clients and then how do we get them on the hook and convert them? [00:34:33] Speaker A: Yeah, so very broad question, but I fortunately had a very good teacher in sales over the years. So for the podcast, listening audiences benefit. Troy, youve taught me most of what I know about sales from back in the day and then ive expanded on that and kind of molded it, seasoned it to taste, as you would say for, for the accessibility world. [00:34:55] Speaker B: Right. [00:34:56] Speaker A: So yeah, industries. So let's talk about that. What sorts of clients are most interested in accessibility? I'm going to start with the most obvious ones and then I'm going to work my way down. So the first one, definitely government and higher education. Most of us probably knew this, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time here, but it's the lowest hanging fruit for sure. They also tend to have the largest budgets so it tends to be more competitive. You have a lot of really experienced, very large agencies going after these. Accessibility will pretty much universally be a requirement. So by the time you're going after these, hopefully you have a fairly dialed in process. You kind of know what you're doing, otherwise they'll smell you out quick and you'll be eliminated from their competitive bid process. And for these larger ones I would just caution that just be ready to deal with a lot of stakeholders and it's most likely going to be an RFP of some sort and to try your best to just build some relationships there. Over the course of the RFP, don't be afraid to call and speak to people. This is some of the ways that we have gotten in the door for larger bids is just to try to have pre existing relationships because fun secret of the RFP world and there are a lot of them. But most RFP processes out there I firmly believe are entirely performative. They already know who they're going to hire. So that upfront relationship is absolutely key because most of it is just a dog and pony show to satisfy legal requirements onto less obvious ones. E commerce is the next big one and this is right on government's heels and this is by sales volume for us in what we have coming in in terms of work. And there's a big reason for this. There were, I would say about 4000, maybe mid 4000 accessibility lawsuits in the US in 2023 alone and about 80% of those targeted e commerce companies. Whats fascinating about that figure, beyond just the idea of 4000 lawsuits, 80% targeting e commerce is that those are the things that actually made it to the lawsuit stage. So you can imagine what the number of complaints was, because obviously most things get resolved out of court before we ever get to a lawsuit. So I would argue it's a factor of three, five, maybe ten in terms of the number of complaints coming in to e commerce specifically, if you have e commerce close, you know, if you have e commerce customers, I would be trying frantically to get some sort of initial offering together, even if it's just, hey, let's get a scanning tool on your care plan. Let's start to measure this, because what we aren't measuring, we aren't, you know, able to address at all. Right. Um, and you can close them on that pretty quickly. Um, the best chance of closing any sort of meaningful, um, accessibility offering, in my experience, is they generally need to have more than a million in annual revenue, which in the e commerce world, there's plenty of them out there. Um, that's a relatively low threshold. And you can build smaller offers for lower revenue people like the sub 1 million a year revenue. You're generally going to be talking to the owner or a director level individual when closing these deals. Maybe a combination of both. And I think trying to identify those people, reaching out on LinkedIn, sharing information with them, giving value upfront, I think all of these things work, and they have worked for me. So, like for us, equalize digital itself, we obviously put out a lot of resources that are targeted to WordPress in general and also e commerce. We just did a big ecommerce accessibility study that we released out, and we've gotten inquiries and customers off of that. So being able to share meaningful resources, meaningful information around ecommerce and accessibility, or for any of these other things I mentioned will get people reaching out to you. But if you can't do that, I think the next best thing is to try to find the places where people who run these types of companies will be physically and go and talk to them in person. Increasingly because of generative AI, which is a whole other discussion, we are all getting bombarded with auto generated robots trying to sell us crap we don't want. And everyone has big walls up now, including myself. And really, one of the last good ways to sell someone cold is to do it in person so that they know you're a real human being. Couple other options. Mid cap and enterprise. So what I mean by that is any business in any industry with 5 million or more, you know, between five and 25 million in annual revenue, they're generally big enough at that point that they're going to start to worry more about risk mitigation and legal compliance specifically. So most often I'm talking to a marketing director or a CMO who are making these kinds of decisions. And you may already be working with some of these people. Some people in mavericks. I know that their agencies, they are probably building websites for some of these mid cap companies, particularly, I think, in the industrial space or the building space, the retail space, business consultancies, things of that nature. Most of your people in mavericks probably have a few of these companies sitting in their list, and maybe they just don't have the data to know that they're $5 million a year. Companies like I've gotten access to people who we're doing services for. They've shared some of their numbers with me, and I'm like, wow, you make that much money, you make more money than me. It's shocking how big some of these companies are, even if they look small. So I think mid cap and enterprise, just general small businesses, just try to find ones that look like they have a reasonably sized, reasonable size footprint, not massive, just reasonable sized. And speak to risk, speak to legal compliance, pay attention to geography. Right. So are they in California, New York? Are they doing business in the EU? And they don't know that this law is coming next year. Right. I think that those are the types of things that you can share if you have an offer to go with it, that can get people to sit up, pay attention, and invest money in some sort of accessibility offering. And then large nonprofits are one of the last ones I wanted to mention. So we actually just launched a website for one not too long ago where accessibility was the central focus, as you can imagine. And this was a nonprofit that served individuals with disabilities across a regional area in the Pacific Northwest, here in the US. And what I've found with a lot of these large nonprofits is they are actually fairly starved for reliable expertise and recommendations around accessibility. And many of them were at one point or another, sold a solution as accessible. And I don't think that this was out of malice. Right. Probably the people don't know what they don't know. And so they went with something that said it was accessible, but it wasn't really, and they didn't really know how to validate it. So I think there are a lot of large nonprofits out there who are going to have respectable budgets. Like, we're bidding on an $80,000 website right now for a large nonprofit. There are nonprofits out there who have respectable budgets who need accessibility expertise, or agencies that are just willing to deliver accessible solutions and willing to build the systems and put the work in. And they're going, if you're willing to do that, they're going to pick you over the other guy. And that's maybe the point to drive home. So those are some of the industries in terms of how to actually close them or how to get them to sit up and pay attention. I think this is where we all really need to just sit back, shut up and put our listening caps on and ask good questions. Listen to what they tell you about what their pain points are. And I alluded to this a little bit earlier. You know, if they're, if they have pain points around, some of them will outright say, I'm worried about getting sued, and they might specifically list accessibility. But if they don't say accessibility, listen for things like SEO, conversion, optimization, quality and maintaining best practices, aligning with their Dei initiatives. So if they care about being inclusive and that's part of their organizational culture, selling them on accessibility should be very easy because they're, they need to be living up to their own words, right through action, listen to those sorts of things, find ways to draw threads between what their needs are and accessibility. And you can, and I have done this, you can sell accessibility as a project component without really saying the word accessibility. Accessibility, yeah. Like we put it in scope. We say this is how you do things. And if you care about x, Y and Z, this is the way we're going to do it, because it is going to get you that result. Yeah. And before your next question, I want to share one other little tidbit. Right? And this is for an organization that they're a publisher for. They target people who are in professional careers that are high paying. So like doctors, attorneys, etcetera, who have large amounts of student loans. And so they put out a lot of content about consolidating debt, getting better interest rates, all of this. And they have like a consultancy now, but anyway, they have this huge publishing arm, they're getting around 200 300,000 hits a month on their website. And in my sales conversation with them, and this was a year ago, before we built this, they were like, oh, we don't care about accessibility, we don't need to talk about that. And I just flat out said, just imagine this, imagine with your volume, you have 300,000 people coming to this website every month. And x tiny percentage of those. I asked him what his conversion rate was. He said it was one or 2%. And I was like, okay, so let's do some quick back at the napkin math here. That's at least a few thousand conversions every single month. What if you could increase that by five to 10% with accessibility just overnight without having to change anything else? And suddenly accessibility was a no brainer. I think that just finding ways to tie their goals to accessibility is probably the number one skill that salespeople need to cultivate. And it just requires you to listen and to understand the areas of a website that accessibility can meaningfully impact. [00:46:02] Speaker B: Got it? Yeah. I think the gold nugget for this episode is you can sell accessibility without mentioning the word accessibility. Because for years I've been saying, if you want to make more money as a web designer, stop selling websites. You're selling solutions. And a website is the vehicle that's going to help us get to the goal. The other thing I think that I really like about this is most, and you've proven this, 70% of your competitors have been eliminated in the current RFP process. Most people just aren't going to do this, right? So the opportunity is huge, because if you can just spend a little bit of time understanding accessibility and reframing accessibility into benefits to the client, your competitors are not going to be having this conversation. And then what happens is, this is one of the reasons I'm such a big advocate for paid discovery, right? If a client comes to me and says, you know, when we had a client in Mavericks Club recently saying, we're getting all these incoming leads for websites, they're a social media management agency and they're starting to build websites. Clients are saying, can you give us a quote for a website? And they said to me, we don't know what to say. When a client asks for a quote for a website, and I say, here's the line, I'd love to give you an estimate. In fact, I'd love to give you an accurate rollout of how much your website's going to cost and how long it's going to take. Can you send me your digital strategy for the next twelve months so I can see how your website fits into what you're trying to do? At which point 99.9% of clients say, we don't have a digital strategy. You say, okay, well, the first thing we need to do is work out the strategy. And by the way, if anyone else is giving you a proposal for your website based on the amount of information you've given me, then they're completely making it up and guessing, and I don't want to do that, I don't want to guess. I want to give you an accurate scope of work and cost structure and timeline for this project. I just need more information before we can do that. And I think the same is true for accessibility. It's a way for you to then subtly to let your prospect know that the competition aren't serious because they're not talking about accessibility. They don't understand this because it requires work. We've done the work to skill up. We now have this kind of tool in our toolbox, if you like, which has all these additional benefits. Right. We've talked about search engine optimization. It's algorithm friendly, it's going to get you better conversions. It's not going to ostracize five or 10% of the traffic coming to your website. So do the work, understand the benefits, and instantly you're in the top 10% of agencies because most people just aren't going to do this work. Right? [00:48:32] Speaker A: Right. And I think the other thing that I really want to drive home for people is you do not have to be an accessibility expert to sell accessibility. There are tools available on the market like accessibility checker or even wave, where you can run automated scans. You can figure out how to fix those very basic problems. And if you fix all of those problems, let's go back to the web a million. We've established that 95% of websites have easily detectable and preventable issues on their homepage. So if you can fix every accessibility problem that a automated scanning tool identifies, that website will be effectively in the top 5% of websites on the web. In terms of accessibility, which as an accessibility professional, that makes me quite sad. But in terms of like the amount, just the sheer volume of work that has to be done here. And it's this universal problem that just needs more awareness and capable agencies and salespeople to go out and sell it. And I believe that businesses can be sold on it because there is a tangible, measurable benefit to doing this work that, you know, I think that this is something that people are going to need to start paying attention to. [00:49:46] Speaker B: Yeah, I just ran the waves extension over a landing page that I built and I'm pleased to say there are no errors. However, there are four alerts which I was not aware of and I can see immediately there's some alt text missing on images because I'm an idiot and I could fix all of this in half an hour and it's a checklist of what I need to fix. And so this is, this is like, this has enlightened me again. It has opened my eyes and I'm not even looking at this from an accessibility point of view. I can see if I fix these things, it's actually going to make the page better. It's going to make it a better experience. One thing I did is I use the underline element to stylize some text. What I could do is just use the italics, emphasis or bold element to stylize the text because underline generally means it's a link. Right. People are using this and you know what I mean? So things like that I just take for granted. It's a little css cheat that I was using. Well, now I'm going to go back and revisit that and I'm going to run this and I'll grab the equalizer because this page is not on WordPress, so I couldn't use equalize Checker, for example, but I will use equalize Checker on the word on our website, come up with a list and send it off the team to fix. So this is awesome. Thank you so much for spending some time with us on the agency. What's the one question I should have asked that we haven't had time to? [00:51:04] Speaker A: So I think the one question that we didn't get to was the idea of how do you approach building an accessibility offer? Do you feel like we have enough time that I can go into that for a couple minutes? [00:51:15] Speaker B: Sure. Let's do it. [00:51:17] Speaker A: All right, sounds good. So the way that we approach this, and I'm going back to when we were kind of in the formative years of equalize digital, kind of discussing, okay, how could we turn our in house knowledge as an agency into accessibility offerings for all sorts of organizations? And where we always began with is what's in it for the person I'm trying to sell this to, right. So we always started from the standpoint of what's the result that we are ultimately selling? What does this person care about? Right? And the result will depend on who they are. So understanding, industry, responsibility, size of company, audience they serve, all of these things will kind of factor into what that result is. After you've established what the result is of this offer, what pain points is that result fixing? So that's the next step, and that's what helps you build out your sales, copy your outreach process, everything. And then continuing to work backwards, we start to talk about, okay, how do we fulfill this? What is the process? Who's doing it? How do we measure success both internally and with the customer? And then finally, after all of that, with everything that we know, we decide what we need to get out of it in order for it to be worth it. So profit first is big for us. So we decide what profit needs to be, and then we work backwards through all of our cost centers to arrive at what the price has to be in order to get our ideal profit off of an offer. And based on that ideal price, we then finally, very last step, we make a lot. We see if we can do the rubber ducky test, basically, and talk through all of this and see if we can still make a logical case for ROI based on what we need to charge. Does the customer still get a return on their investment? If the answer to that is no, or we can't prove it, then we kind of have to go back to the drawing board and go through a few permutations, which we have had to do. And the important thing to note, too, is that sometimes ROI isn't dollars. Although often it is. But sometimes it's just peace of mind, right? Or understanding that because some people are achievement driven, it's understanding. I have the best website that money can buy, and some people, that's all they care about. So there are a lot of results that aren't dollars for a lot of different reasons. But I think that that's how we go about building an offer in working backwards from that. And I think using that process to create an accessibility offer is the most ideal place to start. And if you aren't sure what result you want to sell, I would say the first stop is to start talking to your customers and asking them questions about accessibility, particularly in these key industries. So if there's a customer who you can, you know, you have them on speed dial, you can call them up and be like, hey, have you heard about this accessibility thing? I'm starting to pay attention to it. Like, is it keeping you up at night? Oh, it is. Okay. What. What specific things? You know, what, you know, start to drill down, start to ask questions. And I think that you can. You can very quickly get to a very sexy offer for a, you know, a particular person working at a particular type of company, and then you're off to the races. [00:54:22] Speaker B: I'm reminded of a campaign I worked on for a company called Feb Fast once, years ago. We proudly will say we were the agency that got them to their first seven figure year campaign. Feb Fast is an organization that encourages you to give up alcohol for the month of February, and you get your friends to sponsor you. The form back in the day, we had no control. We had control over the, the landing page and the sign up form for people to sign up to register for February, but we had no control over the form they sent their friends to sponsor them. Now, for example, if I sign up and agree to not drink alcohol for the month of February and I send this form up to my friends, and some of my friends are visually impaired or can't use a mouse or whatever, and that form, which is hosted by a third party platform, isn't accessible. All of a sudden, Feb Fast is losing out because of a third party tool that the participants are using to get sponsorship, right? So accessibility now, this isn't necessarily just about dollars or funds raised either. Because what happens is people, if you sponsor me to give up alcohol for the month of February and I raise five grand, and then I'm talking to you and I'm like, oh, thanks for sponsoring, man. And I feel great. I haven't had a drink for 30 days and I'm sleeping better. My energy levels are higher. You might agree to do it next year. However, if you haven't been able to sign up and sponsor me because you can't use a mouse, then Feb fast don't have the ability to promote the cause to you next year because you're not in their database as a, as a sponsor, right? So it's so the ripple effect of accessibility. Once you start thinking about how this plays out, the benefits for an organization, it is like a ripple effect. And I think you're right. You just need to understand what your client actually wants and the outcomes they're looking for and then understand how you can tie their pain points to these accessibility features. And you might just sell accessibility without using the word accessibility. [00:56:19] Speaker A: I love it. I love it. Works more often than you'd expect. [00:56:22] Speaker B: Yeah, this has been a great conversation. I really appreciate your time here. It's been great to be part of your journey over the last ten years or however long it's been. I'm looking forward to hanging out again sometime when we're out in the States. I think we're coming out in October again, so maybe we can connect then. Where can people get in touch and continue this conversation? What's the best way for people to reach out? [00:56:42] Speaker A: Chris so if you're an agency or a freelancer and you want to talk about this more, I spend most of my time talking to agencies and freelancers about accessibility and how they can do more with it. You can send me an email chrisqqualized dot give me a shout out at Twitter. I'm mister chrishynes on Twitter. Happy to connect with anyone and everyone who needs help. [00:57:03] Speaker B: Awesome. Well, thank you for spending some time with us on the agency, Aaron, sharing your knowledge, and you've certainly lit a fire within me, and I know you will have for a bunch of our listeners as well. So all the best. Say hi to Amber and the kids for us, and yeah, look forward to keeping the conversation going. [00:57:18] Speaker A: All right, sounds good. [00:57:21] Speaker B: Thanks for listening to the agency hour podcast, and a huge thanks to Chris for joining us. Okay, folks, remember to subscribe and please share this with anyone you think may need to hear it. I'm Troy Dean, and remember, the king of hearts is the only king in a deck of cards without a moustache.

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