When we asked Mark Kroh, an Engineering Manager behind the new RedVentures.com, about accessibility online, he said it is a “moral imperative” that web designers and engineers deliver accessible online experiences. The truth is, users— particularly users with disabilities— often encounter sites that are difficult or even impossible to navigate. In fact, a 2021 WebAIM study uncovered that 97.4% of the top one million home pages had detectable Web Content Accessibility failures. Meanwhile, the CDC reports that one in four adults living in the US have some type of disability.
From the beginning, we’ve intended to provide best-in-class experiences at Red Ventures. However, our sites have also failed users in ways we didn’t realize at their conception. We haven’t always provided the most accessible experiences online, and folks like Mark and his team are dedicated to changing that.
Mark works on one of our global “umbrella” teams at RV, so he’s consistently getting pulled into different projects RV-wide. Across the board, he’s starting to notice engineers thinking more about accessibility. “Aria-labels— a technique for screen readers— actually came up in our standup meeting today,” he said. “We probably spent about fifteen minutes discussing its purpose, how to implement it, things like that.”
It was no surprise that Mark’s team played an integral role in our new and improved RedVentures.com. “To me, this is just an example of us wanting to do things the right way,” Mark said. From ensuring that keyboard-only users can easily navigate all of the site’s features to avoiding animations that could cause seizures, there are dozens of ways that web designers and developers can provide all users with the experience they deserve.
This doesn’t stop with RedVentures.com, though. Our brands are always finding ways to improve.
Here’s an example of an accessible solution on one of our sites, Bankrate. When a user hovers over an option in the navigation tool, the option is not only blue, but also underlined. This ensures that someone with low vision or color-blindness can notice the highlighted change and recognize which option they are about to click.
Part of making sites more accessible also means being straightforward with users. Even for someone who is not living with a disability, web experiences are often confusing and unhelpful. By including features like estimated read time, links with contextual information, consistent patterns, and proper font sizes, our online experiences can be more accessible for everyone.
What does inaccessible design look like?
So what does it mean for something to be, well, inaccessible? Here’s an example:
The issue here is the low-contrast ratio, which means that the brightness of the text is too similar to the brightness of the background. In other words, some users would likely find the content difficult to read and thus inaccessible.
According to WebAIM’s 2021 study, low-contrast text was the most common accessibility error across the top one million home pages in their analysis. The good news? Content and visual designers at RV have the ability to check their designs and ensure that they pass contrast ratio requirements before anything goes live.
What does this mean for the future of web experiences?
Websites are always getting updated. What if someone added a job posting to our site and forgot to check whether a keyboard-only user could receive all of the information? To address this, Mark’s team uses a program that tests RedVentures.com to make sure new job posts or articles meet accessibility standards. Plus, it immediately pinpoints the problem areas so the team can make the fix.
Does this make web design and maintenance more complex? Yes. But Mark insists that the key is to make the commitment. “You have to code in a way that takes this into consideration,” he said. “And we have the technology, so let’s use it.”
When we launched the new RedVentures.com, it was important for us to make the commitment to prioritizing and improving accessibility. That means considering users who rely on screen readers as well as those who visually navigate with a keyboard. Acknowledging that color-blindness can make it difficult to make distinctions with color alone. Seeking out inclusive user research and testing. Believing that accessibility is vital to our site’s success.
Part of the process is recognizing that we can always improve. We will continue finding ways we could be better and strive for world-class experiences, all while trying our best to win the right way.
Want to learn more? Check out this video from RV engineer Toni Clark as she explains why accessibility is important and what it took to make RedVentures.com possible.