Product Development and Accessibility Tips for Getting Started
When it comes to building technology products, it pays to incorporate accessibility right from the start—on multiple levels. To help your organization realize the many benefits of accessible design, here are PEAT’s top tips for factoring accessibility into the entire product development life cycle.
1. Know Your Users
Wise technology developers and product managers understand that their potential users include job applicants and employees with disabilities. Whatever tools and resources you use to identify your customer base, you can expand them to be more inclusive by:
- Creating personas that include references to disability. Adding a brief mention of vision loss or manual dexterity problems—common enough characteristics—both humanizes the persona and gives designers something to think about. Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design, written by Shawn Lawton Henry of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative, offers valuable guidance about creating personas of users with disabilities.(link is external)
- Adding accessibility information to use case scenarios. For example, let’s say you are developing a tablet app to be used in sales. You could describe how a salesperson with vision loss would be able to use it to show information to a customer.
- Seek out market reports with inclusive data. Market researchers are becoming increasingly wise to usability and accessibility issues in multi-cultural or senior markets, for example. Build that intelligence into your product’s market analysis. And the next time you brief a market researcher, ask about their ability to provide information about people with disabilities—an important and expanding market segment.
2. Evaluate Your Current Products
If you are revising or updating a product instead of developing a new one, nothing beats a detailed accessibility evaluation that outlines barriers and proposes how to fix them. You may be able to use internal resources to do this, such as in-house accessibility experts or testers, or you may rely on external consultants that specialize in accessibility. Industry associations, such as the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP)(link is external), may be a good place to identify such specialists. If possible, create a comprehensive gap analysis or needs assessment that shows every accessibility barrier and error, along with potential solutions and practical recommendations. Businesses commonly use this technique to determine the steps needed to make product improvements and enhancements.
3. Examine Your Product Track Records
You can learn a lot about the accessibility of your products, including detailed suggestions for improvements, by carefully listening to what others have already said.
- Review complaints, concerns, comments, or lawsuits related to accessibility. Helpful sources for this information can be your legal department and customer support. Some product managers receive notice of public comments about their products from a press tracking service. If you do this, make sure accessibility and usability are included in the filters being used.
- Identify sensitized enterprise customers. Many of the people who buy and use your products in the workplace care about accessibility. Government agencies, schools, public-facing businesses, and others have their own legal, economic, and other motivations for accessibility—to which you can respond.
4. Check Out the Competition
How do your competitors handle accessibility? As with other issues such as security and privacy, you can choose to become an accessibility leader or a “fast follower” who recognizes others’ good ideas and emulates them. In either case, you should begin by assessing where you are in the pack. TechCheck, PEAT’s accessibility benchmarking tool, is a great place to start.
5. Establish Clear Goals and Integrate Accessibility into the Development Process
When starting an accessibility effort, be proactive—but also realistic. Prioritizing which accessibility issues to address is necessary. Again, TechCheck can help. Specific goals for each product should reflect an overall accessibility strategy, not a random or “one time only” approach.
Accessibility deserves dedicated thinking and planning, but it should not be done in isolation. Rather, it should be integrated into your organization’s processes. There are, of course, many product development processes, ranging in formality and how they are managed. At one extreme, companies that use a formal product specification often add an accessibility section indicating applicable laws or standards, features that are going to be included, explanations for deferred features, and even what the accessibility testing protocols will look like. Agile software development and other less formal processes often rely on an accessibility lead, a developer with specialized training whose judgment is called upon by team members as needed. Only you can determine what strategies will work best in your organization.
6. Use Available Tools
Accessibility is an increasingly essential part of technology product and services, and a lot of good general guidance and training is available. For every platform you work on, and every function or feature your product needs, there is sound, available information on how to do it accessibly. In many cases you can rely on the companies that make development environments and authoring tools—they’ve had requests about accessibility and know the answers. Other developers in that ecosystem are also great sources of information. Here are just a few examples of accessible development resources provided by technology companies themselves:
- Microsoft Developers’ Network – Accessibility Tools(link is external)
- Oracle’s Java Accessibility Guide(link is external)
- Adobe Accessibility Support(link is external)
- IBM Developer Guidelines on Accessibility(link is external)
7. Make the Business Case
You may find that you need to develop a business case for specific accessibility features, not just accessibility overall. For example, you may need to assert that, based on support calls and public comments, an online form should be simpler and use language more consistently. This is not just an accessibility issue—it’s a change that will benefit many users. Use the documentation you’ve gathered to support your case. Eventually you’ll be adding accessibility features (including those that benefit all users) to the same wish list as everyone else, and fighting to get them accepted for development in the next release.
Resources for Entrepreneurs – Startup Tools – Product Development Must-Haves
Inventalator provides a crowdsourcing platform for entrepreneurs, inventors, and product developers to bring their product idea to market. Resources include everything from crowdsourced market feedback to development competitions. If you think you have an entrepreneurial idea that you could eventually turn into a revenue-generating business, check out Inventalator to see if their platform might be suitable for your needs.
Validately offers a handy platform for testing product ideas and prototypes. Instead of spending months writing code for a product customers don’t really want, Validately lets you test your idea out prior to building an actual product. Unless you like wasting time and money only to pivot when customers don’t jump all over your startup idea, Validately should definitely be added to your list of entrepreneurial resources.
Blossom.io offers a product management platform for teams. Your entire team can follow the development process for your company’s products or services and maintain an awareness of task distribution. Instead of staff meetings that cost valuable product development time, your staff can instantly see how a project is progressing via their Blossom.io dashboard. Features include everything from analytics to group messaging.
Print.io connects entrepreneurs with product manufacturers around the globe. Instead of an entrepreneur developing an idea and then attempting to source their own manufacturing facilities, Print.io makes finding reputable manufacturers easy. Print.io can be used to create products ranging from smartphone cases to posters and personalized coffee mugs.
ProdPad is another essential product development tool for startup teams. ProdPad lets entire teams brainstorm product ideas, conceptualize development processes, and produce ‘road maps’ team members can follow to track product development. ProdPad integrates with existing workflow management tools like Trello, UserVoice, and JIRA.
Having the right product development tools at your disposal is crucial if you want your startup venture to succeed. Wasting time in the concept stage or spending investment money on ill-fated features can be extremely detrimental to the long-term viability of a startup company. Part of growing a successful startup is curating a list of business development resources your team can use on an as-needed basis. Do you think any of the above-listed product development tools will make your list of essential startup resources?
5 Tips for Your Product Development Strategy
The term product development strategy is much easier to understand as a piece of text, than it is to understand in real-life, when it has to be put to use. It’s purpose is to help us understand how to develop our products, and how to build a future for them. It can also mean that we are taking our old products, and making them new again – which requires a new set of knowledge about the new market.
In the modern world, product development strategy means we’re creating new products, with new features and then marketing them to our already established customer base. Continuous product development is an important part of any businesses strategy, and if you wish to create new clients, and achieve more – begin investing in product development.
Be One Step Ahead of the Competition
In this ever growing world, new markets are being populated by new and aspiring business people, every single day. They, just like you, are looking to sell their product to the masses, and they’ve got all the fresh and juicy ideas to back them up. You should take your experience to your advantage, and practice building new ideas, hence: being one step ahead.
Build these ideas, and think about them in long-term, take all of your resources and maximize the potential of realizing an idea before someone else does it. Trust me, many of the ideas we get, someone else had gotten way long before us – the only difference is that you’ve got the resources to make it happen.
Take All Advice You Can Get (Customers, Co-workers, Partners, etc,.)
When you’re dealing with a new idea that’s ready to be pushed in the market, always interview and question people about it, ask for their opinions on what the price should be. You could conclude analysis, but it’s much cheaper to ask those who’re always around you, and most likely they know better anyway.
Know the Market of Your New Product
Very important, failing to realize the potential of a market for your new product can be fatal, and not only to your paycheck – but your reputation. Let’s say you’re going to release a new SEO software tool, which is aimed at big businesses who need thorough data about their competition and their own rankings.
Begin by concluding surveys, and gather data about these big business, so it doesn’t happen that there are only ten real sites interested in the software, who can barely cover the incredibly overpriced costs for it. If you don’t do this early on, you’re bound to fail, as guessing the market is not a viable solution.
Listen to the Customer & His Needs
Your key skill is listening, and learning to listen to what the customer needs. You’re in a position where you’re allowed to ask questions, and learn answers about them. Take this observation to your advantage, and begin asking everyone in your market what they think is missing inside of the industry, and what could you do to help them. It’s so easy, and it’s completely free. You can never know where the next big ideas is going to come from, it’s something I’ve lived by for a long time.
Monitor Your Market & Industry
Make the time to monitor your competition, and the industry as a whole. If you’re working in mobile industry, lets say for Apple – make sure you’re always up to date with that what’s happening on Android, it’s not as hard as it might to seem – to keep up with it.
You probably need just a couple of friends from the industry, and a subscription to the major news outlets that report Android news. It’s a raw example, but that’s how you’re going to know the market, and be able to learn about new concepts and bring forth more ideas to push on the market.