Designing with accessibility in mind

To create more usable products we need to understand and care about user requirements that differ from or even conflict with our own. One of the most important aspects of this is designing for accessibility. This ensures our products work, not just for some, but for as many people as possible.

What is accessibility?

“Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them.” – W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)

It can be simply defined as “the ability to access”, but more specifically it is about ensuring that people can perceive, understand, operate, and interact with the web. When we talk about accessibility, we are talking about encompassing all disabilities that affect access online. This includes auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, and visual. 

When designing for accessibility, one concept is that of universal design. Where accessible design creates products that are usable by those with disabilities, universal design creates products for the widest possible audience, this includes, but isn’t limited to, people with a disability.

An example of this would be:

Adding a button to your site to increase the font size (making it accessible).

Making all the text bigger so more people are able to read it without needing to change the size (making it universal).

Who does accessibility impact?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) more than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability. This can range from everything from sight loss, hearing loss or dexterity issues to dyslexia, learning difficulties or colour blindness. 

Accessibility isn’t just about people with disabilities. It can impact everyone. 

We can all find ourselves in different circumstances that are situational or temporary that affect how we access the web. 

Permanent - One Arm
Temporary - Arm Injury
Situational - New Parent
Credit: Microsoft Design

Sometimes, non-disabled users will make use of accessibility features for convenience, without even realising it. For example, if you are on a train home and you have forgotten your headphones, you may watch a video on YouTube with captions on.

In this situation, your needs are the same as someone with an auditory disability.

Not all users may have a disability but they may use your website in the same way.  Accessibility helps to improve the experience for everyone. 

Why is accessibility important?

The main reason that accessibility is important is that it makes your website usable by as many people as possible. This not only helps maximise your target audience, but accessibility often improves overall usability. A positive user journey is good for the user and is more likely to lead to repeat visits. 

There is also the legal side to consider. Through the UK’s Equality Act 2010, disabled people have the right to access everyday goods and services (for example websites). To comply with this law, reasonable adjustments must be made to accommodate these users. There are similar laws in different countries around the world. 

Other benefits to accessibility include Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Search Engines view websites similar to screen readers and poor accessibility standards can penalise a site from their rankings.  Accessibility can also benefit those on mobile devices or smaller screens as well as slower internet connections. 

How to improve accessibility?

There are many things that can be done to improve accessibility on your website, here are some of the most important that are quick and easy to implement:

Content and Language

Accessible content begins with well-structured copy. Clearly identifiable headings,  short sentences and paragraphs make it easier to skim content and retain information. Separating out content such as lists or quotes from the rest of the copy helps to break up the page. 

Language makes a huge difference to your content and striking the right tone with your users. Clear, simple and concise language makes for the most accessible text. Overusing technical jargon, acronyms, abbreviations or vague terms can be off-putting so try to avoid these where possible.

Example of how to implement content with headings of different sizing, spacing between and paragraphs broken into smaller chunks.

Contrast

When the text colour is too close to the background colour it will be hard to read. Ensure the contrast is strong enough to read clearly, you can use bold text to help with this. For text over images, use gradients or overlays to help. Whatever the contrast, it is important to use a font size that will be readable across the page, ideally 16px or above.

Example of contrast on two donation buttons, one that fails and one that passes AA tests.

Images and Video

Adding a text alternative for an image, which is used by screen readers or when an image doesn’t load, is essential. Make the text as descriptive as possible to help understand the context of the image. For video, make use of captions and subtitles for users to be able to clearly distinguish audio. Keep the captions short and don’t forget to include important audio cues. 

Example of alternative text, one with a poor alternative text and one with good alternative text that provides context tot he image.

Forms and error messages

Forms are the key elements on interactive sites but even the simplest form can be difficult for people with learning difficulties. Keep important information on the screen at all times to refer to when needed. Make use of icons to support colour on error messages to help draw attention to them quickly. Try to use human language like “Sorry, we couldn’t find the page you wanted” instead of “Error 404” as well.

Example of form design, one with no labels or icons for error message, and one that uses labels and icons for error messages.

These are just some of the things you can do to ensure your website is accessible to all users. There are many more that can be included such as keyboard functionality, reducing motion and avoiding/correcting mistakes through validation.

Who is responsible for accessibility?

“Accessibility is not the responsibility of one person. Everyone on your team is responsible for making your product accessible.” – Gov.uk

Everyone is responsible for accessibility at some level. It is a collective involvement throughout the whole organisation, from project managers to developers,  who all have different roles when it comes to accessibility. 

It is important to create a culture of accessibility and universal design so it is part of each project from the offset and not considered an afterthought or one person’s responsibility. 

At THINK Digital, we are able to review, test and implement accessibility standards on your digital user experience. Recent clients include UNFPA, UNICEF, Oxfam, and the Swedish Red Cross. If you would like to know more, please contact us.

The value of user testing

When it comes to the design process, one area that can often be overlooked is testing, especially with real users. Time and budget constraints can be a factor, but as user testing can add invaluable insight into how people interact with your site, it is too important to avoid.

What is user testing?

User testing is any form of testing that includes the user in the design process. One common example of this is usability testing where participants are asked to complete specific tasks while being observed. This allows you to see how real users interact with your site and identify ways to improve the experience.

Why is it important?

Every time you include the user in the design process, you are able to understand more about the people who use your products and the way they interact with them. Observing a user complete a specific task, such as making a donation, will help you to learn if they can complete it successfully and how long it takes to do. You discover how satisfied the user is with the experience and if anything can be done to improve it.

For example, when we recently carried out some user testing for a client, we were interested to learn that users wanted a more personal connection to the cause. They wanted to see the impact a donation was making to those in need before donating themselves. It helped us to understand the ‘why’ behind the user’s decision making process and we were able to add relevant information to the page.

These learnings help you to shape the products you build and ensure they put usability at the forefront. By creating a positive user experience, you can help to improve engagement and conversions on your sites.

When should you do it?

Testing in any form should be included throughout the design process, but during the early stages it can help identify issues that would be expensive to fix later on. There is also value in testing during the final build stage as it can help to identify issues that might have been hard to replicate earlier on in the project.

Of course there is no bad time to run user testing. During a recent project, multiple changes were made to the point where the user experience no longer matched our original intentions. We went back to the drawing board and designed a new version that incorporated the updated requirements and put this through a round of usability testing. This helped us to iterate the process and release a version that offered a better user experience than the original concept.

How do I get started?

The best time to start is now. Any insight into how your users interact with your product will lead to a better user experience. As Christopher Murphy says in his post “A Comprehensive Guide To User Testing”:

“It’s far better to run some usability testing using what you have to hand than to run no usability testing at all.”

At THINK Digital, we are able to help support and implement user testing strategies to gain key insights in your digital user experience. Recent clients include UNFPA, UNICEF, Oxfam, and OCHA. If you would like to know more, please contact us.

Is Coronavirus stealing everyone’s attention?

With the Covid-19 crisis escalating worldwide, we thought it would be interesting to see whether the intense focus on this particular pandemic is affecting the attention that other global issues receive. What impact has it had on other charities, especially those that work in non health-related fields? Have people stopped talking about climate change, poverty and famine? Does anyone even remember the pre-Christmas wildfires in Australia, which seemed to be the only thing people were talking about online for weeks?

We plugged a host of keywords into a social listening tool to see what we could find out. Some interesting things emerged – some expected, some less so.

Coronavirus is the hot topic, but for how long?

Unsurprisingly, online chat about coronavirus has shot up since the end of February. At its peak, over 12-13 March, there were around 35 million mentions of it online. However, there has been a dip in the couple of days since. Will we get to a stage where people are bored of talking about it? All jokes will have been rinsed, all pictures of empty supermarket shelves and disinformation about people with coronavirus not being able to see the moon shared to the point of inanity.

Compare this to the 2019-20 wildfires in Australia, which killed 34 humans and an estimated one billion animals. The online chat hit a first peak in late August, with over two million mentions per day, and then a second peak in December with 1.5 million. In the last two months it has stayed steady at half a million mentions a day.

This has not had much impact on other disaster topics

More surprisingly, the new focus on coronavirus has not coincided with much of a dip in discussions about other global issues. People are still talking about climate change, refugees, poverty, and cancer. Mentions of these issues have only dipped by 2% since the end of February compared to the four months prior.

This has had an impact on large charities

While people are still talking about global issues more broadly, they are talking less about the large charities that tackle them. Chat about Greenpeace, Cancer Research UK, UNICEF, WWF and more has decreased by 28% since coronavirus started consuming all media output. Mentions of charity, fundraising, donations, and non-profits have also decreased by 11% since the end of February.

So to some extent, the intense focus on coronavirus has impacted on the attention that unrelated charities are receiving. It remains to be seen whether those charities notice a dip in income, although those that rely heavily on events or footfall in shops for their fundraising will almost certainly be the hardest hit.

For now, coronavirus is, of course, dominating global debate. How long that lasts for is unknown, but it is encouraging for engagers and fundraisers in non-profits around the world alike to see that other important global issues are not going unnoticed, at least for the timebeing. 

Organisational health: are you getting your five a day?

Does anyone else struggle as much as I do to be healthy? To ensure you get those five a day in? To reduce sugar and fat intake, to drink enough water, do enough exercise, get enough sleep…and the list goes on. It can be hard to be healthy, right? We are constantly told that if we don’t do these things, our bodies could fail us, we could be faced with future issues, and worst case, lead us to an early demise.

The same applies to organisations.

Organisations need to be healthy, and if they aren’t, they can fail. Fail their customers, their employees and themselves. Organisations won’t struggle to succeed because their ideas are rubbish or they don’t have enough talented people, they’ll struggle because they aren’t healthy. They aren’t looking after themselves or their customers.

So what does being healthy actually mean?

I would describe a healthy organisation as one with an environment that is:

  • …Free of internal politics
  • …Has a low turnover of talent
  • …Customer centric
  • …Clear on their purpose
  • …Not working in silos
  • …Has an aligned leadership team
  • …is transparent

So how do we, as organisations, ensure we are doing what we can to be as healthy as possible? So that we can serve our customers and strive for the purpose in which we established ourselves in the first place. Below I am going to outline what I believe the key ‘five a day’ are that all organisations should have that will help work towards achieving the aforementioned healthy environment.

1. Purpose

Without purpose, we are merely performing seemingly meaningless tasks to no aim. And without purpose, how do we find motivation? Without motivation, how do we do a good job? And if we don’t do a good job, how does an organisation succeed? And so on…

Most senior leaders would say their organisation does have purpose, or perhaps you would call it your vision, and I would agree that they probably do. The key, however, is to ensure that purpose is felt by every single individual working within that organisation, from the CEO to the finance director to interns. Not only do organisations need to ensure purpose is known and felt, they have the responsibility to guide their teams to know how to act on it. How do they know if their day-to-day work is in line with that purpose?

2. Strategy and priorities

(OK, so this is two things but I needed to squeeze them in!)

Creating a strong and tangible strategy, and outlining the organisational priorities are how you guide your teams in knowing where they should focus. It is how they’re able to know how they play a part in contributing towards the purpose of the organisation. Again most organisations would say they have a strategy, but how transparent is that strategy? And how aligned is it to your purpose?

Your strategy should derive from your purpose, and your priorities should then derive from your strategy. Those prioritise should feed into every team for them to disseminate into objectives that can be measured and tied right back up to the organisation’s purpose.

3. Measurement

So you’ve defined your purpose, strategy and priorities, but how do you know if you’re achieving/have achieved them? In my experience measurement can be overlooked. People talk about objectives and goals, but what are the hard measures to know if they have been achieved and more so, been successful.

4. Team Design

We know there are certain things teams need to be successful. A successful team doesn’t happen by chance, or we certainly shouldn’t leave it to chance to see whether they succeed or not. To help teams navigate through the 5 stages of team development (forming, storming, norming, performing, adjourning), we need to help them define tools to equip them in being the best they can be.

Like organisations, teams need to define their own micro-operating system. How do they get work done together? What do they expect of one another? What tools and routines are needed to make work ‘work’ for them? What’s their priority? How will they be measured? All these need defining and acknowledged at a team level for them to be armed in dealing with life as a team.

Setting aside time when new teams are setup to work create their operating system, and having regular time together to check into as the team develops is invaluable, and should be prioritised equal to getting work done.

5. Alignment

There is nothing more confusing than being told conflicting things in a given situation. Whether that be medical advice, car mechanic advice or what outfit looks best! I believe humans at their core crave simplicity and clarity and this transcends to the workplace too.

Leadership teams need to be aligned and consistent in their communication in the workplace. They also need to be aligned in their action. If leaders say one thing but do another, you can be sure that it’s the action that will be noticed more and replicated, especially if it’s at odds with what is being verbally communicated. Leaders need to practise what they preach.

Patrick Lencioni talks fantastically on organisational health as a whole in his book The Advantage, but specifically about the importance of a cohesive leadership team. Similarly to parenting advice, a cohesive, aligned ‘front’ leading the way ensures that there is clarity and consistency. As leaders, commit to backing one another up, even if you may disagree, disagree away from the front-line. Showing a lack of alignment at leadership level can cause employees to play leaders off one another – much like the split-up parent scenario – ‘but Mum said I could…’

Remove any cause for cracks to appear by sophisticating your leadership team decision making processes, and committing to living and breathing the decision made outside the boardroom, even if you were in opposition of the decision made.

So there’s a swift overview of my ‘five a day’ for keeping your organisation healthy. Hopefully they provide food for thought (no pun intended) and some ideas for where to focus if you feel your organisation could benefit from being a little healthier.

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If you feel your organisation could benefit from being a little healthier, whether that be in helping a team/s to define their own operating system to work better together, or to work with a leadership team to help build trust and cohesiveness, please contact us at contact@thinkds.org to discuss how we could support through building a tailored plan of workshops and coaching programmes.

Come and join us!

We’re looking for an experienced freelance digital project manager to help us on our mission to transform the world of non-profit digital engagement:

Role profile: Digital Project Manager

Contract type: Freelance

Contract length: Initially to end of 2018, with the possibility of this being extended

Hours: Ideally 1-2 days per week

Salary: Please submit day rate with application

Location: Home based

Accountable to: Strategy Director

 

About THINK Digital

THINK Digital helps to create and deliver transformational digital strategies and data-driven engagement campaigns for national and international non-profit causes. With a small core team and a wider team of experienced associates, we work in an agile, responsive and flexible way from across the UK and internationally in order to best meet our clients’ needs.

All of the team is home-based and work from both the UK and elsewhere. We have regular remote team meetings and face-to-face team meetings twice a year, usually in London or Bristol.

About the role

We are looking to take on a freelance Project Manager who can manage a large, year-long piece of work for an international client.

The role will involve being the main day-to-day contact person for the client and will involve managing the THINK team who work on the project.

Core deliverables over the course of the project include:

  • Producing a global digital fundraising strategy
  • Designing, building and hosting a global digital donation platform
  • Developing and delivering three digital-only fundraising and engagement campaigns
  • Building and managing an ongoing online donor engagement journey

As well as managing this project, there may be other projects which you would be asked to work on as well over the course of the year.

Responsibilities

  • Setting up projects, including briefing documents and timelines and agreeing these with the client
  • Briefing in the internal project team, including task setting and deadlines
  • Keeping the project running to time, ensuring that tasks are completed on time and to spec
  • Ensuring that the internal team has the information required from the client
  • Ensuring that the client knows of requirements from them and that these are gathered from the client and passed on to the internal team
  • Liaising with the client to keep them updated on project progress
  • Keeping the Strategy Director updated on project progress
  • Producing reports on results, sharing these with the Strategy Director and the client
  • Organising regular results calls with the client
  • Feeding back to the internal team on amendments required

Person specification

Essential:

  • At least two years’ experience of digital project management
  • Experience of using project management tools, such as Basecamp and Leankit
  • Ability to analyse data, especially in Google Analytics
  • Experience of report writing
  • Ability to manage a number of projects/tasks concurrently
  • Ability to manage people and their time in order to deliver tasks to spec and on time
  • Experience of liaising with clients in a timely and professional manner
  • Proficient in use of Microsoft Office products
  • Fluent in English

Desirable:

  • Experience of working in/for the non-profit sector
  • Knowledge of using Facebook Business Manager and mass marketing tools (ie Mailchimp)
  • Experience of using CMS
  • Educated to undergraduate level

Application details

Please send your CV and a covering letter, including your day rate, to Aroon Dougan (aroon@thinkds.org) by 5pm UK time on Friday 26 January 2018. Please feel free to email Aroon beforehand if you have any questions.

 

Capturing live content to enhance donations

This week I’m in Oslo, working from the Homeless World Cup annual tournament, capturing live content to enhance fundraising opportunities.

The Homeless World Cup brings together teams of people from over 50 countries who have experienced homelessness in the past year. They compete over the course of a week in a series of football matches culminating in finals on the last day.

Being here has given me the opportunity to watch the games, see how sport brings people together and gives them something to strive towards. It has meant that I can speak to the players and hear their stories, capture them on video, and use this live content to drive donations.

Through a mixture of YouTube content, scripts for commentators and celebs (Michael Sheen), Facebook boosted posts, and Facebook ads to specific target countries and audiences based on who is playing we’ve been driving people to a donation page. The content on this has been updated throughout the week based on people I’ve met and the stories they’ve shared.

Working from the tournament has also enabled me to see the correlation between donations and people who are in the stands watching the matches first-hand. For example, when Sweden play, I can immediately see donations coming through in Swedish krona.

While of course in the world of digital, it’s possible to do all of this work remotely and be capturing content and monitoring results from afar, being here has really brought the tournament to life and has meant that I’ve been fully absorbed in the atmosphere and the stories which has enhanced the content I’m using to generate donations.

Three key components to a strong fundraising campaign

At THINK Digital we believe that there are a number of key components to running successful campaigns if you’re a non-profit. We wanted to share three of them with you here.

  1. Creating a sense of urgency

When someone sees your campaign, you want them to act there and then. To feel that if they don’t act the opportunity will be missed. This is easy if you’re running an emergency campaign or one with a very short timeframe, but less easy in other circumstances.

The best opportunities, of course, are those with real deadlines to work towards. For example, Greenpeace’s effort to get supporters to sign a petition before Donald Trump backed out of the Paris Accord.

However, trying to create a sense of urgency for other campaigns is more difficult. Using a countdown when a campaign is running for three months, for example, makes people think that there is no urgency and no reason for them to take action now. Trying to enforce a sense of urgency can often have the opposite effect.

We have found that using ‘key moments’ within a long campaign provides the opportunity to ask supporters to act now. For example, for a recent campaign we helped deliver focusing on penguins, we used World Penguin Day as a key moment to ask supporters to donate.

  1. Audience targeting

Having a well thought out audience targeting strategy can be key in helping to achieve the campaign goals. An effective strategy will use those goals to determine who will most likely engage in the campaign, and ensure that marketing budget can be used as wisely as possible.

Using existing supporters as a basis to match potential supporters to is usually a good starting point, but some thought needs to be put into this. For example, supporters who have attended a non-profit’s events or signed a petition are not necessarily those who will donate to an online campaign.

As important as it is to have an audience targeting strategy in place before a campaign launches, you should also be open to testing it during the early stages of the campaign and then adapt it depending on performance.

  1. Consistency

We talk about joined-up, consistent approaches across a lot of our work, and it is no different when running campaigns.

When planning a digital campaign, think about how easily people can see all of your online platforms and content. Treating the campaign in isolation on one channel or page (for example the campaign landing page) doesn’t give it as good a chance of succeeding as if the content is consistent across other platforms and channels too.

The campaign should have high visibility on all channels and platforms. There should also be consistency of messaging across communications. If a key campaign message goes out on Facebook, it should be reflected on all other social media channels, and go out in a supporter email at the same time.

Ten characteristics of successful digital organisations

Research has found that whatever the organisation – be they in the corporate or non-profit sector, and regardless of what product, cause or service they are engaged in – those which are having the most success in the digital space all share similar characteristics.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve worked with a range of INGOs to help them build their digital capacity and increase their engagement and fundraising potential through online channels.

Here are ten characteristics which enable organisation to succeed in the digital space:

  • User-focused, user-centric and user-accountable
  • Symbiotic: joined up/collaborative in spirit and in practice
  • Of the web, not just on the web
  • Open: innovative, inventive and aware
  • Analytical and data-driven
  • Inclusive: everyone on board, everyone involved
  • Agile and flexible with a strong test and learn culture
  • Have and encourage strong leadership, teamwork and focus, at all levels of the organisation
  • Interactive: dialogue is invited, encouraged and valued
  • Think like a platform

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you adopt a digital-first culture, get in touch – contact@thinkds.org

Challenging preconceived notions of target audiences

As part of a recent campaign for an INGO, we carried out extensive testing of Facebook advertising across a broad range of countries. We not only wanted to raise funds for a specific campaign, but were also testing proof of concept of the global digital fundraising strategy we had produced for them.

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