Ian Devlin reveals how he got trivago to start taking accessibility issues into consideration when building for the web
Ian Devlin reveals how he got trivago to start tackling accessibility issues
Many companies that build things for the web are guilty of neglecting accessibility, and trivago was one of them. Over the last year and a half we have been making an effort to correct this and are slowly improving things.
First of all we had to overcome a number of internal issues. Some in our department either lacked awareness of the topic or they didn’t see the need for changes to be made; they didn’t want to spend time on accessibility but rather on something ‘more important’. Management also showed indifference towards any improvements because there was no tangible way to measure how many users were impacted. One of our company values is ‘power of proof’; we can measure the number of visitors to our site who use outdated browsers, but it is very difficult to measure the visitors who are using tools such as screen readers, or the ones who navigate the site via the keyboard.
Overall people displayed apathy towards making accessibility improvements. This wasn’t a showstopper, it just made improving things more difficult. Challenge accepted. Due to the way trivago works internally, if employees believe in something strongly enough, they can push the topic from the bottom up. So this is what we did.
To tackle the awareness problem, we aimed to show what accessibility means, how it can affect people, and what can be done to improve things. During an internal hackathon, a bare bones implementation of the trivago website with improvements for screen readers was built. This was then presented to others internally, comparing the user experience between our live website and a more accessible version. Accessibility consultant Karl Groves was invited to give a talk entitled ‘I never knew a website could hurt somebody’, which highlighted the user effect of ignoring accessibility issues. There was also an internal shift in focus, with a concentration on building things that created user value. This change was a major boost for accessibility, as every improvement in this area brings user value.
Collectively these had the effect of showing that accessibility is important, and that not only is it the right thing to do, it also increases our potential audience and therefore revenue. There is still some developer apathy to overcome, but internal promotion and code reviews play a huge part in improving things and further educating each other.
There is still work to be done, but things are improving for the better.