Ian Devlin re­veals how he got trivago to start tak­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity is­sues into con­sid­er­a­tion when build­ing for the web

net magazine - - CONTENTS - Ian (@ian­de­vlin) is a lead de­vel­oper at trivago where he builds UI things. He has an in­ter­est in se­man­tic HTML, and en­cour­ages ev­ery­one to think about ac­ces­si­bil­ity 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.

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