Test your competitors’ products to discover their accessibility strengths and weaknesses
Take accessibility into account as part of your research and competitive analysis. We often talk about accessibility as a competitive advantage in the marketplace — people with disabilities are often very loyal customers when they find a solution that works well for them.
Five things to consider when testing your competitor’s product
1. Can you use your competitor’s product using only a keyboard?
If you can, they’re thinking about accessibility in a reasonably mature way.
2. When you’re using your competitors’ products with a keyboard, can you see a visual focus indicator?
You should always be able to see the focus outline in an interface as you’re moving through with the keyboard. If you can see it, they’ve done a decent job of making things accessible. If you can’t see it, then there’s opportunity for you to outshine them when it comes to designing for keyboard usage.
3. Do all of the form fields have visible labels that are programmatically tied to their field?
If you click on the label, you should see the focus go into the label’s field. If the product has good form labels, there’s a good chance other parts of the interface are also accessible.
4. What does automated testing tell you about the product?
Automated testing is only part of the solution, but it often serves as a good proxy for the entire picture. A team that has taken good care of accessibility in their product won’t have many issues detectable by automated tools. On the flip side, if their product has a lot of issues detected with automation, there’s a good chance they also have many other accessibility issues.
5. Does their product use semantic markup well?
Do they use
<h6> for headings? Do they use actual
<button> elements and real links for things that are clickable or is all just a mess of
<span> elements with click handlers attached?
How did they do?
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but if you take a look at how well your competitors are performing in each of the above categories, you’ll get a sense of where they’ve valued accessibility. Then you can note opportunities to be more accessible and give your product the competitive advantage.
I know — you’re probably saying, “But we don’t have time for accessibility. We have to get to market faster!”
I get that. I do. But remember this: the reason most people think accessibility takes longer is that they’ve always done it retroactively. That’s what eats up all the time. Doing things right from the start will save time in the long run.