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Slowing Down to Speed Up: How CarMax’s Accessible Design System Accelerated Inclusivity and Innovation

A headshot of Robertson Odom, Principal Software Engineer at CarMax. He has short gray hair and glasses, and is smiling.
“Level Access helps us proactively address accessibility, beginning in the design concept phase and continuing through engineering, QA, and ongoing monitoring. It's been a very valuable partnership!”

Robertson Odom,

Principal Software Engineer, CarMax

The largest used car retailer in the U.S., CarMax is committed to providing all customers with exceptional user experiences across its digital portfolio. That means prioritizing accessibility.

“If our product doesn’t work for one person, then it doesn’t work for everybody, and we haven’t done our job,” says Molly Covert, Product Designer and Manager of CarMax’s Horizon Design System. “We want everyone to have a positive experience with CarMax, period.”

An industry leader, CarMax is also continually innovating to create new digital touchpoints. As the brand sought to marry its commitment to accessibility with a rapidly expanding and evolving digital portfolio, the team needed processes for providing inclusive, consistent user experiences at scale.

Codifying accessibility

To ensure accessibility and brand cohesion across all digital touchpoints, CarMax worked with Level Access to enhance its Horizon Design System. A design system is a set of reusable components and patterns—encompassing design elements, coded elements, and documentation—that can be assembled like LEGO bricks to create new digital properties.

As the team developed each element in its design system, they adhered to accessibility best practices. “It’s really important for us to codify accessibility as we build, because it’s just as important as color or typography,” reflects Covert.

CarMax also prioritized accessibility in its approach to documentation. “Not everything can be expressed in code,” says Robertson Odom, Principal Software Engineer at CarMax. “So our design system documentation hosts accessibility information for every component in our library.”

This information includes instructions for using each element in an accessible way—which the team reinforced through training.

Molly Covert, Product Designer and Manager of CarMax's Horizon Design System
“It's one thing to build an accessible component, but if you put that component in an inaccessible environment, it's no longer accessible. We needed education to embed accessibility values on the team level.”

Molly Covert,

Product Designer and Manager of CarMax's Horizon Design System

Consistent design; streamlined development

The Horizon Design System didn’t come to life overnight. It required a dedicated team to produce, and it’s still evolving. But this initial investment of time and resources ultimately resulted in a much faster development lifecycle.

“To build our design system, we had to slow down to speed up,” says Covert. Because product teams can assemble new, accessible digital properties from pre-built components and patterns, they can operate at a higher velocity.

And CarMax has achieved gains beyond speed to market, significantly reducing technical debt and fulfilling its aim to ensure consistent, accessible user experiences.

“We’re building accessibility directly into components, so when we update these components, changes flow back into all consuming artifacts and applications,” Odom explains. “That ensures users’ experience remains consistent across our digital portfolio.”

To learn more about the Horizon Design System and CarMax’s road to online inclusion, access our full on-demand webinar.

Access the webinar

CarMax’s three tips for creating an accessible design system

1. Make accessibility a requirement for all design system elements.

“When we set out to create our design system, accessibility was part of the acceptance criteria for everything we made.” — Covert

2. To ensure the design system is used inclusively, combine accessibility documentation with role-specific training.

“We make accessibility education and training an ongoing priority.” — Odom

3. Share success stories to drive adoption across your organization.

“We make sure to share all of our wins; how our teams are thriving using the design system. That helps build confidence in the system, which drives adoption.” — Covert

Integrate accessibility and innovation with Level Access

Level Access provides detailed design reviews from accessibility experts so you can ensure your digital experiences are accessible from day one. We’ll also upskill your team through role-specific training and equip you with the tooling and support needed to embed accessibility into every stage of the digital experience lifecycle.

Engage with our team today to learn how we can help you take a more streamlined, sustainable approach to online inclusion.

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Learn more about CarMax’s and Edmunds’ accessibility commitment

Discover the driving force behind CarMax’s and Edmunds’ companywide commitment to building more accessible, inclusive digital experiences for customers, partners, and staff. Level Access is pleased to partner with the innovator of their industry on their road to better accessibility.

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