Everyone Needs Community. Community Needs Everyone
One of the most valuable assets in anyone's life is a generous community.
Communities unite us. Communities make us feel part of something greater than ourselves. They allow us to connect with people, discover, share, achieve our goals, and more.
At Hivebrite, our mission is to help organizations build vibrant communities.
We want to help organizations create communities that everyone can enjoy regardless of visual, hearing, physical, or cognitive differences. It is therefore essential to consider digital accessibility when designing them.
Our teams are working to make the Hivebrite platform as accessible as possible to people of all ability levels.
Our Accessibility Journey so Far
Start of 2020
At the beginning of the year, we started to update our design system. A design system is a collection of reusable graphical components that can be assembled to build applications.
This offered the perfect opportunity to incorporate accessibility into our design system (and platform) from a UI/UX design perspective and a code repository perspective.
We concentrated on integrating accessibility into all new design elements while progressively giving different pages an accessibility "facelift". Not all pages needed a complete redesign; some just needed a few minor changes to be up to scratch.
We recognized from the beginning that if our mission to make our platform accessible was to be successful, we needed to embed accessibility into our processes and incorporate manual and automatic testing.
To accelerate our journey to be accessible and make sure we weren't missing anything, we called on a web accessibility consulting firm to audit our platform. The team concentrated primarily on the live feed and user settings—two core pages of our platform.
The results of the audit enabled us to:
- Make the live feed and user settings completely accessible
- Apply the same auditing framework to the rest of the platform to improve accessibility
We understand that the best way to achieve and maintain accessibility is through training and educating our teams.
We developed and implemented an accessibility training course for our product, technology, and design teams. This course is now a mandatory part of all newcomers' onboarding.
The course's goal is to ensure everyone understands how different people can be affected by accessibility so we can create a better online community experience for everyone.
We also created a new team dedicated to accessibility to:
- Improve accessibility for existing features
- Serve as a reference for other development teams on accessibility matters
Start of 2021
We progressively upgraded the core component and modules of the platform, starting with the most critical features:
- Sign up, activation and login
- Home page
- Live feed
- Mobile app
We thoroughly verified these features supported keyboard navigation, screen readers, zoom, and font resizing. We also used external tools, including coolors.co, to ensure the color contrast of our graphical content was accessible and the axe plugin to identify potential accessibility issues.
We released the new accessible user profile page, group header, and navigation bar. We also published our official accessibility statement, detailing our commitment to accessibility, why it is important to us, and what we are doing to become more accessible.
Our platform is fully customizable, so our customers must be guided in making the right choices when designing their communities. We created a customer support guide on building accessible communities to help community teams with their design and structure choices.
What We Have Learnt so Far
While there is still work to do on our platform, we have come a long way and learnt some valuable lessons:
- Accessibility should be top of mind from the start when designing a new feature—not an afterthought! We now include usability reviews when designing any new feature. We also ensure our design system is made of reusable, accessible graphical components to make all future development and design choices easier.
- When designing with accessibility in mind, you often create a more straightforward and ultimately more usable design for everyone. For example, error detection in form input is an accessibility requirement that is beneficial to all users.
- Accessibility is a shared responsibility between designers, developers, and product managers. All our team members share a common understanding of our accessibility standards and how to test accessibility.
- Testing with real users, such as people using keyboard-only navigation or screen readers, is the best way to identify accessibility issues and learn how to make better design choices.
Hivebrite customers can keep up to date with our accessibility progress with our list of monthly accessibility improvements and known limitations.
If you've got a question, comment, or feedback on anything related to accessibility, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hivebrite is a comprehensive and flexible community engagement platform. It empowers organizations of all sizes and sectors to launch, manage, and grow fully branded private communities. Schedule a demo today!