Building Accessibility Into Your Customer Journey with Caitlin of Caitie Means Business
TRANSCRIPT AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED Diane: Hey, Hey, today's guest Caitlin from Katy means business is a digital designer of customer journeys that feel. Delightful and I'll focus on human connection and harnessing tech for good. We're going to be chatting about how to build accessibility into your whole customer journey. Not just the button color on your website. Hey, Caitlin. Welcome to the show. Caitlin: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. Diane: So let's kick things off with a little intro to you and your business journey. Caitlin: Thank you. I am a customer experience designer. I live in New Jersey. I in my day to day, so I set up the online systems that run your business and design them beautifully so your clients have a really nice ride as they move through your digital ecosystem. Diane: That sounds so simple, but I know the complexity that is there. so you and I have talked about customer journey and what it's like and what the online space is like, and one of the things we've talked about is accessibility. And for me, I mean, that seems a pretty fundamental element of a customer journey. But it feels to me a little reminiscent of gdpr and I don't want anyone to stop listening or anything at this point. This is not a GDPR episode. But it feels like both of them got a lot of attention, have some really complex, almost illegible rules and regulations that have been put out about them and have been enforced at a big business level. But because the risk to small businesses, like if we get it wrong, the chance that someone is actually coming after us is quite minor. It can be one of those [00:02:00] things that it's totally on the to-do list. I think most people want to make sure everything of theirs is accessible, but maybe it gets pushed down the to-do list a little bit at the same time, both of them are also about just like fundamentally being a good human, right? We've all got the concept of gdpr, right? We don't wanna use people's data without their consent. how do we build accessibility into our businesses in a meaningful way that is maybe not just what are the colors of the buttons on my website? Caitlin: Right. So when I talk to people about accessibility, I find that they go for one of two tracks here in the us. A big part, part of that conversation is the legality and the compliance and the risk management around accessibility. And that's, that's one conversation. And there's a separate conversation that's just about building things. So they are, there is access for everyone. Unrelated to the, like, it's just an inclusion conversation. It's a diversity and an inclusion conversation. It's not a risk management legal conversation. And that legal side of that conversation is the piece where I think a lot of people get overwhelmed when the law that governs it is ancient and doesn't mention websites in it. So how to apply that to a modern day business. Is is very, is over. It doesn't make any sense. Like, and it's overwhelming in that, and of course it is. You're not being given good information here and it's very technical and it's very heavy and it's very old and it's predated. So that, that's a conversation I that I don't think that's the conversation we need to have as much. I think when you wanna focus on genuine accessibility and bringing that into your business on a day-to-day, it's about establishing a tool belts About how do we make things more accessible? How do we do that holistically? How do we do that in baby steps? How do we do that a little bit at a time? How do we have each one of the team members that works in my business start to bring that into the equation rather than talking about checking all the, like [00:04:00] ticking all the boxes of accessibility legislation? Diane: That's a great question. How do we do that? Caitlin: Yeah. So. When it comes to accessibility, there's, there's people a lot of people talk about accessibility in the website space. I think that's because the legislation that does exist talks about it in the website space, but accessibility goes all the way through your funnel. Your website might be kind of like the first where people land initially but after they left your website, where did they go next? Did they have a discovery call with you? You know, do they receive emails from you, marketing emails from you? Did they get a downloadable freebie? Did they click yes and sign up for your course? Now they're in a course space. Are those things accessible? And sure, you can like Google a checklist for how to make each one accessible, but they are all ruled by a, like a principal underlying tool belts. So like instead of thinking, how do I make my website accessible? How do I make my email marketing accessible? How do I make my course accessible? I think that it would be hovas. To normalize the tool belt that is the same in all of these situations so that you can execute it so your team can execute it. And we're all just operating from that same sort of core tool belt. And the core tool belt is like color contrast, right? That that's something that, making sure that the, the text pops off the page with a high enough contrast ratio that people with all different variations of eyesight can see it. And that is something that applies to your website, to your email marketing, to your, that applies everywhere. But it's just one, it's one skill. So focusing on the skillset rather than the platform, I think is the way to start growing those skills as an individual business owner, and to talk about those skills with the different people on your team. Some other examples. So I just mentioned color contrast, like font size making sure that the information is flexible. In that it offers multiple ways it can be consumed. For instance, I just put out a downloadable freebie, and if somebody wants to print it, can they do that? If somebody wants to view it on desktop, does it look good? If someone wants to [00:06:00] view it on mobile, does it look good? Like just making sure that what you're putting out into the world is responsive and flexible. That gives people the opportunity to interact with it in different ways because they have different situations here. And that doesn't necessarily mean in a disability context. Sure. There's lots of disabled people out there, and there's also people with temporary injuries. There's also people with situational limitations, and so providing access is really just providing access to everyone, making it easier for all of us to interact with your content and your business. Diane: I think everybody wants to be as inclusive as they can, but I think it does start to feel like, how do I think of everything? Just the scope of it. You know, for example, I have had people come into Zoom calls, and for me it's much easier for me to interact with someone if I can see them on Zoom, even if I'm just talking to them, so I can see if something's landing. But for some people, that makes the whole experience almost untenable that they have to be on camera. How do we figure out what the scope is for our tool belts to make sure we have all the tools, if you see what I mean, before we even get used to practicing using them. You know, how do I know that I need each individual element? Caitlin: This might be a frustrating answer, but I think it's just to start small, really, to just start with a few things. You, it is not. Possible for you to design something for everyone. Literally. It's not like you just pointed out there's, you're gonna hop on calls sometimes where being visual really benefits you and is difficult for the other person. Like we're all gonna, we're there is such a plethora of people and preferences and abilities and levels of access and we can't create for every, everyone, but we can kind of, we can hold that as a North star. There are some best practices that I think that everyone can fit in their tool belt. It also hates acknowledging like you're not a web developer, you're never gonna be a web developer. So there are some skills that may just not be [00:08:00] in your lane to do, but there are some skills that are absolutely in your lane to do that are as easy as learning to bold text in a Word document and change heading. Like these are, they're skills that you probably already have but haven't necessarily contextualized as being access related. So as far as scope, gosh, it feels like it could be an endless rabbit hole, but it doesn't. It doesn't need to be. And it, and there's, I think that an honoring of your own piece of the equation. Like if you're not a web developer, you're not a web developer, if you don't have an extensive UX background, it's okay. You don't have an extensive UX background. Maybe you're a copywriter. So your piece of the equation is to just focus on work. It's maybe you are a virtual assistant who needs a little bit more flexibility in their tool belt cuz you're dealing with all kinds of media, not just words, but still you're not a web developer. So it's okay if you don't have the entirety of the tool belt here, but I think normalizing a, a basic tool belt for everyone would be a lovely place to start. Diane: We're kind of saying rather than thinking of this as like, here's my accessibility website checklist, we're talking more about saying accessibility should be a checklist item. On your customer journey. So like, Hey, I'm designing a sales page. You make sure you've got a heading, you've got images, you've used color, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And is this accessible? Rather than agreeing like, and did you make sure your contrast was this and your font was the size and it was this and that thing. It was like, Hey, when I'm designing this, have I thought through accessibility? And then when I'm about to send an email, Oh, there's an image in here. Have I thought about the fact that there's an image in here? And is that relevant? Like, can someone read the email without the image? Caitlin: Beautiful. I love it. Yes. I think that's a great way . to. think about it in the day to day, does that feel good to you? To, does that feel supportive to you and in someone wrapping their own head around it? Diane: I mean, I think knowing where to put a [00:10:00] reminder for yourself while it's becoming. Embedded, or as you said, like as you're practicing. I think also for me, what is really helpful is, is actually paying attention online. So I was chatting to somebody and they were like, Hey, I no longer require a Zoom call. I have a link where they can have a Zoom call with me or have an asynchronous Voxer chat message with me instead of a discovery call. And I was like, that's genius. But it's outside the norm, and so I can adapt what I'm doing to fit that. I have another friend who added an audio of her reading her sales page to her sales page, and I was like, that's Caitlin: I love the word adapt now. It is genius. You just mentioned the word adapt, and I think that that's pretty pivotal to this conversation. It's like, are we adapting the content that we have so that other people can adapt and pick and choose what they need to support themselves? I like the word adapt for this. Diane: yeah, and I think it's an element of like those specific examples really resonated for me. The Zoom call. You know, I have someone who's had a conversation with me saying like, I'm really uncomfortable. I don't wanna turn my camera on when I ask for them to put the camera on. That's fine. That it's kind of, that, I think we're almost as nervous to do accessibility as some other things cuz we don't wanna get it wrong and like, so what if we make it accessible, but not for like accessible for absolutely everyone, you know? Caitlin: Who is that fear helping is the first question that comes up for me. when I had those fears, it came from a self-protective place and not. From a place of helping and I didn't even, I don't even know that it was helping me. Also actually interfacing with people who have disabilities or are neurodivergent and having these conversations about like, what, and normalizing these conversations regardless of what I know about some, what I know or don't know about someone's level of ability and just saying, what do you need for this to be wonderful for you? This is easy for you. Like, how could we improve this? And starting to, to just normalize those conversations, nor [00:12:00] starts to normalize the idea of providing this access outside of that sort of like, I'm gonna screw it up and ev and, you know, imposter syndrome, like melt, like, ugh, analysis paralysis place. Let's just start. Diane: maybe another place it lives is in some of our market research. Because that's probably not a question we're asking in our market research right now. We are asking like, you know, how did you find it and what was great about it and what did you like about it? But we're probably not saying like, what would've made the content more accessible for you? Or, you know, what about the sales page could have been improved to make you buy, that isn't necessarily like a design question Caitlin: Was there any part of the experience you struggled on or got? I, I like doing that in my in intake forms and BA and basically intake forms and exit interviews on both sides of the equation. Somebody coming in, is there anything I can do to make this? You know, this is more supportive to you. I put it in my proposals. I have a a section in my, in my proposals about timeline and setting expectations about timeline. And, and when I send you something, I expect that you're gonna respond to it on such and such a timeline. If this timeline doesn't feel supportive to you, please let me know. I'm just inviting conversation. That person doesn't need to disclose to me any reason why. Any reason why, you know, Artificial urgency of some kind is stressful to them or why they might need more time and space, or why they want another mode of access. It doesn't, but just Oh, inviting them to let me know. Yeah. I'd be really supportive if I had more time on this. Wonderful. I have just made something more accessible to that person. I don't need to know. I don't need to know Diane: Mm-hmm. One of the things I always say to people whenever I'm talking to them about communication is that when you know better, it's your responsibility to do better. And I feel like that with accessibility can kind of be like your standard. So like we talked about, like I've seen my friend offer Voxer, I now know better. I know there is a need for that to be an option. So now I should do better right before. I had that conversation with her. It hadn't occurred to me, I know there should be contrast on the buttons on my [00:14:00] website, so if I don't do it, that is my responsibility. But before I knew that I couldn't do it. Once you have been educated by somebody or seeing something or having a conversation, that is gonna be an easier way for you to implement than to try and like read whatever the website legislation says that you're supposed to do on your website without your team of web developers. Caitlin: the internet police is not gonna whisk you away at a cyber jail for not having alt text on your images. Like if you haven't learned about alt text or you don't know how to write good alt text yet, you know, it's, it's, it's okay. I would advocate for a nice, big, deep breath, but there is literally someone who is going to actually benefit. From you making these small changes, like someone is going to have a better time and easier time. You are including someone. This is like very real. It makes a difference to people. We talk to those people and those people are you and me and everyone and here and now they're all around us. It's the statistic for the CDC in the in the US anyway, is that one in four people have a disability That's not even counting anybody who considers themselves neurodivergent or has just situational. Or temporary, you know, maybe they have a broken wrist so they can't type the same way. Or you're in a quiet library or you're in, you're in an area with, you don't have good internet. Like those are all access issues as well that don't have to do with disability. But if we just focus on that one in four statistic, if one in four people in the US has a disability, it's very hard to look at everyone around you and say, Nope, not in my corner of the internet. This isn't gonna benefit my people. They're literally like, we are surrounded by so many people. Who would benefit from better access to things and we have the ability to grant them that, and operating from that context feels empowering to me. It feels like I can help somebody. It feels like I can gift somebody something. I can share something with somebody. I can that doing better. Feels so closely related to impact in that way that I am a lot more motivated to dive in even if I [00:16:00] don't know all the things and how to do them all a hundred percent correctly all the time, that I'm absolutely willing to dive in the deep end because someone is literally gonna benefit from that like tomorrow. And that's really cool to me. Diane: And I think that's such a strong call to arms or call to action in that we as entrepreneurs talk a lot about wanting to make an impact and often that's our big conversation and we tend to think of it in terms of our clients. Usually like, yes, our prospects and stuff, but how amazing that actually you could be racking up that impact simply by doing something small that includes one extra person into the space. So you mentioned alt texts, and I want to come back to that one because you and I had a long conversation about this cuz we were talking about where we see accessibility and I was talking about specifically on Instagram, how some accounts got really good at, you know, explaining what their picture is or their images or whatever in the caption. And you had some feelings about this. Which I think made me think really differently about alt text and where it lives and what it should do, and so I wanted to like give you the opportunity to climb on your alt text soapbox. Caitlin: thank you so much. I will take that soap box. So. If anyone doesn't know what alt text is, alt text is text that shows up when an image does not load in. Instead of loading the image, the text is visible. Or if someone is consuming that content in an audio version, maybe they're using something like a screen reader, they literally cannot see the pictures. The screen reader will read that text to 'em and it, and it describes what the image is. So that's what alt text is. And alt text there's style, it's there's room for flare, in it. And that's the part of alt text that's so intriguing to me. Whereas color contrast is I need to hit a very specific ratio between this color and that color, and you either do or you don't. It's very binary. Alt text gives us room to play and [00:18:00] your alt text might be very factual. It may, you know, it might be like white woman with brown hair in room with green wall. That's very factual alt text. I love alt text. That's evocative. I had run into someone whose, whose name escapes me at the moment. I hope I can recall it during this conversation. Who approaches alt text as poetry? So how do you sum up a picture? How do you sum up the. You know, everything in that image, in a sentence that is short, sweet, and succinct, but has emotion that paints a picture. And that to that is it's poetry like, and I think that's, I love the idea of, of approaching alt text as poetry, as opposed to alt text, as actual robot information about the world. Like it's. Oh, I, I think there's, there's capacity for fun there, capacity for creativity and the capacity to share something with, like, there's just this little Easter egg out in the wild that someone gets enjoyment from receiving rather than just the baseline of receiving information. Yeah, that's my, that's my Altec soapbox. Thank you very much. Diane: And I think what you said there, it's, it's almost true inclusion. Cuz if I think when I'm creating a sales page, I'm thinking I need a picture that shows this. Like, if I'm talking about frustration, I want a picture that looks frustrating because I want the person reading the sales page to feel that vibe. And so if we look at old text as poetry or as a perspective or something, you really are inviting people into that experience more than just white women with brown hair sitting in front of a green wall. Caitlin: Right. Yeah. Diane: So if we think through the whole customer journey, which is essentially from marketing the whole way through offboarding, potential alumni, referrals, et cetera, would you say, okay, I'm gonna look at contrast, and would you go through [00:20:00] your whole customer journey and fix contrast, or would you go, I want my website to be as accessible as possible and I'm gonna do everything on my website even. And so my marketing's gonna stay as it is. My opt-in's gonna stay as it is, but like my actual like website, website. is gonna be as accessible as humanly possible. And then when I've done my website, then I'm gonna do, okay. Now maybe I'll do my opt-in pages. Okay. And then when I've done that, do you see what I mean? Are we doing one element along or are we doing all elements in one stage? Caitlin: just purely, personally, I prefer to focus on one space at a time. I am though someone who likes to think linearly about these things. So the idea of starting with. Someone's first interaction with me and then working through the customer journey top to bottom, dealing with one individual space at a time. Appeals to me and supports me. And I like, I like that I sort of have like my own checklist and I apply it to step one, step two, step three as I've move down the funnel. Or each phase as you move through your customer journey. So that supports me. That's how I like to work. If you like to work the other way, if you just figured out color contrast and you're like, oh boy, this is awesome. I'm gonna go check my color contrast on everything parachute. Yeah, I think you should. Dive in wherever it feels good, like literally however it gets you over the hump to start being involved with this, to start engaging with accessibility and putting it into your, you know, entire business funnel. Like go for it. Diane: Okay, so let's use copy as an example, because I think when we think about accessibility, we do think contrast. We think about having audio versions available. How does our writing become more accessible? Caitlin: Okay. Well, obviously, You know, the, the contrast, the color of the text and the size of the text is, is certainly one thing. Writing in plain language is a big one. So can someone accurately consume the content on your website if they like, hmm, didn't go to high school? That's one piece. So I think plain [00:22:00] language allows more people to access the content. Like, now that does not have to mean boring language, like, Far from it. But I think that plain language, casual language I love the copy on my website, so I, I'm a little biased there, but I feel like it's in plain language, but it's very, very fun and it's entertaining and it's got personality to it. But yeah, plain language. And the second piece is the way that you format that text. Think of this in terms of a Word document. You write an essay, you have, you know, you have your Word document, it's full of text. You broke up that text with headers, and in that word document you can highlight the headers and you can declare that it's a heading one, heading two, heading three. When you declare something as a heading, On the technical side, sort of under the hood there, that piece of text gets marked up and it the, it's not just that the style of that text changes, it got bigger and bolder, and it's in a different font now, but that under the hood, it has been declared, oh, this is a heading so that someone with a screen reader, for instance, can look through heading. More easy. It helps the assistive technology that a lot of people use by properly formatting our text. We are supporting people who are using assistive technology. It is not simply a design element. So those are the two ways that I would think about text when it comes to accessibility, And those are relatively easy changes to make. I mean, if people haven't come across the Hemingway app before, you can set the Hemingway app to like whatever grade you want it to be, Diane: and it Caitlin: That's such a cool app. I forgot about that app. I'm glad you mentioned it Diane: I need to use it because I like to go into like my corporate spiel. My first draft will have a whole lot of like lingo and buzzwords and stuff. And so Hemingway catches me on that, but also catches me on really long sentences, So something like that can really help you. Simplify what you're talking about. And as an extra bonus, I think it's Alex Homoe who speaks about this a lot, about the, the increase in [00:24:00] conversion that he sees from changing something to, I think it's sixth or seventh grade level because it forces you to really hone in on your message. Caitlin: You raise a really interesting point that it forces you to hone your message if you, if you're not allowed to use any of the business jargon words, and you really need to say it to a sixth grader. Yeah. You better be clear. All right, app of the week. I'm bringing this one back. Thank you for the Diane: Sure, sure. So if you could tell entrepreneurs only one thing about accessibility. What would that one thing be that you would want every entrepreneur to know? Caitlin: Oh my goodness, that they can do it. That it's not some far away skillset that they'll, you know, the, a mountain, they can't climb that a rabbit hole. They'll never get to the end of like, This is something that is as simple as, you know, starting to format your headings correctly. Like you absolutely can, like this is something that is so well within your range and power that I really hope they engage with it and give it a shot and, and start playing with it. And writing that alt text is poetry and adding their own flare and contributing to the space that way. Yeah, just that they can. Diane: So I feel like. We've potentially opened a bit of a can of worms for people today because we've expanded what they think about accessibility and, and how to do it and where it lives, and all the places we should be thinking about it. Is there a resource that you have that can help them to get started Caitlin: you betcha. I put together something called the accessibility ebook that takes them through the basics of accessibility, kind of what the, you know, the culture is around it. What answers a lot of questions about it dispels a lot of myths about, it has tons of resources, and the one thing I really particularly want to call out is it has a checklist. It has a checklist of accessibility skills that I think that you can do that Are you. Like really do and a checklist that you can share with your team so the people who [00:26:00] are working on your business and supporting your business can also start supporting it and becoming more Diane: Yeah, I think that's so key, right? Because it's not just us, it's also our team that have to kind of integrate this as a concept into their work that they're doing for us. Caitlin: Yeah. So let's give them those, those tools cuz those tools are available and the education is there. And if, if I can share it with some people and that makes a difference, hell Diane: Awesome. Okay. I'll be sure to link that in the show notes. So to finish up, I always ask my guests the same two questions. First up, what is your number one lifestyle boundary for your business? Caitlin: Ooh, I don't set an alarm to wake up in the morning. I stopped having to do that. I never wanna do it again, so I don't take calls before. 9:00 AM and my scheduler says before nine 30. So yeah, just not, not having to wake up early or work nights and weekends and that's, yeah, that's the thing for me. Keeping it in its space. Diane: Okay. Finally, what is the worst piece of cookie cutter advice you've been given as an entrepreneur? Caitlin: I can't think of a specific one, but I think there's a lot of templates out there for things, templates on how to do things and, and Templates on how to write your elevator pitch and templates for which be on your sales page. And templates for even, I mean, even accessibility template. There's just like templates on templates, on templates and like, it's, it can be so basic and so generic and it, and also very supportive to people who are just sorting out their journey. So I don't wanna, you know, I don't wanna be like, oh, templates are evil all the time. But. Gosh, like generic advice creates generic businesses, Diane: Well, this has been fab. I feel like, you know, we've already had a deep conversation on this and I feel like we've got even deeper on it today. Where can people find you on the socials to snoop on [00:28:00] your staff and see how your customer journey reflects all the accessibility, or to just get tips and strategies from you? Caitlin: Oh, thank you so much. Instagram is the primary place for me, so Instagram slash katie means business. I love posting on stories. I love getting surprise dms from people. So if anyone wants to pop in and just say hi, I would love to say hi, back to you. Send you fun emojis. So yeah, Instagram it, Katie means business. Diane: Awesome. Thank you so much for this. Caitlin: Thank you. This was delightful. Really appreciate it.
Creating accessibility in your business and funnel can seem daunting as you try to do all the things which often ends up being none of the things.
Caitlin walks you through how to think about accessibility beyond a checklist and build it into your full customer journey starting at the very first encounter.
When we talk about impact, we tend to think in terms of big gestures or results in the future but making small changes to make your business more accessible will impact someone right now.
We talk about
- The legal conversation and the human perspective on accessibility
- How to embed accessibility in your business beyond a checklist
- Where to get started on the journey
- The surprising place we should be asking about accessibility that we’re probably not
- Caitlin’s favorite soapbox item – alt text
- Caitlin’s lifestyle boundary for her business
- The worst cookie-cutter advice Caitlin’s been given on her lifestyle business
Caitlin is a digital designer from New Jersey, creating digital experiences that are delightful, engaging, and smooth as buttah. She’s fascinated by human connection in online spaces and harnessing tech for good (+fun!) She helps online business owners set up the technical bits of their online spaces and design them beautifully, so that their clients are superbly serviced, their needs are anticipated, and the ball never drops.
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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this podcast episode and article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article or episode. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Diane Mayor disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.