Digital accessibility is a critical factor in SaaS product development.
It can mean the difference between your product being functional for an end user or not.
And it can impact your ability to sell to certain markets.
For example, global businesses or public sector clients may require your product to comply with all digital accessibility standards.
In this article, we’ll delve into the reasons why accessibility matters in SaaS product development and how it can positively impact both users and businesses.
What is accessibility?
Accessibility means including features and functionality that allow individuals with disabilities to have an equal experience using your SaaS product as those without disabilities.
By designing and developing products that accommodate a wide range of abilities, you promote inclusivity and provide equal opportunities for all users to benefit from your product. This includes people with significant impairments in vision, hearing, and cognitive abilities.
“Because SaaS products are accessed through a web browser,” said the accessibility experts at TPGi, “many of the standards that apply to websites also apply to the SaaS user interface, including keyboard inputs, using proper labels, heading tags, and alt text for images to list a few.”
How do you implement accessibility into SaaS product development?
The highest standard of SaaS product accessibility guidance—and the primary source of guidance for developers—is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WGAC) 2.1.
This resource sets the global standard for web and mobile content accessibility.
Since we’ve covered this specific topic in depth in our article on the importance of accessibility in mobile app development, we will briefly discuss how to use WGAC as a guide.
While some specifics may vary from mobile apps to SaaS product development, the main points remain the same.
This set of global standards outlines the areas websites and mobile content must address for effective accessibility.
Throughout SaaS product development, it’s essential to consider the main points highlighted in each category of WGAC 2.1.
The four key areas are POUR:
To create an accessible SaaS product, it must have information and user components presented in a way that is easy for users to perceive and understand.
Accomplishing this effectively includes providing the following:
- Including text alternatives such as large print, braille, etc.
- Adding captions, audio descriptions, or sign language to audio or video
- Showcasing content in different formats while retaining its structure and information
- Using colors, contrast, or adjusting text to help visually impaired users distinguish the foreground from the background
It’s crucial to create user-friendly applications with intuitive navigation and interface components.
To do this, consider:
- Creating a more accessible keyboard so that every user can operate your content
- Allowing users to either turn off or extend time limits to complete tasks without unexpected changes in the content
- Designing a product that keeps photosensitive users in mind—less flashing animations or the ability to turn off animations
- Making your product easy to navigate for every user
Make your application accessible to all by using clear language and interface.
It should be easy to read in the user’s language with a quick way to understand uncommon words or abbreviations.
It is considered robust when an application is developed well enough to be compatible with various user agents and assistive technologies.
This guideline covers how to parse content, set names, roles, and values for UI components, and determine status messages programmatically.
What are the benefits of accessibility in SaaS product development?
While your primary reason for designing a SaaS product that is easily accessible is to make it more helpful to members of the disabled population, there are other benefits you’ll discover along the way.
I’ve outlined several of these below.
Compliance with Legal and Regulatory Requirements
Many countries have enacted accessibility laws and regulations to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities.
In the United States, your SaaS product must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
While the ADA wasn’t enacted with the creation of software in mind, numerous lawsuits and rulings over the years have set standard expectations for accessibility.
By incorporating accessibility features, you ensure compliance with these requirements and reduce the risk of legal liabilities.
Expanded User Base
Accessibility benefits everyone, not just those with disabilities.
Expanding market reach requires creating accessible products for diverse users of all types.
When you design and develop a product to be more user-friendly for a specific group, you can benefit everyone who uses your product.
It forces you to assess the features and functions of your product in new ways that you may not have considered previously.
Improved User Experience
A positive user experience increases satisfaction, engagement, and brand reputation.
Straightforward navigation, proper color contrast, structured content, and keyboard accessibility benefit all users.
Bootcamp’s C.P. Sutharsan encapsulates this benefit perfectly.
“Designing for accessibility in SaaS products not only benefits users with disabilities but also has the potential to improve the overall user experience for all users,” said Sutharsan. “By making simple software to use and navigate, you can get more people to use your product and be happy with it.”
SEO and Search Visibility
Implementing accessibility features can positively impact search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
Accessibility practices improve the discoverability of web content by search engines, such as using descriptive alt text for images and ensuring semantic HTML structure.
This results in better search rankings and increased visibility for your product.
Innovation and Design Excellence
Creating accessible products requires considering different user perspectives, understanding diverse needs, and implementing creative solutions.
This mindset fosters innovation and can lead to the development of unique features and functionalities that benefit all users.
Social Responsibility and Brand Image
By prioritizing accessibility, you demonstrate social responsibility and a commitment to inclusivity.
Investing in accessibility enhances your brand image and reputation, showcasing your company’s values and dedication to creating products that are accessible and beneficial to all individuals.
Building a Better SaaS Product Experience for Everyone
There are several benefits to creating an inclusive SaaS product for your business.
Incorporating measures to ensure compliance with regulations and best practices benefits you financially and minimizes the risk of legal complications and reputational damage. It also allows your product to be adopted by organizations that require compliance.
By implementing a proactive approach to accessibility, you demonstrate a commitment to all users. It not only helps you reach a broader audience, but also can build a positive reputation for your product and your business.