Accessibility and MVPs

Published on by David A. Kennedy

Building minimal viable products (MVPs) means sacrifices. But sacrifice features, not critical functionality, like accessibility.

That doesn’t mean you have to get accessibility perfect at the start either. You could create a complex application and deliver value to people with disabilities by focusing on basics:

  • Use semantic markup first.
  • Provide strong color contrast while not relying on color alone to convey meaning.
  • Write clear, concise content on page titles, headings, form labels, errors, buttons and links.
  • Make alternative text on images accurate and useful.
  • Design visible focus styles for all keyboard accessible elements.

This gives you a solid foundation to build upon without creating accessibility debt from the beginning. As your staff, processes and funding mature, you can tackle more.

Take it a step further by paying attention to these important foundational principles that can impact the culture around accessibility in a company. If you get these right everything gets easier later:

  1. Test and design with disabled people. Their feedback will make your product better, and save you money from remediating costly accessibility issues in production.
  2. Hire at least one staff member who executive leadership and others can rely on to help them navigate accessibility. They should be trusted when consulting on prioritization decisions. Ideally, it should be more than one person and expand over time, but I’m thinking about a small staff to start. Everyone who touches the product should have some basic accessibility knowledge.
  3. Take a transparent approach to accessibility. Acknowledge shortcomings in your product for customers, and have a plan to get to the features or fixes that matter to them.

Accessibility often gets left out of MVPs because people building the product don’t have the knowledge around it. Or they’re afraid to approach the topic pragmatically. Don’t let that happen to you because starting right is easier than you think.

I wrote about this before: Accessibility in Your MVP. This post expands on the last one.

Tagged AccessibilityProduct Management