Case Study on promoting web accessibility


Peter Thiessen has drafted a case study on his experience promoting the business case for web accessibility. He plans to post it on the WAI-Engage wiki (as a sub-section or sub-page under "Promoting web accessibility" <>)

He welcomes EOWG feedback on the draft. It is below (sent to EOWG with his permission).

Feel free to send comments:
* directly to Peter
* to the EOWG list for discussion

We will discuss this briefly in an upcoming teleconference when Peter is able to join.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	Re: WAI BCase outline
Date: 	Sat, 18 Aug 2012 21:32:04 +0200
From: 	Peter Thiessen <>
To: 	Shawn Henry <>

Hi Shawn,

Here is a first shot at it. I struggled a little between keeping it
short vs. giving enough detail. This may need a lot more work. I'm not
really sure - just let me know if so :-)

Writing and receiving aproval for a business case can be a challenge,
especially when the return on investment (ROI) is not clear to
management. The landscape of my social networking company is one of
high competition and a business model based on receiving revenue from
online advertising. We're constantly pushing to innovate new and often
complex features, and fix the most pressing bugs. The big challenge
comes from attempting to innovate and maintain features across a large
number of platforms. In our case, this is presently big and small
screen Web, J2ME, iOS, Androi, Blackbery, WP7/8, and Nokia
applications. For any change to the code base, it must be *really*
justified because of the amount of work to update and maintain our
cross platform application. Additionally, a majority of our revenue
comes from online advertising, and in particular from our Web app. We
rate whether we're successful by revenue from ads and to a lesser
extent user growth. Ad revenue is measured in increasing order from
showing an ad impression to a user, showing a targeted ad to a user,
and when a user activates an add. So, the most valuable users, revenue
wise, are targeted users that click on ads, and as a result any
business case must show a potential increase in this user group. With
this environment in mind, I spent two years attempting and failing to
make a business case for accessibility, before changing my strategy
and finally receiving aproval.

Armed with the WAI Business Case, I attempted to receive aproval to
add a level of accessibility to our apps, and in pariticular the Web
app. For each business case I wrote, I went through the 4 main WAI
factors: social, technical, financial, and legal. A bullet point
summary of proposal and response is below.

* social: improved PR from being a good corporate citizen, giving all
users an equal ability to chat and participate online, and simply
because it's the right thing to do.
response: management expressed an interest in making the world a
better place but that this could not be done without a clear ROI.
Since our app is developed primarly by programmers under 30 and our
primary user demograph is teens and young adults, the demographs
mentioned in the social factor doesn't really match.

* technical: an increase in code maintainability and SEO by adding
more semantically rich HTML by following best practices.
response: no clear ROI beyond making developers happy. The SEO bit did
get some interest but since our app is consistently showing in the top
3-5 search results, this was not seen as a priority.

* financial: an increase in new users that could give us a competitive
edge to reach users that our competitors were not.
response: what management really cared about was users that click ads.
It is possible that disabled users do click Web ads but I could not
find any studies to back this up (would be a great/impactful paper

* legal: briefly mentioned the posibility to move into the public
sector and have our apps viewed as a communication tool where legal
requirements for accessibility exist in orginizations.
response: we provide a free Web service that is not legally bound to
any accessibility requirements and we do not intend to enter into the
public sector.

The business cases I presented were turned down because I could not
demonstrate a clear potential for ROI. Over time, I became more and
more frustrated with my company's need to justify ROI but I kept
looking for new ways to show the value of accessibility. Over time,
the mobile Web became more and more important to our company, so I
thought I'd try throwing this into my business case for accessibility.
I kept the social and legal factors in the business case as potential
long term benefits.

* technical/financial: emphasised mobile design best practices, and
how with a redesign, we could serve our Web client to mobile users. I
took this a little further and also emphasised our cross platfor
issues and following best practices like the MWBP and WCAG as a
solution to have one an adaptible app serve all users over all
platforms via the Web.
response: approved. The mobile Web is seen as the new big area for
user growth and ad revenue, and by focusing on this the proposal
showed a clear ROI. Including accessibility as a side benefit to
create an app to serve all users on all platforms and drop the cross
platform madness, was seen as a sign of hope in reducing development
costs and increasing quality by focusing on one application.

Management was really excited by this business case and gave it
aproval. The main reason for acceptance is the incredible growth of
the mobile Web with the potential to reach more users in new markets,
and the ad revenue that would hopefully follow. So it seams that
anything pro mobile is seen as a ROI. Additionally, a more adaptable
Web client could potentially be our solution to an ever increasing
number of devices to support. It took about three years to write a
successful business case, and it seams the key is in understanding
your company's business focus and adapting your business case using
the WAI four factors with an appropriate emphasis.


Received on Wednesday, 29 August 2012 20:04:47 UTC