We sat down with Jason Gilkes, Managing Director at Lead Genera, and Ben Williams, Creative Director, to talk about web accessibility in the private sector.
Can you tell us a little about yourselves and Lead Genera?
Jason: Lead Genera is predominantly a lead generation marketing agency, but with that said, 50% of our business and operations is web development. We build front and back-end systems, but with lead generation in mind, so clients already have a step-up on competitors.
I’m the Managing Director. I deal with the marketing side of the business and business development, whether that’s internally or for clients. Ben’s our Creative Director and deals with everything technical and creative. Everything funnels down from us into our staff structure.
How did you discover WCAG and how has it helped your business?
We’re building on our strong client base in the public sector. A lot of public sector clients require WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) as a basis for legal compliance.
We came across Silktide which many of our public sector clients utilize. Combining this top-level software with our expertise and experience, we’re positioning ourselves as a market leader that considers WCAG in our approach. Every website we create now goes through Silktide as part of our intrinsic process.
Ben: We had one particular project for a public sector organization where accessibility needed to be above the normal standard. With web work, accessibility is always important but to ensure full transparency with our clients, we began looking at software that would help us achieve the benchmarks required quickly and efficiently.
We kept looking for tools and working through everything we could online, with whatever feedback we could get from other sites, and of course, the WCAG documentation. What initially sparked our interest was that UK Councils were all using Silktide, and all comparing themselves on the Index. After much research, we found that as Silktide was the measuring stick, it was what needed implementing.
How do you have conversations around accessibility to clients in the public and private sectors? Are they different?
Jason: Any public sector client I’ve spoken to knows what the accessibility requirements are. Their level of in-depth understanding differs, but they know they have a need for it. Whether they have a deep technical understanding and know-how of to get there, that’s a different story.
But talking to a small business owner in the private sector, accessibility is something we usually bring into the conversation. But this is dependent on the industry too.
I’ll continue to have those conversations with clients because I think the internet should be entirely accessible to everyone. It’s important our clients can be reached by large portions of their demographic online.
Ben: I’ll add to that by saying that internally, right from the beginning of the design process, we factor in a lot of accessibility standards. This is an expectation from the entire team. Because they’ve also been through our training and worked with our public sector clients it continues to be an integral part of our processes.
For example, in the design stage, I make sure that a website is aesthetically pleasing whilst thinking ahead to any functionality in terms of accessibility.
I discuss the functionality with our developers to ensure we are on the same page. Then once everything’s on our staging site, we’ll run it through Silktide and talk to our clients.
Better accessibility will generate more business for clients because more people can use and access your site.
How would you say the level of knowledge has been at Lead Genera surrounding accessibility?
Accessibility has always been an important and integral part of our web design process. Like with many things, it was a case of optimizing and enhancing as accessibility guidelines evolve – we know that many competitors may not consider the changing landscape of accessibility, and we’re a hungry, talented agency that looks to be ahead of the curve.
We’d been using various tools, and while in some cases we were finding issues in one area, another tool might not even pick that issue up. When every tool was saying something different and going against our in-house expertise, it became hard to trust the feedback.
So in the end our attention was brought to the UK Councils’ leaderboard in the Silktide Index and we use this and the platform as our central benchmarking.
What were the specific factors that led you to start looking for an accessibility testing platform like Silktide?
We were using pretty much every accessibility tool out there. Silktide sent us some details from the Index and we realized that it was the platform that everyone was talking about and using for benchmarking.
So ultimately we started looking into the platforms and plugins available and realized quite quickly that having all the accessibility tests under one platform just made more sense.
We don’t want to build a site and then go back to it later to fix accessibility, we want to use a platform that will inform our build process as we’re doing it. We’ve learned that in the public sector, our clients ask agencies if they can work to WCAG standards. For them it’s a norm, it’s the standard, and they won’t choose a partner who can’t do that for them.
How does Silktide impact your day-to-day work?
Silktide has become fundamental in our operations. Our web developers use it. Ben and I use it, and our SEO team uses it also. It’s really important that everyone can access and use Silktide because the knowledge there benefits the whole team.
Ben: We knew as soon as we started using Silktide how important it would be. It was great to be able to see clear actions that we could perform to make accessibility better for our clients. Having all the issues laid out in a single place really helped us then get on with the work. Silktide helps to make hard-hitting changes and get results quickly.
Jason: Silktide is the gold standard of automated accessibility testing. We’ve made some great changes to one of our UK Council clients quickly, and we’re able to use Silktide to show our progress on past projects to future prospective clients. It’s been a really positive experience.
The beauty of using Silktide is it is aligned with our views on accessibility. It provides confirmation that our web work is on a different level to other agencies.
Outside of accessibility, what other parts of Silktide do you use?
Ben: The content module is very useful. We have the development phase and also content, in our process. So once we have built all our pages, we can go in with Silktide and check over any content before showing the client.
Jason: The ability to send reports to people is excellent. It allows us to give complete transparency to our customers in terms of our progress. We are open and honest with our clients, and Silktide reinforces that value.
What’s your advice for others considering using Silktide?
Jason: Just go for it. You need to do something about accessibility, Silktide will help streamline your processes. There’s no point beating around the bush and trying to cobble together a workflow from all the free online tools.
Silktide has added far more detail to the back-end of what we’re doing. We had a very chiseled work process, and it’s just slotted in there nicely. It’s not intrusive at all. In fact, it’s actually gamified quite a monotonous process into a fun process. Some of our developers are actually writing me messages telling me how much fun they’re having geeking out with Silktide.
The usability is great. It’s a very quick way to get straight into the typos, or broken links. It makes the process of managing and directing the workload so easy. Instead of working on something one at a time and asking ‘what’s next’, you provide a complete list of work to be done. It’s very transparent and it’s all in one place.
Ben: Also, the documentation behind every action is great. Having that to hand for every issue saves a lot of time in researching how to fix specific issues. Our developers don’t need to spend time Googling for fixes because everything in Silktide has an example of how to fix the issues you’re working on. Silktide streamlines the process for our developers.
Why do you do business with Silktide?
You guys have shown that your team is just as good as the product, in terms of supporting us, onboarding us, and being available any time we need you. You understood our needs and got everything set up and ready to go very quickly.
In terms of the pricing, we’re going to see ROI without a doubt. Without Silktide, we simply wouldn’t be able to tender for public sector contracts that require accessibility standards to be met. We also want to ensure all of our clients have fully accessible websites.
What’s your approach to the work you do with clients?
Jason: We’ve actually been talking about this a lot recently, and how humbled we are by having this business. The journey we’ve been on in building it and the results of where we are now. We love what we do, our staff loves what we do. And it’s great.
We’re a bit different in the way we work with clients, and our reviews show this. We like to be different and at the top of our game. We invest heavily in technology and people. There are some huge competitors in our industry and we’re quickly making a name for ourselves.
At the start of our third year, we are fully equipped to keep doing good business, attract corporate clients as well as more SMEs and continue on this journey of being flexible and disruptive.