What a week it’s been! May 9th was Global Accessibility Awareness Day (or #GAAD) and many of you took advantage of the $1 offer I ran on How to Meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. It was a great few days for me personally, with over 100 of you opting to take a punt on 69p for a book. I’d like to thank everyone that bought a copy, I hope you learn from the book and it helps you improve your websites.
With great success, comes plenty of problems. I’ve had my fair share of issues with this site since it launched and squeezing 100 customers into such a short period really put these into perspective. It’s been a reminder that work on a website (accessibility or otherwise) is never done. We must always be ready to learn from experience, customer comments and downright failures. Getting things wrong isn’t a problem if you handle it well and make it right. Getting things wrong and ignoring them is a sin.
I’ve known since I launched my book that it wasn’t as accessible as it could be (be warned, this is the first of several ironic confessions). As with many accessibility decisions, this was down to cost. When I wrote the book, I had no money to spend but I knew it had to be professional looking to sell. I worked with a great designer, Jess Horton, to get the cover and the interior layout looking great. That process took up everything I had budgeted for the book production, there was no money to work with a PDF accessibility expert to make that part of the offer right.
I wasn’t happy with this at launch, but I had no choice if I wanted my product on the market. I researched PDF accessibility the best I could, but simply didn’t have the programs necessary for PDF creation. Again, this was something I couldn’t afford.
A few days after launch I got an email from a customer calling me out for my failure. I knew she was right, but all I could do was apologise and send a refund.
I got another question on May 10th, from a customer who couldn’t access the book. After investigation it turned out that the security settings on the book were interrupting their screen reader. I sent an unprotected version over and everything was fine.
Both problems stung me, to the point where I felt like a fraud for even daring to think I was smart enough to be teaching people about something I couldn’t afford to do. I know that every business has problems, but when it’s just you in charge of all aspects of a product, it’s hard not to be disheartened.
Just like the PDF problems, I’d had a few checkout issues before the sale. They seemed confined to when people had used card payments and not PayPal, so I removed the option (as you can use a card without a PayPal account anyway). I put it down to a natural problem of using a free shopping cart (WooCommerce) and free plugins. There’s only so much you can expect when you’re not paying for a service.
Fortunately for me, people were paying for my product. Unfortunately, that meant I was at fault for any problems. You can’t take people’s money and stop caring about them – you’re getting into a long-lasting relationship if you do it right. Again. the volume of customers during the sale increased this problem. Even with just PayPal as an option, customers were not getting their download link onsite or via email. I had to spend time individually emailing unhappy and confused customers.
Hopefully, my responses were quick enough and polite enough to win those people back round. One thing I learnt working customer service is that unhappy customers are the best if you can impress them – everyone expects a smooth service, but reacting well to a problem can set you apart.
When I first launched this site, I started an accessibility changelog. The idea was to document how I tuned a vanilla theme into a perfectly accessible one over time. That went great for a few months, until the theme was updated and no longer worked with my shopping cart. The resulting chaos pretty much set the theme back to where it began, not even Level A compliance.
How can I run a site that sells an accessibility book, that isn’t accessible? Again, I feel like a fraud. I know that I need a bespoke website. I need to work with a designer to build a theme that does everything I want it to do. As ever, the issue is financial. In the next few weeks I’ll be starting back at Guideline 1.1.1 and bringing the site back to Level A standard.
Just to kick me while I was down, my theme began to have issues with my Content Delivery Network (CDN). For a week or so before the offer, my site was completely down. I tried to get the two talking, but they were having none of it. In the end I simply switched off the CDN. Speed is great, but uptime is better.
Ways to help people
From the feedback I got from my issues, I’ve learn one important thing about how I will treat people. If there’s something inaccessible about a website or product, don’t shoot your mouth off about it. Point it out in a helpful way, offer guidance if you can and always be polite. It’s not nice getting bad feedback, although it’s important for progression, so try and be polite. Complaining and blaming won’t get you very far if you’re talking to someone who doesn’t know much about web accessibility. Website owners are only human, if you attack them they are more likely to go into their shell rather that work harder to fix the problem.
Time for you to help
You’ve already helped me so much in the last week, by getting behind my book and sharing it on social media. I’m grateful for every sale and I love having over 100 people reading something I’ve written. All of the above comments must be taken in context with just how pleased I am with my book and the kindness of you all for buying it.
With a small amount of capital in my PayPal account, I’m ready to take the next step forward for Wuhcag. Here’s where I need your guidance – what do I do with the money? Here’s what I need:
- A more accessible PDF version of the book
- A better e-commerce system
- A bespoke WordPress theme
Which of these would you like to see me work on next?
PDF accessibility means finding designers who can work with my existing book and get it to the next level.
Or should I upgrade my e-commerce system to a paid version with real support?
Perhaps I’d be better looking at making a bespoke WordPress theme (AccessPress?). I could work with a developer on an accessible e-commerce theme (either that works with WooCommerce or something else). The benefits of this would be a premium theme to sell on and getting exactly what I want. The downside is that I’d need a lot more than 100 books at $1 each to do this. Would I be better making smaller steps with the idea of making more money in the long run?
So, it’s over to you. Can you help out with my decision-making, or do you offer the services I need? Did you buy my book, how are you getting on with it?