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Accessibility to your website could make or break your brand

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Some companies are making sure their websites have more accessibility, and are creating design tools that help simplify the process for other designers.

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In August, The American Genius reported that Domino’s Pizza had petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a case it had lost in the Ninth Circuit Court, in which the court ruled that the pizza chain was required to improve the accessibility on their website to blind and visually impaired users.

Last month, SCOTUS declined to hear the case, maintaining the precedent that the standards set forth by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) apply not only to brick-and-mortar business locations, but also to websites.

The decision was a major win for disability rights advocates, who rightly pointed out that in the modern, internet-based age, being unable to access the same websites and apps that sighted people use would be a major impediment for people who are blind or visually impaired. Said Christopher Danielson of the National Federation of the Blind, “If businesses are allowed to say, ‘We do not have to make our websites accessible to blind people,’ that would be shutting blind people out of the economy in the 21st century.”

Although legislators have yet to set legal standards for website accessibility, the Domino’s case makes it clear that it’s time for businesses to start strategizing about making their websites accessible to all users.

Many companies worry that revamping websites for accessibility will be too costly, too difficult, or just too confusing given the lack of legal standards. However, some forward-thinking companies are going out of their way to not only make their websites more accessible, but to create design tools that could help simplify the process for other designers.

A great example is Stripe.

If you have an online business, you may already be using Stripe to receive payments. Designers Daryl Koopersmith and Wilson Miner take to the Stripe blog to detail their quest to find the perfect and most accessible color palette for Stripe products and sites.

Color plays into accessibility for visually impaired users because certain color contrasts are easier to see than others. But making Stripe more accessible wasn’t as simple as just picking paint swatches. Stripe wanted to increase accessibility while also staying true to the colors already associated with their brand.

Our perception of color is quite subjective; we often instinctively have strong opinions about which colors go well together and which clash. To make matters even more complicated, existing color models can be confusing because there is often a difference between how a computer mathematically categorizes a color and how our eyes perceive them.

Koopersmith and Miner give the example that if the human eye compares a blue and a yellow that have the same mathematical “lightness,” we will still perceive the yellow as the lighter color.

To achieve their goal, Koopersmith and Miner created new software that would adjust colors based on human perception and would generate “real-time feedback about accessibility.” In this way, the designers were able to adjust Stripe’s pre-existing brand colors to increase accessibility without losing the vibrancy and character of the original colors.

Not every company can afford to hire innovative designers like Koopersmith and Miner to create new tools every time there is an accessibility challenge. But Stripe’s project shows gives us reason to be optimistic that improving accessibility will become steadily more … well … accessible!

Disabilities rights advocates and designers can work synergistically to set standards for accessibility and create comprehensive tools to achieve those standards. In our highly visual age, it’s important to ensure that no one is left behind because of a visual impairment.

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Business Marketing

PHD job seekers shouldn’t scare employers, they should be welcomed

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It’s time to change the narrative for PhD candidates on the job market. They have been through so much and can contribute just as much to your company

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Employers have historically been skeptical of hiring PhD graduates for jobs, but it’s time for that to change. It seems counterintuitive, but many employers are scared of candidates who bring such a high level of education to the table. They worry that PhD graduates will ask for too much money, get bored with the work, or not be able to perform in a non-academic setting.

PhD graduates may come from an academic background, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be a valuable asset to your business. As for them asking for too much money, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but academics are not exactly swimming in pools of gold. People don’t go into academics because they want to get rich quick – or at all. By earning their degree, PhD graduates have proven that they possess dedication and grit to persevere in an environment that requires resourcefulness and strong problem-solving abilities.

Another common fear employers have about PhD graduates is whether or not the work will be interesting enough to keep them around long-term. The reality is this is something you should be concerned about for all of your potential new hires not just graduates. Keeping your employees engaged in the work can be one of the most challenging parts of running a business. PhD candidates want the same things as everyone else. Indeed recently talked to an expert on the subject, Vay Cao, the founder of Free the PhD, a company dedicated to helping postgrads find their place in the workforce. She says, “What PhD candidates are looking for is that opportunity to prove themselves [and] learn some new things.”

PhD graduates have long suffered from these misconceptions, but modern business owners have the opportunity to change the narrative. By ignoring graduates, you miss out on the wealth of opportunities their experiences offer your business. PhD graduates are often innovators in their fields with excellent presentation and inter-personal skills. These candidates can bring unique skill sets and experiences to your business that may give you that extra edge on the market.

At the end of the day, your priority as a business owner will be to do what’s best for your business. Hiring and interviewing candidates from a wide range of backgrounds will always be to your benefit. Take advantage of these unique and highly educated candidates. They are an asset you can’t afford to ignore anymore.

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Business Marketing

Remote company Zima says that remote jobs are the way of the future

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Remote working has been increasing over the years, even with it’s success there are worries about if it is sustainable. One company says absolutely

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It’s no secret that remote working has increased across all industries over the last few years. It seems we’ve – somewhat – moved past the misconceptions of remote workers just being people who “work” from their couch while in their pajamas watching Netflix.

However, there is still some raised eyebrows about the concept of remote working. Chief Growth Officer and co-founder of Zima Media, Michael Zima, has run across some of this skepticism, as his marketing company is run 100 percent remotely.

“When you say that you are “remote,” there is an automatic backlash that you are just “outsourcing” with a ribbon on top,” said Zima. “I don’t know when being a “digital nomad” became more prestigious than working from home as a remote worker.”

According to a recent report by Fiverr, about seven percent of the workforce in the United States would be considered freelance, with the cities most active in the freelance game being New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. This number, Zima thinks, is likely higher due to the fact that you technically only need to be connected to the Internet outside of the office to be considered working remotely.

When combatting the non-believers in remote working, Zima uses a variety of methods. “The most significant point we stress to counteract it is we are doing work in an office setting at home or in a co-working space,” said Zima. “We are not surfing somewhere or taking selfies about how great we are in life. That is something reserved for a vacation, and I cannot connect play and work because I prefer to keep them separate.”

He also says that there are cost-savings galore when choosing to run a remote business. Not only are you saving on things like commuting, you’re also saving on overhead costs by not paying for an office space.

“The client received the cost-cutting benefits that are usually marked up by a business with a physical location, and this makes mutual business sense,” explained Zima. “This is the most disruptive development that is emerging from remote workers — counteracting this trend maps back to arranging deck furniture on the Titanic because the labor force goes remote in the coming years will continue to surge.”

Past the fact that his employees work remotely, Zima asserts that everything is business as usual in terms of operations. They have standard means of communication, such as email, a shared-communication platform, and Skype. In addition, how the leader works remotely sets the trend for his employees.

“The biggest drawback that crosses everyone’s mind at the beginning of being remote is job security. When you walk into an office and see dozens and even hundreds of smiling (I hope) people you know that you are a part of something more substantial,” said Zima.

“Connecting with a company is essential, and when you are on the other side of the laptop, it’s hard to fathom all of this working out. It’s a genuine threat even when you become established because the way we work is still foreign to remote workers. When we stop measuring remote workers by the traditional office worker standard, it will free up some of the bias a remote worker may have. It’s a trend that has no rulebook, no guide, and almost unlimited upside to be your boss and stay true to your identity.”

At the end of the day, Zima’s mantra which includes five points: be accountable, be a self-starter, improve communication, manage tasks better, and make time for work and life.

This has proved to be successful for Zima, who has been working with his business partner for over four years, and the two have yet to meet in-person.

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Business Marketing

Google tests new layouts for shopping results (good to know for your own website)

(MARKETING) Do grids or lists help conversions more? Google tested it out, and the answer is: It depends.

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Keen-eyed folks at GoodUI have noticed a slight change in Google shopping results. Google seems to be A/B testing a grid layout instead of a list. Theoretically, a grid would deliver more options in less screen space. It sacrifices a little bit of info along the way. But Google addresses that with an inline expanded view. You click a thumbnail, and Google expands the result, showing you a larger image, along with more product details.

It’s more or less what Google Images already does. You can browse thumbnails, click one for more info, and click through if you want to visit the site that their image came from.

Right now, the grid view isn’t available for every search. Odds are that they’re A/B testing for every result, and then defaulting to whichever one leads to more sales.

Of course, there’s a lesson here for anyone who sells products online. The way that you present information on the Internet can make a huge difference. If a company like Google thinks that it’s worth devoting the time and resources to test this across who knows how many thousands of searches, you probably ought to play with your own store layout a little bit to see what it does to sales.

Google’s constantly making tweaks in an attempt to make their user experience smoother. Their business hinges on a handful of factors, and the biggest one is trust. That means trustworthiness in data security (After all, they literally track you everywhere, through Google Maps, even sending you a monthly summary of where you’ve been.) It also means delivering what you need (and what advertisers want you to see) as efficiently possible.

Of course, not all of those changes are visible. Google is constantly updating the algorithms that serve you information, both globally and for searches with local intent. But if you’re not doing SEO work, odds are that doesn’t affect you as much. (Or if it does, there’s not a lot you can do about it without hiring SEO experts.)

At the time of this writing, you can see the new view for yourself by searching Shopping results for “flowers.” But what’s the takeaway for you?

If your business’ products have a big visual or aesthetic focus, a grid layout may work better.

If your product differentiators are mostly technical details, a list layout can help people make those comparisons a little more easily.

The point is that there are always little things that you can tweak to make your website more efficient – even Google continues to tweak!

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