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Episode 19

Does My B2B Website Need To Be ADA-Compliant?

Ryan Boog
CEO of Happy Dog
The "Whys" And "Hows" Of Accessibility

Before 2020, B2B buyers used the internet primarily to research and evaluate potential solutions or partners. That quickly changed. The pandemic heavily impacted supply chains and distribution channels, making B2B more dependent on ecommerce and online sales.

B2B purchasers are willing to spend $50K to $500K online

As B2B continues its evolution—looking more and more like B2C—there are some important standards we need to be aware of regarding accessibility. Guest Ryan Boog helps us better understand ADA Compliance, and explore the value of accessible websites and apps.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • What is an ADA-compliant website
  • The difference between ADA and WCAG
  • Businesses that are required to have an accessible website
  • Consequences of failing to make a website ADA-compliant
  • Common compliance challenges B2B marketers face
  • How to maintain website accessibility over time

Watch the Live Recording

Full Episode Transcripts

Tessa Burg: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Lead(er) Generation brought to you by Tenlo Radio. Our guest today is Ryan Boog. He is the owner of Minnesota-based Happy Dog, a digital agency that creates custom web apps, mobile apps, and software that helps businesses make sense of their data.

Tessa Burg: In today’s conversation is about the evolution B2B companies have experienced after the pandemic. A lot of us have begun to move online whether that’s doing more research inside of the buying process, or starting to move more of the inventory and services and parts and products that we sell to marketplaces.

Tessa Burg: In fact, now B2B purchasers are willing to spend up to $500,000 online, which is kind of insane when we think about where we came from with being heavily dependent on our trade shows and our sales teams. So that’s still really important and the percentage of people with that comfort level is gonna begin to grow, but it does open us up to some new vulnerabilities, some new standards that we might have to meet. And Ryan, having spent a lot of time in custom software and apps and websites that face more consumers and commerce, has a perspective on what that can mean for us moving forward.

Tessa Burg: So, Ryan, thank you so much for joining us. We’re excited to have you, this is sort of accessible websites, ADA compliance definitely not totally foreign to us, but newish, not something we’ve had to worry about, especially as B2B marketers, who aren’t always selling online. So we’re excited to explore this topic with you.

Ryan Boog: I’m happy to explore it with you as well. And thanks for having me on.

Tessa Burg: Yeah, so you have a really interesting origin story. Tell us a little bit about how Happy Dog started.

Ryan Boog: Well, as you’ll soon find out by my accent that it started up in Minnesota and we’re still in Minnesota from humble beginnings. I started a digital agency Happy Dog, 11 years ago. And, I guess I’ll talk more about how the brand evolved to where, and our services evolved to where they have.

Ryan Boog: So we started off from humble beginnings. We were just a run of the mill web agency. We made websites, did SEO marketing, that sort of thing. And a few years into it, I started to see a shift in the landscape of digital. And web specifically was going in two different directions. There was the “let’s make it easy for everybody” direction, which is your SquareSpace, Wix, your WordPress, make it super simple for people to make a website. They can drag and drop what they need. And this is great. I think that that’s an awesome approach that it’s really helped a lot of businesses especially in the pandemic that just happened.

Ryan Boog: So I’m not bashing on that at all, but there was also the flip side of that, who’s developing the really highly technical software. Who’s developing the mobile apps and who’s producing the really high end code in the high end development. So that’s where I positioned the brand from the beginning from the web agency to where we are now.

Ryan Boog: So yeah, like we mentioned, yeah, we work with high-end code, and software, and mobile apps, and that’s allowed us to work with companies like Xcel energy, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and some other professional sports teams and billion dollar companies, a lot of large clients, which is great, ’cause we’re not a large company we’re a small company in Minnesota. So, I guess that’s the long-winded answer for how our origin story and kind of how we developed into who we are.

Tessa Burg: That’s really exciting that you get to work on so many different types of clients. When does accessibility and ADA compliance come up ’cause they all sound like they’re from very different types of industries too.

Ryan Boog: Yeah, that’s fun. That’s a really fun part about what we do is we have different clients from all over the place. So we really try to… We try to get to know our clients really well which means we have to get to know the restaurant industry, the auction industry, the mattress industry, the sports industry, the energy industry. So it keeps us on our toes for sure. And like you said, we really have to be very multifaceted with that.

Ryan Boog: So when ADA compliance comes up, well, first I guess I’ll differentiate there’s ADA and WCAG and I’m trying not to get too technical here, but ADA is more of like the law that people would have to go by for accessibility. And WCAG is the accessibility, I guess checklists that you’d wanna go off to make sure that it’s up to snuff, that you would pass the ADA law. So when you hear me talk about ADA or WCAG, that’s what that means.

Ryan Boog: Well, when it comes up in our client projects, that’s a good question. I would say, when we’re pushing high-end projects the way we do in the advanced code, it comes up right away and that’s in the discovery phase. So we work with our clients and in the discovery phase most of the time it’s a paid session before we even write our scope of workout. And within that, we learned what accessibility needs are there, is everything already fully accessible. Do we have to develop everything from scratch, all sorts of things. So it really does come up really early on in the discovery phase as well.

Ryan Boog: So, but on that note, it doesn’t really… I don’t think it comes up enough and we are the ones bringing it up. I don’t really recall clients coming to us and saying, “Hey, we need to make this accessible.” It’s usually, it’s us all the time saying, we need to make this accessible so you don’t get in trouble.

Ryan Boog: So I think the only time that I can recall we worked with a local company here in Minnesota that’s a big billion dollar company and they had a large IT team and a large security team. And I can tell they’re just chomping at the bit for something to do, and they “Hey, can you make this accessible?” And that actually got us excited it’s says like “Okay, yeah, great, yeah let’s work together. Let’s make this accessible,” but that’s like the only time. So it’s sad that it takes to for a company to have to allocate those kinda resources for that one question to come up. But typically, yes, we are the ones bringing it up and we bring it up nice and early.

Tessa Burg: I like what you said that for high end projects, it’s really important and has a lot to do about the quality of the work that you’re putting out there. And that compliance goes right along with quality. Are there industries or specific types of businesses that are like absolutely required to meet that standard?

Ryan Boog: Well, technically yes. Like the government, anything federal has to meet that. So besides the ADA, there’s another set of laws for federal websites and that’s 508. I don’t know the exact term, by the way I just wanna put this out there. I’m not an attorney, don’t take my advice as legal advice. I’m an agency owner. So take it as my 2 cents and leave it as that. But yeah, 508 is the section of last for the government and it’s mandated they have to abide by accessibility standards. They have an oversight committee that checks everything.

Ryan Boog: So yes, there are… It is regulated where you absolutely have to do it if you’re a governmental site. It gets a little bit foggier if you’re just a run of the bill business, if you’re just a standard business. It’s not enforced by an oversight committee and there’s no internet cops that are going around checking every website to make sure that they’re accessible. However, you are still open to being sued if you don’t have your website compliant enough. I hope that-

Tessa Burg: And that can be, yeah, that can be really costly. Just the threat of being sued can have a lot of consequences that come along with it. So I’m sure a lot of clients wanna avoid that, especially if they have that crossover of having a digital presence but selling something physically and people of all abilities need to order that product. But are there other benefits, other than, covering your butt definitely being super important. But if you’re looking at, Hey I wanna put out a really high quality experience are there other benefits to making it accessible?

Ryan Boog: For sure. And when we go through this in the discovery phase the analogy that I like to bring up with business owners is that this is a type of business insurance. If you take your business seriously and you invest in your business, you’re gonna insure it for a lot of things, areas and emissions, et cetera, et cetera. So this is basically a way of providing business insurance and the analogy on there it’s almost literal but it’s mostly behind the scenes stuff. It’ll save you capital in the long run, potentially millions, because you can go from being sued and not being sued.

Ryan Boog: On top of that you’re saving yourself from potential brand damage. Any large company that gets in the newspaper for being sued for not thinking of their customers is really not a good thing, it tarnishes your brand. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the case of Domino’s when they’re getting sued over ADA for their mobile app or they’re in their website. Did you hear about that case at all?

Tessa Burg: No, I have not heard of that.

Ryan Boog: Okay, it’s an interesting case. We looked into it a couple of years ago and there’s a guy, Guillermo and he was trying to order, he’s legally blind and he’s trying to order a pizza. And so first he went on the app and he’s like, I just, I can’t use this thing. And he went on the website and he’s like, “I still can’t order pizza.” So he ended up suing Domino’s because it wasn’t ADA compliant. Well, Domino’s actually went to the Supreme Court and they’re trying to argue ADA is this for physical buildings only there isn’t a precedent for websites. And the Supreme Court actually sided with Guillermo on this.

Ryan Boog: So that kind of opened it up that your websites are now gonna have to be compliant. And you’re gonna have to think of people with disabilities and make sure you keep them in mind when you’re developing your digital assets. So yeah, going back to what I was saying earlier, it can turn into your brand and now you can be sued if it’s not up to snuff. If you’re not ADA compliant and you have a person with disabilities trying to use a digital assets and they just can’t, they can sue you and that’s gonna tarnish your brand as well. So that’s probably one of the biggest consequences that you can think of. Sorry for the long-winded answer, but .

Tessa Burg: Oh no, that’s fascinating. I mean, not only did it tarnish their brand because it customer couldn’t order their product but then they took it to the Supreme Court, feels like the wrong the wrong route to go.

Ryan Boog: Yeah

Tessa Burg: So as a company and especially like a lot of our clients are in B2B I can see that as these marketplaces become more popular and as people are putting out their products for even their B2B buyers to buy directly how important it is that everyone can buy it. And-

Ryan Boog: Yeah, and for sure, in what Domino’s did at first, it was like, “Hey we’ll just make it where you can order pizzas on Alexa and Google Home. And they thought that was good enough. And the Supreme Court’s like, “No, if you have an app and a website, you gotta make sure that people with disabilities can use those as well.” So you really do have to think about the full gamut when you’re making your digital assets and making sure that everybody can use them for sure. And like you said earlier, the B2B is drastically changing especially since the pandemic and the figure you said earlier, what was it? $500,000 that they spend up to for their digital enhancements?

Tessa Burg: But that’s how much buyers are willing to like actually buy online.

Ryan Boog: Yeah.

Tessa Burg: Like they will do a transaction, an E-commerce transaction for up to $500,000 online which is a really relatively new phenomenon.

Ryan Boog: Yeah, we actually have a client that has an auction based website and they’ve sold estates, houses, and real estate online. where people go in.

Tessa Burg: Oh my Gosh.

Ryan Boog: And so we’ve seen the price get up roughly to that high online it’s mind blowing when you think of that. So when the price tag’s that big, you better hope that everybody on earth if they can purchase it online they should be able to do so.

Tessa Burg: Yeah, I agree. And I think the other side, we think about quality and quality experience. It all sounds good, but it does come with some challenges. So even if you’re starting to go down the road of, well I don’t know if we need to be ADA compliant, I don’t know if there’s gonna be a business benefit to being ADA compliant, there are some challenges. And what are those? What are some challenges people can expect as they look to evolve their apps and websites?

Ryan Boog: Yeah, and I can unpack that a little bit ’cause it’s gonna look different for a company like Domino’s versus a company like Joe’s Tree Service, it’s gonna be drastically different. For a company like Domino’s yet you better dot all your I’s, you better cross all your T’s, and you better make sure that you have everything like fully up to snuff.

Ryan Boog: For Joe’s Tree Service and you’re getting a thousand views a month or less, you probably don’t have to worry about the color contrast and for color blind people, for example. So it’s gonna be different for every single business there’re challenges that they have to endure and overcome, the main challenge for every business if you embark on making your website ADA compliant is getting your code up to snuff. And there are a lot of different areas in your code that you have to get cleaned up to make it ADA compliant.

Ryan Boog: One of the biggest first things that you need to start with is making sure that it’s keyboard accessible. So if somebody is blind, they can hit the tab key, go through your website, and the elements that they tab to can speak out loud and tell them exactly what it is. So let’s say a submit button doesn’t just say button, it’ll say something like submit form, for example, having nice all tags on your images. There’s a plethora of things that go into making a website ADA complaint. So the main challenge is getting the code up to snuff.

Ryan Boog: There’s also a secondary challenge and that is keeping your design integrity while meeting accessibility standards. And this almost fully revolves around the issue of color. So some people have certain types of vision problems. There’s a color blindness, et cetera, et cetera. And if you really want to make everything 100% up to snuff, you almost have to make your website a little bit uglier and have things just jump out even more. So it’s a tricky thing to make sure that you’re keeping your brand standards, but you’re also meeting accessibility standards. It’s an art form for sure. You really have to think outside the box in a few occasions. So, that’s the other challenge is making sure that your brand standards are still present in your digital assets but you’re also meeting accessibility standards.

Ryan Boog: Again, I’m not an attorney by any means, but use your gut on some of this. And if you’re close on let’s say the colorblindness, the contrast part of it, you can probably go with it. If you’re feeling like you’re safe, you’re safe. But yeah, those are some of the challenges making sure that your code is up to snuff and making sure that your brand, integrating your brand elements are not falling to the wayside.

Tessa Burg: So getting your code up to snuff and doing things in a consistent manner sound really tedious, but from experience that’s kind of awesome because it was sort of forces you to get the naming conventions in place to do things to a standard that everyone can share. Have you had clients who doing ADA compliance has kinda benefited their internal processes and ability to scale their overall site or app in the long run.

Ryan Boog: Oh, 100%. And not only benefits them, it benefits us or any other agency that has to work on their project. So, for example, the first thing is that it forces you to organize your work and organize it in a manner that makes sense. This is great because anybody within that company that has to work on the project know it’s more legible. It’s not jumbled and all over the place and nothing makes sense. You really have to structure your content well and have it make sense. And so anybody within the company now should be able to jump in on that project and work on it.

Ryan Boog: And on the other side of the coin, if that company hires an agency like ours or anybody else’s handing off projects is so much more smooth when the website is fully compliant because everything is laid out so well. There’s no learning curve. There’s obviously there’s no… There’s not as much of a learning curve. And there’s a lot easier to teach somebody to jump into your project when it’s structured so well, everything’s labeled so cleanly and everything just makes sense that way. So yes, there’s definitely a lot of benefits for doing it.

Tessa Burg: That’s awesome. Do you have any tools or sort of guides that someone just looking to get started in making their website compliant can reference?

Ryan Boog: Yeah, yeah, there’s a few we use here and the big one is starting out. If you’re really pressed on time and you wanna do the quick test, literally close your eyes, install a screen reader plugin and try to go through your site and see if you can, or can’t, that’s like the super, super quick test.

Ryan Boog: There’s a lot of good Chrome plugins out there. There’s one called Silktide. That’s very powerful and you can check so many different things on it. So Silktide, if you look up Silktide Chrome plugin I’m sure you’ll find it but there’s a bunch of other ones too. So if you don’t like Silktide, you can find something else. So that’s a great way for smaller businesses to get started is just install that plugin, plop it on their website, check it out, get their score. And that’s a really… ‘Cause it’s free and it’s quick and you can get some immediate answers right away.

Ryan Boog: If you’re more of a higher end clients and you need to… And you wanna do this internally for example, there’s third party software that you can use. AccessiBe is one of them that’s I think they’ve had some pretty major rounds of funding they’re a very well established company and that’s what they focus themselves on. So, I’m not sponsored by them by any means, but it’s AccessiBe… It’s like accessible without the L, that’s more of a premium paid service. If you wanted to hire something like that.

Ryan Boog: But if you want to hire an agency that’s deep into dev and they know your project, any agency like ours, ones that are similar to ours can also do that as well. So there’s a whole gamut of tools out there for you.

Tessa Burg: What I was preparing for this interview, I was just doing some general searches around ADA compliance, ADA compliance agencies, and AccessiBe popped up. And it is like shocking and really telling that they just announced a $28 million series A funding. And when that much money is going into a company that’s entirely based on accessibility, you have to think that it’s pretty darn important

Ryan Boog: For sure that Domino’s case it really opened up Pandora’s box. And I think there’s roughly about 2000 cases a year of people trying to sue businesses for the digital assets not being ADA compliant. So it’s not a small thing. And yeah, you hit the nail on the head 100%.

Tessa Burg: Yeah, it’s not a small thing and I feel like from the soft benefits you described, it’s worth it. It’s worth the soft benefits of loan of the efficiencies that are gained, like, yes, it’s an upfront investment. Yes, there’s gonna be some upfront challenges but what you gain internally, as well as protecting yourself and being accessible to people of all different abilities that just seems huge. You don’t have to worry about it and you’ll open yourself up to all potential customers, which you know is incredibly important, especially as more even professional services and large B2B enterprises go online.

Ryan Boog: 100%, and if you’re an established business and really a more of a top tier company, it’s more paramount that you make sure that your websites and mobile apps and everything are all ADA compliant because the potential downfall from that it’s too big to bear.

Tessa Burg: Yeah so, and this feels, is a recent development in getting, or at least in B2B world and gaining a lot of momentum. How do you know if you fall out of a compliance or something changes?

Ryan Boog: So in general, that’s a good question. I would say in general, if you do a big push, a big cleanup and you’re fully up to snuff, that’ll hold you over for a decent amount of time. The more popular that your digital asset is, the more often I believe you should check it. So very large companies get away with annual checkups. So even once a year is fine. I’ve seen those large companies go once every three years. That could be stretching it a little bit, but doing those checkups, make sure that you’re not falling out line and that there’s not some new standard that comes out.

Ryan Boog: So, the first thing, just make sure you get it done. An then you do your full ADA compliance and make sure that you’re fully up to snuff, but then put it on the calendar to keep it up to date, do your annual checkups or your three-year checkups or whatever it may be, ’cause it would be such a headache if you went through all of the work to get it fully up to snuff, and then six years later, you’re getting sued because of some rule you didn’t know about. So you do have to keep up on it.

Tessa Burg: Another stat that I came across in the research is 15% of medium to high gross E-commerce brands are gonna start deploying their own marketplaces. So we saw this like huge shift of B2B using these, Amazon, Amazon business to start selling their products when supply chains got disrupted and sales teams got grounded. And what I’m wondering is people are building their own marketplaces, their own E-commerce platforms is how are they able to track or see if customers are using readers or other accessibility tools to access their content, and does that pop up in analytics or anywhere?

Ryan Boog: You can, like, there’s certain things you can do to track some of these things but you’d have to have a pretty technically savvy agency working on your project . If you just have a Run of the Mill, WordPress WooCommerce set up and just general Google Analytics or Tag Manager, no, you’re not gonna… You’re basically not gonna see that data. If you have a good marketing agency, that’s able to set up Tag Manager tagged along with a good development agency that can make sure your code is talking properly to Tag Manager, then yes, you can see some of those extra details if somebody, let’s say they’re using screen readers or some other things. You’re not gonna be able to see every single little thing but you can get a decent amount of detail if you put enough TLC into your digital assets.

Tessa Burg: I really liked that. I know that we use next page path flows all the time just to see how deep people are going, and if to measure the value of the content like are they actually getting to a place where they download it? And I feel like if you can set it up similarly using Google Tag Manager and events you can see are the readers taking people as deep as they should be getting, like in make sure that all the great code improvements you did are delivering the desired experience from an accessibility standpoint.

Ryan Boog: Yeah, and that’s a great point. And I love that content flow that you’re talking about on Analytics and it throws me through a loop sometimes ’cause you think they’re gonna be clicking on page X and they’re really going to page Y and it’s like, gosh, why are they doing that?

Tessa Burg: Yeah.

Ryan Boog: It’s yeah, Analytics can really open up Pandora’s box and make you think about all sorts of digital projects. It’s a really a fun tool to use, but no, yeah, yeah, 100% I fully agree with all that. And I think to dovetail off of that, that just kinda proves the point that ADA works really well with a full development type setup. So I’m not just saying here’s our website make it ADA compliant, that’s great but it should also go with code cleanup, with page speed enhancements, working with the marketing team for , working with your ad team, Google ad team for conversion optimization and AB experiments and everything like that. If you’re gonna invest in your ADA compliance do the whole gamut, make sure that you’re really going top-notch with your digital assets.

Tessa Burg: Yeah, I agree. And that brings up another question. Are there any algorithms like Google or any other search engines that are prioritizing sites that are more accessible?

Ryan Boog: So that’s a tricky question, I’m not gonna claim to be the Google answer man here, but the data that Google can collect and does have they will use ’cause they have machine learning and all sorts of stuff that’s way, way, way over my head. So I do know that whatever data they can collect they’re gonna use no matter what. So if they’re able to collect data that your website is working well for people on screen or people that need screen readers and that it’s ADA compliant, that’s great. I think you’re still gonna get more of a benefit by making it more Google friendly. Unfortunately just that’s us the way they work. So making sure that people are staying on your page for a very long time that they’re clicking around that the bounce rates low, that the page speed is high, that your content is great, all those things that we all know about.

Tessa Burg: Yeah, no, I think that’s really interesting. This makes me wanna go research like, hey are there browsers that are specific to ADA or people are differently abled and compare those to what Google publishes as its own standards and what its algorithm values. That could be a really interesting exercise as you start to explore that balance between pure accessibility and your judgment calls on design. And at the end of the day, if you stay centered on what’s best for the audience, that can help you make those decisions post analysis.

Ryan Boog: 100%, so I own the businesses, I’m not a developer like my senior engineers and developers are, or marketers, I’m just the Jack of all trades guy here. But when they do set these sites up, you can set up your… Let’s say your Google Chrome, for example, you can set that up as if you had disabilities or as you’re visually impaired and you can step through it that way and I’ve seen them do that. So that’s a good place to start going back to what I was saying earlier is just look at it like you are that person, like you’re the person with disabilities. And can you use your own website or your own mobile app?

Tessa Burg: Yeah, that is a great place to start. Well, Ryan, thank you so much for being a guest. We covered a lot, I think for anyone who is looking to become more familiar with what it takes to have a compliant website, check out ADA compliance the WCAG. And if you search ADA compliance checklists, that’s pretty thorough list of what needs to be done, but in some-

Tessa Burg: Oh yeah, in summary it’s… Companies should start going down this road and exploring it and documenting milestones against how to address the challenges because we’re all going to be using and relying on the internet more and more. And that sounds funny ’cause we already rely on the internet like a ton but that evolution is going to continue.

Ryan Boog: Yeah, stop sweeping it under the rug you gotta start taking care of it ASAP.

Tessa Burg: Yes. That’s my 2 cents on that. Ryan, where can people find you if they wanna get ahold of you?

Ryan Boog: Cool, I’ll say three ways. First our website. It’s just happydog.digital. That’s a great place to learn all about the company and get to know us a little bit better. You can look me up on LinkedIn. You can just look up Ryan Boog, there’s only two Ryan Boogs in the United States. It’s B-O-O-G. There’s one in Michigan who is a younger chap, and then there’s me in Minnesota. So find the Ryan Boog in Minnesota from Happy Dog. You can connect with me there, I love chatting with everybody on LinkedIn. My email is just ryan@happy dog.digital, you can shoot me an email about anything and I’m very responsive and I’ll answer any questions you send my way.

Tessa Burg: Perfect, and you can find this episode on our website at tenlow.com and check out all the other episodes we’ve been exploring the evolution of marketing technology. This is another great slice. And then we’ll also be talking more about the evolution of E-commerce marketplaces, workflow automation in future episodes. So visit tenlo.com podcast for all the “Lead Generation” episodes or you can also get them on Stitcher, Apple Podcast and think like every podcast platform imaginable. So thank you again Ryan for being here and I’m sure we’ll be talking again soon.

Ryan Boog: Thank you Tessa, I really appreciate it.

Ryan Boog

CEO of Happy Dog

Ryan Boog is the owner of Minnesota-based Happy Dog. The digital agency creates custom web apps, mobile apps and software to help businesses make sense of their data. For more than 10 years, his established business has worked with renowned companies like Xcel Energy and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ryan has been featured in Forbes and other industry publications.