Today we’re diving deep into the world of accessible design for web designers.
We’ve got Andrea Shirey, the brains behind One Nine Design (link opens in new tab), in the house to share her insights on accessibility. You’ll learn about her journey into web design, her passion for accessible design, and her new course on accessibility for web designers: Access for All – Website Accessibility Essentials Course for Web Designers (link opens in new tab).
We’re so inspired by Andrea’s work, and are currently going through her course and working to make sure our website is more accessible. In the meantime, we would be more than happy to accommodate you by sending you additional materials, or if there’s anything you’d like us to do to make our website more accessible, please let us know.
Andrea is the CEO and founder of One Nine Design (launched in 2017) and a veteran in the marketing world with over 20 years of experience in higher education fundraising, nonprofit leadership, and digital marketing.
Her expertise encompasses creating inclusive and compelling websites for nonprofits and small businesses and developing sustainable marketing systems to move organizations forward. Andrea’s previous professional experience includes a long career in higher education fundraising, executive leadership in three nonprofit organizations, and freelance marketing work with small businesses.
In 2020, Andrea launched the very first Nonprofit Template Shop (link opens in new tab) – a DIY solution to help organizations use their time more efficiently, spend fewer resources on tech, and spend more time on the message. The Shop has now evolved into a Nonprofit Template Library, serving hundreds of nonprofits every month globally.
Andrea loves connecting with her “email friends” through her bi-monthly email newsletter, and her marketing blog draws thousands of visitors every month. She is a regular speaker at local and regional events, a trusted advisor to several nonprofits nationwide, and an advocate for women in technology.
Andrea spends her free time reading great books, planning travel, working toward her fitness goals, walking her dog all over town, and hanging out with her family – her husband Scott and children Connor and Isaac.
- Marketing Strategy: Andrea shares how she built a customer base for her web design business from scratch back when she started her web design business.
- The Power of Accessibility: Andrea shares why designing with accessibility in mind is not just about doing good; it’s good for business too. We also talk about how accessible websites can be a deal-maker for nonprofits seeking grants and funding, why inaccessible websites can be a costly mistake for businesses, and the incredible ripple effects accessibility has on SEO and user experience.
- The Inspiration Behind Andrea’s Accessibility Course, Access for All – Website Accessibility Essentials Course for Web Designers (link opens in new tab): Andrea reflects on her journey of providing web design services to nonprofits, and the gaps she saw that inspired her to create a course to simplify accessible design for web designers. She breaks down what’s inside her accessibility course, tailor-made for web designers eager to understand and implement accessibility. Use code WDA to save 20% since you’re a Profitable Web Designer Podcast Listener!
- Advice for Web Designers: Andrea shares the secret behind her web design business success that anyone can apply to their business journey!
Connect with Andrea Shirey:
- Access for All – Website Accessibility Essentials Course for Web Designers (link opens in new tab)
- Andrea Shirey on LinkedIn (link opens in new tab)
Shannon Mattern (00:02.35)
Hey everyone, welcome back to the profitable web designer podcast. And I am so thrilled to have today's guest here on the show. She is someone that I met like way, way back in the day. And when I was teaching like marketing to DIYers and we met in a coffee shop here in Columbus, Ohio and like worked on all of the things. And she is actually.
a web designer for nonprofits. Her name is Andrea Shirey of One9design. And she's like the best student ever, you guys, because way back in the day, when we were like working together, I taught her how to market her web design business. And she reached out to me just a couple of weeks ago using like one of the frameworks that I taught.
people when they're pitching and pitched me for this podcast. And I'm like, yes, it's a yes. And your pitch was amazing. And I was so proud. So Andrea, welcome to the Profitable Web Designer podcast.
Thank you. No better way to get on a podcast, right, than to use what the person taught you. I've used that pitch so many times, it always works.
Shannon Mattern (01:20.341)
I was so, I was like.
Shannon Mattern (01:25.19)
So good. Awesome. So I would love for you to give our listeners a little history of your business journey. How did you get started doing web design for nonprofits?
Okay. Yeah, let's dive in. I love telling this story because it's definitely not a linear line. I mean, when are they, right? So my I started in the professional workforce. I started in higher ed fundraising At my alma mater West Virginia University. I know we've got like this Ohio State WVU thing going on here, but So I started with annual fund fundraising and that is
Shannon Mattern (02:03.858)
really where I learned the art of relationships. I think that is the core of what goes back to, you know, the thread that weaves through all of the positions I've held. That kind of led me to corporate development, some grant writing work, those kind of things, all within the higher ed space. And then eventually I moved into a more like traditional grassroots nonprofit experience. And so I led several nonprofits as executive director and
It was just kind of time for that phase to come to an end in my life. I had little kids. Anybody who's worked in the nonprofit space knows that is a high demand, low paying, never ending job. I know that you know from your background with nonprofits what that's like. And I needed a mental health break. I didn't realize how unhealthy I was at the time. It's like you could look back and look at yourself and like, I don't even know how I was doing that. I was a mom to two boys.
Shannon Mattern (02:53.896)
do all the things and work full time. And I have such respect for people that can figure that out and do that longterm because about 15 years in, I thought I have to do something different. So thankfully my situation was flexible enough where my husband said, okay, let's think outside the box. What do you wanna do? And I really could do some soul searching and...
What had happened during my last couple years with the United Way nonprofit in my community is I had been working with our nonprofits to teach them how to fundraise, right, and how to do communications and all those kind of things. But it seemed like the conversations always came back to their website. We don't have a website, our website doesn't work, or we spent $10,000 to get this website built and we don't have access to it, or I don't know how to update it.
all of these barriers to what they were trying to do in communications were website related. So I spent a big chunk of my last couple of years in the nonprofit world helping people navigate that. At the same time, as you know, again, as you probably know, every marketing job, even fundraising job, it seemed like the website was like always just kind of thrown in your corner, right? It's like, oh yeah, that's like the default is like give it to somebody who knows what marketing is, right? So I had a little bit of experience with that.
But those last couple years really opened my eyes. So as I was going through that sort of soul searching of what am I gonna do in the next phase of my career, I thought, you know, maybe I could just help nonprofits kind of like as a side hustle, right? Maybe I wasn't interested in launching a business. I had no idea that there would be a demand for that, even in my area. I thought, this is great. I know the nonprofit world. I know the website design space. Let me combine the two.
and see if maybe, and we still laugh, the husband and I laugh at this all the time, maybe like one nonprofit a month might be interested in hiring me. And if I could maybe make like $10,000 a year, that would help and it'd give me some, all this flexibility. That was kind of like the pipe dream. And we're like, well, let's see what happens. Well, obviously now I'm kind of staring down the...
you know, pipeline of a six figure website design business, seven years into a full fledged business. So it was just this perfect matchup of my background experience, you know, my ability to have relationship building, marketing experience. I just kind of, I mean, I really have the dream job that I can weave all those things I enjoy together and it turned into a great business, so.
Shannon Mattern (05:43.55)
I am so thrilled to hear where you are now because when did we meet? Do you remember what year it was?
Oh gosh, I meant to look it up and I want to say it's been about four years ago. So definitely, yeah, somewhere around there. And I was, you know, at that point things...
Shannon Mattern (05:59.622)
That sounds about right. 2018-2019.
Shannon Mattern (06:07.022)
It might've been like winter of 2018, if I'm thinking about it correctly. Cause you were here in Columbus shopping.
It was definitely winter. Yeah, and I'd, yes, I was Christmas shopping. I remember that. I remember that, yeah. And I was, you know, it was like at that time, I had clients, but it was just starting to be like, okay, am I gonna really go all in on this thing or am I just gonna keep kind of playing around with it? And I know, you know, a lot of people have to do that while working full time. So I was so grateful that I had time and space to.
be a good student and soak it up. And I will get to this later on, but like I'm glad that I just finally found one person, which was you to like steer me. I spent way too much time listening to all these voices, all these different ideas. And when I finally honed in and said, okay, I'm gonna take one path and really make this work, that was the turning point.
Shannon Mattern (07:08.85)
When we met, I just vibed with you so much because I was like, oh, I understand the world that you're in. I used to work in that space and I just really connected with you and I could tell how much you cared about the missions of the organizations that you work with and how you could really see.
the solution to all of their problems and a lot of the experience and things that you brought. Cause you know, I remember us talking about like, yes, it's website and it's these other pieces that nonprofits struggle with. And you were really having this full 360 degree picture of like how you could serve and support them. And it was just really, I,
I just remember being so inspired by your excitement for what you were doing. We meet and you joined this program doesn't exist anymore, but it was the website marketing lab. Do you remember what your path was from there as you started implementing that process inside of that program?
Yeah, I do because I had a lot of folks that were in that kind of like cohort at the same time I joined. They were earlier on in the process than me. I already had clients, some of them were trying to find their first client. And I was a little bit, I had to kind of pull some of the pieces of the program together, but I was resourceful in that way. And I feel like that's something that...
Shannon Mattern (08:32.122)
I encourage other people to do when they buy courses or they join a coaching program and those kind of things. Sometimes you have to look at that program and say, okay, maybe not every single piece is for me, but if I can pull this piece and this piece together and make it fit, it makes such a difference, right? It's like what you put into it. And for me at the time, I was trying to remember today, I should have looked it up, like how much it costs.
And it's probably like to some people, it's still a lot of money. Then now it wouldn't be for me, but then it was a big leap. I was like, oh my gosh. I've and I had never because I built my own website. I kind of came into it with all these skill sets. I didn't have a lot of investment in the business. But what that did was like it put stakes on the table. It was like, OK, I'm going all in on this. If I'm going to pay this money, I'm going to get.
every ounce of this. I think I was on every Facebook call, every thread, soaking up everything you had to say. You asked me the pieces that really laid out the path for me. The big one was the lead magnet piece because I had these clients from word of mouth. I'd worked with enough nonprofits in my community that people knew of me. They had to kind of learn the new me, the me in this role of one nine design.
Shannon Mattern (09:50.637)
But I was so limited geographically until I really had something to draw those nonprofits in. So I kind of soaked up that whole piece on the freebie factory, I think it was called, if I'm writing it. And I had all my stuff in a binder. And I mean, I went through that thing step by step by step to get all of the pieces in place to find something that would attract people to, just to say like, hey, I know my stuff.
Shannon Mattern (10:18.96)
You know, maybe you don't need a website right now, but here are all the resources. At that time, I already had a blog going with some great content. So that was definitely, I think, the first piece that kind of put me on that.
Shannon Mattern (10:44.398)
Yeah, we've like packaged all of that part up and we put it inside the Web Designer Academy now as like a module and it's like, we call it like one to many marketing in that module. And it's so funny that you say like, it was so much money back then and it was to me too. Like I felt like I was like that price felt like so seriously heavy and important and I really just wanted to make sure that.
you know, everybody showed who showed like who invested in that, like got what they came for. And I laugh now because like I'm charging so much more than that. But I feel, I, I feel the same way about like you had stake in it and I had stake in it as well. And I think that that's part of it where it's like that I'm each that.
Shannon Mattern (11:34.822)
reciprocation, whether my stake was, my stake didn't have to be time. And we talk about like scalable revenue in terms of web design business, but my stake was like, I was just committed to, as committed to your success as you were. And I think that that's what really makes, what makes a collaboration like that really, really work.
Shannon Mattern (11:58.67)
well and I would just like, I'm still on your email list. Like I still see every email that you send from testing your freebie. I'm like, oh, there's Andrea with her nonprofit resources. That's cool. It's giving me, that's awesome. Like I'm on your list still to this day cause I just like to see, see what you're up to. But yeah, I so sorry, I got a little sidetracked there but so you start, you created a lead magnet and you started like
Yeah, that's okay.
Shannon Mattern (12:28.294)
using that to build relationships and just start connecting with people who could potentially become your clients. What was the journey from that to now today where you're like, six-figure web design business, whereas my husband and I were like, maybe we'll make $10,000. What was that progression like?
Right? Yeah, well, I have an interesting take on lead magnets because I had gone through this process first with you in the website marketing lab of what is that gonna be? And everyone, of course, is doing checklists and eBooks. And I wasn't all in on like, I was never somebody who wanted to do a webinar and the whole like launch craziness stuff. And so I really wanted something that felt.
authentic to the nonprofit space, but I wanted them, as I think you used to say, like, it's gotta solve one problem right now, it's gotta be quick. And we literally, I think I have the piece of paper somewhere in my files, we kind of talked about all these ideas, and I said, I think they need some kind of template, I think they need something that they're spending their time on every day anyway, or a big chunk of their time on, and it could just be a really quick win for them.
And so I kind of went back to the drawing board and boards are such an integral part of nonprofit management, right? Like you're always either recruiting a board member, you're working with your current board members, you're trying to get them to show up to a meeting, you're trying to communicate with them. And so out of the website marketing lab came my first real successful lead magnet which was called the board report template.
And it literally would start, I mean, it's a little more complicated now, but in many ways it has a lot of the same elements as it did four years ago of a Google Doc that someone can download, they can fill in, you know, kind of customize it to their nonprofit, but it is a template so that they can share a board report with their board at the meeting every month that their board will actually listen to and be interested in. And it's a different approach for what you would find if you know your standard.
you know, here are the minutes, the treasurer's report, committee reports, all those kind of things. It's boring, board members tune out, doesn't work. But I did something a little bit different as a test and I charged money for it. And you told us, lead magnets don't have to be free. And I thought, well, there's a concept for you. And so I had the ability to test, right? I had some time to play around with what worked and what didn't and so I thought.
I'm gonna put like a really no brainer price on this. I'm gonna make it $9. It's just easy. If you want it, $9 is no big deal. If you don't, fine, right? I wasn't out anything. And I did a blog post that went along with the freebie and it really exactly told you what to put in the board report. But then I kind of, you know, at the end said like, if you don't wanna create it yourself, here's a template you can get, it's nine bucks. It started selling like from day one. And I was like,
Oh my God, this actually works. And so I was, and I love email marketing. Email and blog have always been my two big focuses in my business. I don't do, I have a social media presence. It's not, I've never, I don't think I've ever gotten a client from social media, but I'm pretty consistent with blogging and I've been very consistent with email marketing over the years. And so as those people came onto my email list, I was making money adding to my list. We had this challenge, I remember back then to get to a thousand subscribers.
That was like the big email goal. I'm at like, I don't know, 4,000 now, which sounds crazy, but I remember like every week updating my dashboard to see how many subscribers I had. And not only was I getting subscribers, but they were paying me to get all my emails, which was bonkers. And so that paid lead magnet started this shift where the business kind of started to take two directions. I still had my web design clients.
Shannon Mattern (16:07.538)
Oh my goodness.
I was still building that business, figuring out all those things you have to figure out as web designers. That also, I had this like little burgeoning idea of what if I had a template shop? What if there was another template I could create? And I got this kind of momentum because I was like, well, if they want that, my computer was full of things I had created as a nonprofit director that saved me time. And I started refining those and just one by one, I would.
put out a new template and I would email on my list about it and say, you know, you might be interested in this corporate sponsorship template to help you get corporate sponsors and make a better impression. And then by the way, here's how to integrate what you're sending to your corporate partners with your website. And here's how to use your website to grow, you know, so they were always in tandem with each other. So long story short, the $9 lead magnet turned into a full-blown nonprofit template shop, which today is a nonprofit template library.
that is making me almost as much money as my web design clients. It's not passive. I don't believe I'm passive in the book. There's no such thing as passive income in my book, but it certainly turns on its own. There's obviously a content marketing that's generating leads for the, almost all of my leads for the library come from organic marketing like this, doing podcast or blogging.
and then those people are on my email list. And if you, you can still buy, I will always, forever sell the board report for $9 because it's like this little like homage to my roots. So you can still just buy that one template. But most people, of course, buy the entire library. It's a whole Google drive of templates. And I get emails every day. You said something about like me being inspiring, but I am inspired.
Shannon Mattern (18:00.471)
by the nonprofits that find me and the work they're doing. And I still, I get those sales notifications and I'll go and look up their website and I'm just like, oh my gosh, I don't know how many gifts I've made to nonprofits who've bought the library because I'm inspired by the work they're doing. And then they email me back and say, oh my gosh, I used this template and I landed this corporate sponsorship and they give me ideas for new templates to add. So it's just been this really cool thing that I would never have dreamed
lead magnet, right marketing all the way to now it's an integral part of my business.
Shannon Mattern (18:52.194)
I love that story so much. And I think what is really interesting is the topic of niching down, right? You didn't, people come into the Web Designer Academy and they're like, I have to choose a niche. And you really like built this business as a natural extension of something that you were already doing, you were already really passionate about.
Shannon Mattern (19:22.342)
this like forced thing. You're like, I have all of this experience and intellectual property that I've created over the years. And I know what these people need. And it was just really a natural stepping stone into what you're doing. And I say that to say that like, you certainly do not have to have a niche to have a successful web design business. We have so many web designers in our program that
work with all kinds of clients. They're specific on like the types, but not necessarily the industry. And so I used to be like, you must niche down in order to be successful as a web designer. But I think you're, the way that you have approached that is like, how can I serve this niche in so many different ways that still feeds
Shannon Mattern (20:17.078)
Like I have a scalable offer. I don't call it passive income anymore either. It's like it's scalable offer. And then I have a service-based offer and, you know, all of these pieces work together in this ecosystem to serve people at different points and different needs in their business journey. And I just think it's like such a brilliant use of your background and your expertise.
Well, thank you. I think we all want to gravitate to something we know. But I'll just add that I think I agree that a niche isn't always like the end all be all. And sometimes the niche can be your own mindset, the way that you do business. So in my community, I kind of give a little bit of shade to what I call the tech bros in our community. Because we have a couple of really big IT firms that are very talented people that work there.
Shannon Mattern (20:59.727)
Their process is very different than mine. And I have built plenty of small business websites. Sometimes it's just connections or maybe the nonprofit board member says, oh my gosh, I own XYZ company. Could you do mine? And if it's a good fit, I may consider taking that as well. But your niche can also be your own process. I'm somebody who believes in empowering the client and training them to use their own website. I don't charge monthly maintenance fees.
Once I build it, I turn it over, I train you how to use it, and it's yours, and if you want me to help you in the future, I will, but you're not tied to me. And that is a niche of itself as well. So I think that's something important for people to remember, that if you don't want to just work with hair salons, that's fine, but can you have a process that's yours that you own, and that people know you for that process? And I'm kind of known here as like somebody who.
isn't gonna hold your hand if you don't want me to hold your hand, right? I'm gonna train you, empower you, teach you as much as, you know, give you all the resources I can and then if you need to come back to me, great, and if not, then go on your way and I'm on to the next client. It's a terrible business model in terms of recurring revenue, but that's what the scalable offers are for.
Shannon Mattern (22:27.242)
Well, and it's like for your clients with the type of business that they have too, it's like you're not going to hold them hostage either. And I think that that's another thing that I used to see in the space was just like, no one knew after all the volunteers turned over, like who was the person whose son's nephew built the website for them. And that was always a thing.
Shannon Mattern (22:57.494)
So I want to pivot to what you reached out to me today to talk about, which is accessibility. Can you share with me when in your journey did you embark upon learning about that and what that work has led to now?
Yeah, it's really become this, it's like I'm having recall back to the beginnings of the template shop and what that was at the beginning. And I feel like I'm kind of back at that stage now with something else. And it's definitely a little bit of regret that I didn't get there sooner, trying to get over that and just do better going forward. It's like they say, if you know better, do better. And so that's kind of where I am. But basically.
Early last year, I kind of had this aha moment. Someone very close to me, he was trying to navigate a website and trying to find information on a website and I was helping him and the website was just really poorly designed. It was just one of those sites that was just hard to find things. It was cluttered. There was no white space. The navigation was kind of a mess. There was side navigation and top navigation. It was just all over the place.
I was trying to kind of let him do the driving right to find this kind of a learning exercise. And I was seeing how much he was struggling. I couldn't really understand it. I could see what he needed to click on. He just couldn't see it at all. And I kind of had this moment after, I think it was like later that night or the next day, I was like, I started putting together the pieces that his cognitive challenges, one of which is ADHD and some other things there.
were preventing him from accessing this website the way it was intended to be accessed. He doesn't have a physical disability, but he definitely has some cognitive challenges that were exacerbated by the way this website was displayed. And I'm sure that was not, the person who built that website was not their intention. They would want everybody to be able to use it. And so of course it got me thinking about my own website, about the websites I design. And so I started just doing some research.
around website accessibility and digital accessibility in general. And I was just floored. I was floored at the number of people who are impacted by this challenge. I was floored about the lack of resources that were easy to understand. I mean, don't get me wrong. There are thousands of websites out there that talk to you about website accessibility and about 90% of them your eyes start to gloss over and you're like, I am not understanding this.
That kind of led for me doing my own research and I was kind of piecing together like, oh, I should probably fix this on my site. And I would Google how to fix it and I would fix it. And then I would go on to the next issue and I would figure that out. And really, it took me a couple of months to kind of get in doing it that way. It was very time consuming. But I just had this passion, right, that I could just feel like, oh, my gosh, there's some people need to do it. Does everybody else know this? I started asking like my web design friends, like, do you know about this? And they're like,
Well, I've kind of heard about it, but I don't know, it seems confusing. And I think you just put this widget on your site, get to that. And so anyway, that led me to going through a certification program, university called Deke University, and they are kind of a leading provider of digital accessibility training. So I got certified in website accessibility. It's about a five month process. It was very expensive. It was very time intensive, but...
It was really what I wanted to do for me. That was my intention at the time. I just wanna, I wanna know this. I feel like it's my responsibility. If I'm putting digital content into the world, I should be responsible for making sure that everybody can access it. And so I started then implementing it on every new website that I was building for clients and kind of slowly teaching them the basics. Oh, this is why I did this. This is why I need to know the name of this image, those kinds of things.
And now about, I guess it's been about 15 months later, I realized that, oh my gosh, web designers want to know this information. They want somebody to give it to them in a format that's easy to understand, that they can immediately implement, and they're not gonna get bogged down by the jargon and the rules and the laws and all this kind of things. It's helpful to know those things, but we're talking about almost one in four people have some kind of accessibility challenge.
which means if you're not doing this on your website, you're missing potential customers, you're missing potential donors if your website isn't easy to use and isn't accessible. So kind of led me to create this kind of, what I'm calling an essentials course, because it is not comprehensive in that, it's not what I did, right? It's not a certification program, but it's formatted in a way from one web designer to another.
that I think will make the most sense, will be the most digestible. And then I kind of put together as this notion dashboard with it. It's got a glossary that has a little checklist that you can use when you're building a site for yourself or for a client. So you can make sure that you're learning those things and implementing those as you go. So it's been a great process. I've learned so much. I'm continuing to learn. I'm not an expert, but I feel like I know enough to teach those who are coming up in this. And I wish somebody
I regret that I didn't do this from day one because I've probably excluded someone at some point along the way unintentionally.
Shannon Mattern (28:40.374)
I can't, I just, I'm so glad that you're making a course about this or that you've made a course about this and that it's for web designers because I don't even, like I'm thinking back to the free five day website challenge and like I didn't even talk about accessibility until the last version of the challenge. And even then it was like, this is something that I know we're supposed to be doing, but I don't really have a full
Shannon Mattern (29:08.822)
like sense of what it is, same experience as you, where I'm like, okay, I can figure out complex technical things, I'm gonna go research this. And I'm just like, I, like how it was explained was in a technical way that I would have to like, just take a, go get certified to really fully understand.
Shannon Mattern (29:34.314)
like what all of this is. And so I'm like, I gave resources and like, here's where you can go learn about it. It's something to consider, but like I really felt kind of like how you did where it's just like, I feel like I should be a better steward of this than I'm being. And we don't do the five day website challenge anymore, but.
We hosted the Simply Profitable Designer Summit last year, and I had someone come in and speak about that for designers last year, because I do think it's one of these places where it's like, we all know we want to do better. We don't all necessarily have. Yeah, it's not a lack of will, and it's not that everybody can.
Right, it's not a lack of will, right?
Shannon Mattern (30:30.382)
go spend five months to get certified and all of these things. And I'm just so glad that you are putting together or that you've put together this training for web designers because it's gonna like, when you're confident that you're doing right by your clients and their audience members and that you're checking all of the boxes, it just changes your self-concept.
Shannon Mattern (30:58.23)
in terms of how you show up as an expert in your business and you're building things that the majority of people can actually use, which is what we're all here for.
Exactly. Right, right. And I think we...
Shannon Mattern (31:16.182)
So tell me. Go ahead.
I was just going to say I think we get caught up in this is really hard. I'm just going to like kind of ignore this or I'm going to put this widget on the site that says it will make the site accessible and when there are actually some pretty simple things that you can do, it's not all. It might be technically difficult to read on someone else's website to try to understand.
but in practice making your site as accessible as possible. You can't do it overnight. You just do what you can do as you go. And I've learned, you know, one of the biggest tips I could give is for folks, once you've put some effort into it, I don't recommend that you do this from day one because then you're not being authentic, but including an accessibility statement on your website that's very honest and says, listen, I have tried the best I can. Here's what I've done.
here are the guidelines that I followed. If I have missed something, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to accommodate you in sending you additional materials, or if there's something I can do to improve my site, please let me know. I think that is one of the biggest immediate steps people can do once you've tried to fix things. I don't recommend that you just put that up there and you haven't tried anything, obviously, but even if you can go through and fix your headers or fix some images or...
Make sure you have captions on videos, those kind of things, and take those initial steps. That statement goes a long way.
Shannon Mattern (32:48.935)
So tell me, when someone's going to embark upon this, what are the first few steps that they would take to audit a website for accessibility?
Yeah, great question. So there is a free Chrome plugin that I, and I can make this available outside of the course as well. So it's a Chrome plugin. So my course does include instructions on how to install it and how to use it, but it's basically a free plugin that you can put on your browser and then any website that you have open, you go in, open that extension, and it's gonna flag the major errors. That's really the easiest place to start.
It's a little scary because when you get all those errors back, though, you're maybe not going to know what they mean, right? And so that's where the course kind of comes in. It helps you walk through, okay, if you get this kind of error, this is what we're talking about. Here's how to correct it. But it is one of those steps you could do just to kind of see where you are, right? But it kind of will list.
Let's talk about maybe the top five mistakes that people are making, because I think that is a good place to start in terms of evaluating your own site. So probably the top mistake people are making are using their headers incorrectly. So what I mean by that is, right, we have an H1 that kind of tells everybody on the site, everybody using the site, here's what this page is about. It has a lot of purposes. We're using it for SEO, we're using it for Google, we're using it for our audience.
Shannon Mattern (33:59.258)
but you're only supposed to have one of those, right? And a lot of sites, you know, we're trying to make them look pretty, we want them to look really well designed, and sometimes you've got four or five H1s on the page. Well, what happens is a screen reader, when someone's using a screen reader, the first thing they're gonna read after the page title is the heading one. And if you have five of them, they're not really gonna get a sense of what the page is about, because chances are,
you're just using them stylistically. You're not using them to really tell somebody what your content is about. So one of the easiest things you can do is just go into your website platform and make sure that you have one H1 and it's at the top of the page. And you also don't wanna have a bunch of heading-like text that's not coded as a heading. So if you're just making text big just to make it look pretty or design-wise, that is likely to confuse somebody, not with a screen reader, but somebody that might have cognitive challenges.
So that's like right out of the gate. Like everyone can do that. That's as much technical information as you need is what I just gave you. So hopefully that's a really, really easy first step. Color contrast is another big one that's pretty easy to fix. So if you have, there was a trend for a while, I don't know if it's still a trend, but it's trend for a while that all the sites were like minimal and they were muted colors and the fonts were like this really tiny.
Thin fonts and it was so hard to read. If your color contrast isn't meeting those contrast ratios, people with visual accessibility challenges, they can't read it, they literally can't see it. And so making sure that your background, your color versus your font, text, and weight, that there's plenty of contrast there. There's a nice little tool you can go on, you can put in the color.
of your background and your foreground, it'll tell you right there if it meets the ratios or not. So we'll have that linked on a page we'll talk about later. Naming your images and including alt text, again, for somebody for whatever reason can't see the image, their screen reader's gonna read them the alt text. And if that is a bunch of garbly gook that you uploaded,
from your iPhone photo that's a big string of numbers and then IMG at the end, that doesn't help anybody. So those are things that are really easy, quick fixes. Maybe it might take you a couple hours if you have a really big site, but if you just went through and fixed your headings, your color contrast and your images, you would be making your site more accessible immediately. And then the last thing I'll just mention are video. So a lot of...
websites you land on them and there's that autoplay video, right, and you're like, oh my God, where's the sound coming from? You're trying to turn it off and that's like one of my pet thieves when I go to a website. That's highly inaccessible. If someone is navigating without a mouse, just using a keyboard and they can't figure out, first of all, if they're using a screen reader, they're gonna hear their screen reader and the video at the same time, so nothing is gonna be able to be heard correctly.
and they're gonna have to use their keyboard to turn the video off. And so you never wanna use autoplay, obviously captions. There are some guidelines for when you need captions and when you don't, when you need a transcript. That can get a little more nitty gritty, but if you're using a lot of video and transcripts, you're probably at the level where you need to understand those things too. So those are just some of the high level mistakes that I see a lot.
When I'm doing audits, I do audits for accessibility now. And so those are probably a few of the top ones that I see. And I think that's a great, those are a great place to start because it, like I said, it doesn't require a lot of more technical knowledge to go in and fix some of those.
Shannon Mattern (38:03.778)
That is just, I love the simple breakdown that you just gave for that. I can only imagine how simple it is in the course that you've created for web designers. So what compelled you to put all of this together for other web designers? I mean, you can take this information that you learned from your certification and just go and...
Shannon Mattern (38:32.346)
I'm sure in the nonprofit space, accessibility is probably required for, I was just thinking like them getting grants for their website or just certain things, it's probably like a huge value add just to the space that you're in different ways than it would be to outside of like, let's just make the internet accessible to everybody, you know, for your clients to be like, oh, and to get these grants and these things, we have to meet these requirements.
Shannon Mattern (39:01.63)
What compelled you to put this together for other web designers?
Well, it's been a little bit of a leap because having a nonprofit edge as a niche, I went through this phase where I was like, when I was building the nonprofit template shop, trying to figure out what was that other scalable offer I was gonna have, you know, aside from the web design services. And I knew from day one, it was not a course.
I had tried a couple of little mini courses for nonprofits, and I realized really quickly, nonprofit directors do not have time to sit behind a computer and take a course. That's why the templates are magic for them. And so, I always kind of had this whole of, I think I have a good style in terms of explaining things. I love the technology piece. I know you and I share that. Like, I am all about all things tech. I love learning a new platform.
I've signed up for every course platform out there at one point or another and played around with them. And so I have that in me, that willingness to teach, but it was never from my audience. And so this is a brand new audience for me. And it's kind of a gamble if I'm being honest. I don't have a big follow, web designers don't follow me, right? Non-profit leaders follow me. Small business owners, people who need a website, but web designers are not my audience. But when I went through this process, I just realized,
Like you said, who has time for that? I made time for it because it was personally important to me, but I saw this huge gap in the market because there are other people doing this training and it's going to cost $5,000 or it's going to take three months or it's a show up live every Tuesday for two hours and it's so in depth that people are probably just going to burn out on it. So.
For me, I wanted, I think it's always been a skill set for me to be able to take information and synthesize it, right, to turn it back around. You have to do that a lot in the web design business. You have to be able to, because your client doesn't want to sit there and listen to you talk about headings and subheadings and why we need paragraph one over here. They don't want to hear that. They want this really simple explanation of, actually, I had to lay out the page this way because X, Y, and Z. So I thought, okay,
It was almost a test for myself. Can I take all of this knowledge that I have and I had like a 100 plus page Google Doc of notes from the course in the certification program? Can I synthesize this into some really bite-sized modules and give people enough information to make a difference? Like I said, I'm not an expert. I'm not somebody who's going to, and I have like all these legal disclaimers of course because this is an area rife with...
with lawsuits and legal challenges and all those kind of things. But I believe, I just had the belief in myself that I know enough that I can teach somebody that's one step or two steps behind me how to get in this space and be confident and know enough to say to a client, here's what I've done. Here's an accessibility statement that we recommend that I'm putting on your website. And here's a resource if you'd like to go further. I think that basic step moves us all forward. It doesn't...
accomplish the goal, doesn't make the internet accessible, but our small little corner of the world, maybe we can do this one client at a time.
Shannon Mattern (42:25.422)
Oh, so good, and I'm so glad you reached out to me because you said, I don't have a web designer audience. I don't have web designers that follow me, but you know how to build an audience for an offer that you have that you're really passionate about, and that is through relationships. And that goes for every web designer listening to this podcast. What we teach inside of our program is that you...
I know who does. That's right.
Shannon Mattern (42:51.866)
get clients through relationships, you get clients through providing value first, giving before asking, all of these concepts that you use to build the nonprofit side of your business and now you're using to like really have this bigger impact on the web design space as a whole through your accessibility course. So I am honored to be one of the people to help you spread the word and help you build your
web designer audience. I'm so glad that you reached out to me. Can you tell our listeners more about where they can find the course and get their hands on it and start implementing some of these things in their businesses?
Of course. Well, thank you for giving me the platform and the space to talk to it. It's like, you know, I said, I don't have that following, but I immediately thought, I know who does. And I know that the folks that you're teaching and I see, like I see all of your emails and see the testimonials and in your students, they I'm assuming they're like these sponges like I was, they want to soak up this information and they want to start the right way.
I can catch some of them before they're too far down the road. It can be overwhelming, right? Can be a little bit, especially if you're starting out. I've never been somebody who believes you had to go to college to be a graphic designer or to do this professionally. I think you can absolutely teach yourself and learn and grow and get better. But there is a time that we step back and say, okay, what do I not know? How do we lead with curiosity here and say, what do I not know?
Where do I need to bring in somebody who is even just one or two steps ahead of me to share this information with me? So thank you for letting me do that. And I don't want to forget to say there's a lot of benefit to the client and not just when it comes to accessibility. I saw a stat, let me look here real quick. I saw a stat today that said...
that companies without accessible sites are losing $6.9 billion a year to competitors whose sites are accessible. And I was like, well, if that doesn't convince somebody that accessibility is a big deal, I don't know what it is. And so that could be you as a web designer losing out to another web designer who does have an accessible website, or it could be the fact that you're talking to your potential clients and saying, hey, I have a basic knowledge of this and here are the...
you know, five basics that I'm gonna use as I build your site. So there's an advantage to everybody. It's better for your SEO because Google's gonna display sites that are accessible over those that aren't. Obviously competitive advantage. And people are gonna have a better experience when they're on your website because they can find things and it's easy to navigate and it's not overwhelming. So anyway, I could go on, I won't go on about that forever. So what I did was I created a page for your listeners on my website to make it easy.
So if they go to one nine design dot net, that's all spelled out, slash WDA, they'll have a link to the course and a discount code there to save 20%. It's pretty inexpensive offer at this point. I'm not really in it to make a lot of money. I just want to be able to share this information with other designers that are getting started or maybe they've, like me, they've been in business more than five years and just really haven't given it the thought they need to. So.
So it's 19design.net slash WDA. And I'll add some additional resources there, like how to use that Chrome extension, and yeah, anything that they might need.
Shannon Mattern (46:34.07)
Amazing. I will link all of that up in the show notes. Andrea, thank you so much for being here and just telling your story and sharing your passion for what you do. Is there any final advice you have for our listeners who are in those early stages of growing their web design business that you would like to leave people with?
Oh, that's a good question. You know, I was just talking to somebody else about this piece of advice I got last year on another podcast, kind of in another situation that I think it applies here. It might work against me a little bit, but she said to limit your gurus. And what she meant by that is I think when you're just getting starting out in your business, you're learning something new, there's this tendency to listen to too many voices, right? And...
You're just, you're trying to soak it up. You have great intentions, but if you're following 10 or 12 or 15, you know, business owners and these big agencies, you're going to get conflicting advice because it's not one size fits all for everyone. And there is a space, right? Like we talked about for learning from somebody, you were stages ahead of me when I found you and that worked really well for me. And now I'm a few stages ahead of, you know, other people and accessibility, and hopefully I can be a voice for them.
But I think my big piece of advice for people just starting out is to limit the voices that you let in. One, it can kind of keep you from taking action is you can get caught in this learning cycle where you just wanna keep learning and learning and learning and you never do it, right? And you're just like, oh, I just need to take one more course. You're spending money, you're spending time and you're letting it cloud like those original goals for yourself. If I had listened to every piece of advice out there,
I never would have charged for a lead magnet. That was not what most people were telling you could do. But I found somebody like you is that think outside the box a little bit. Maybe test it out. What's the worst that can happen? And then I'd say limit it to somebody who's where you want to be because there are a lot of agencies at a lot of different sizes. I don't follow business women who have massive agencies with teams of 20 people. That's not where I want to be. I've decided to be.
Shannon Mattern (48:51.45)
on my own for a reason, that's the way I want it. That's what makes no sense for me to be taking a lot of advice for somebody who's somewhere that, I don't want that lifestyle. I like my style the way it is. So yeah, I say limit your gurus, and I gotta give credit where it's due that, it's from the, her name's Emily P. Freeman, and she has a book called The Next Right Thing, and it's just, she always has a really wise piece of advice there, but I've applied it to this.
Shannon Mattern (49:22.382)
I love that advice so much. And just for me personally, you know, it has, if I am listening to too many people, it's not that I don't know what to do. I get too many ideas and I'm like, oh, I wanna try that, I wanna try that, I wanna try that. And they're all fantastic ideas because there are a lot of brilliant, smart people out there. And then I spread my focus and then I'm not entirely sure which thing is
is working and that that's a really easy way to burn out because the thing that I tell my students is like any like they'll come to me and say well what about this strategy for proposals or what about this I'm like any one of them will work any one of these will work if it's what you if you if you're confident in it if you believe in it this is what we teach here and you know you just have to pick what feels good to you and just
put your blinders on and go all in on that thing because if you can focus, that's when you'll get traction. It's not about finding the right thing, it's about focusing on something and moving forward with that. So I love that advice so, so much. And yeah, it's so good. Whenever I'm like spread, like listening to too many people, my progress just kind of grinds to a halt. So, so good.
Shannon Mattern (50:49.13)
So where can everybody go to connect with you online and learn more about you? I'm gonna link up that one nine design.net forward slash WDA in the show notes, but where else can people go to connect with you?
Yeah, that's probably the best place to find me. I am active on social media. I'm not a huge, I'm sort of hanging onto my Facebook page. I'm not, and I, every week I'm like, I don't know why I'm doing this. No one is seeing this, but I can't kind of let it go. But I do have a Facebook page for One9 Design. I think if you just search on Facebook, you could find that. And I'm also on LinkedIn, and I'd love to connect with other website designers on LinkedIn. So it's just Andrea Shirey on there, and I think there's a link to that on my website.
Shannon Mattern (51:08.78)
Shannon Mattern (51:17.926)
So I'd love to hear from web designers on there about accessibility questions or, you know, any questions they have around that.
Shannon Mattern (51:43.79)
Amazing. So everyone go check out that link, get your hands on the course. Andrea, thank you so much for being here. It was really, really fun to catch up with you.
Absolutely, thank you for having me. And I love the podcast, it's in my favorites playlist and it's the first one I listen to every week, so.
Shannon Mattern (52:02.522)
Amazing. Well, thanks everyone so much for listening and we'll see you right back here next week. Bye.