How We’re Improving Accessibility and Usability at Guru
Creating an accessible, equitable, and highly user-friendly application has always been a top priority for Guru. We believe that our tool has the power to give everyone access to the critical information they need to succeed in their jobs—inclusive of users of all cognitive and physical abilities.
After making our first dedicated accessibility expert hire in March of 2020, we’ve embarked on several initiatives to evolve and improve the accessibility and usability of our app and integrations. These initiatives, though subtle, have had a major impact not only on our product, but on how we've built Guru to be great for all users over the past 18 months.
First, we created our accessibility working group, consisting of usability experts, engineers, designers, copywriters, support reps, and others who are invested in helping Guru become a more accessible tool for all users. Our goal is to improve, maintain, and implement application-wide updates in an effort to ensure Level AA conformance as set forth in the WCAG 2.1.
This cross-functional team has influence around the organization and serves as educators on best practices wherever they can be applied. This team was also responsible for establishing Guru’s tracked metrics around accessibility support throughout the application and now conducts regular audits to understand open opportunities for improvement.
Additionally, we created our design system “pod,” which is a dedicated engineering and design team focused on creating a consistent, beautiful experience with our product. From regulating the size, shape, and color of CTA buttons throughout the app to ensuring that our web application can be navigated by those using screen readers, this team is solely dedicated to our accessibility and usability goals. They influence how Guru is designed and built across all other teams, ensuring predictability, consistency, and uniformity throughout our product.
Working closely with our design system pod is our microcopy council, which includes representatives from our brand team, product marketing, and product design. Bringing in perspective from their unique teams throughout the organization, this team has worked as the copy-focused counterparts to the design system pod to create standards around language, tone, and voice throughout the application.
Representatives from the team have taken courses on writing for accessibility to ensure that rules and guidelines don’t just “sound good,” but are impactful for our users. They maintain in-app writing guidelines (in Guru!) and support teams throughout the company in writing and reviewing copy that serves all users.
These three teams are ever-present at Guru and are key resources for the rest of the company as we work together to create a product that is accessible by default. While these groups lay the foundation and set standards, every design, copy, and engineering decision influence the usability of the product, making everyone responsible for creating a truly equitable product.
Over the past quarter, these teams came together in collaboration with the entire product design organization to identify areas for improvement of our product’s usability—with everything from small copy changes to page navigation as fair game. From there, a smaller usability working group was formed to tackle the highest priority items, including representatives from nearly every product “pod” across the company.
In addition to helping us meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), work that improves accessibility makes Guru a more equitable product for everyone. It helps us serve more customers by supporting everyone on their teams, and allows Guru to become a place where knowledge is truly democratized. Similarly, work that improves usability makes it easier to form habits of knowledge sharing with Guru, improving the quality of knowledge bases. And since we know that 40% of time spent in video calls is unproductive, anything that makes it easier to share knowledge asynchronously can be a major benefit to remote and hybrid teams.
If you’re a current Guru user, you may be wondering how these changes have impacted your experience with Guru over the past 18 months. Don’t be surprised if you didn’t even notice some of the examples—these improvements are designed to be both impactful and subtle to enhance, rather than disrupt, your experience with Guru:
Ensuring content is accessible to screen readers
Renaming the “Knowledge” tab to “Collections” to better describe what is on the page
Updating verification language around the app to create consistency (i.e. replacing “trust state” with “verification state”)
Ensuring all CTA buttons across the app have the same shape, colors, and tone to create a uniform look and feel
Simplifying UI elements to reduce cognitive load
… and many more!
In case it’s not yet clear, usability and accessibility are never-ending workstreams—and intentionally so. There are always more opportunities to make a product more accessible, intuitive, and beautiful for all users, and Guru is no exception. And while these engines are always running, their visibility is sometimes less “flashy” than something like a large new feature release. But make no mistake—the impact of this work is just as important.
This post is part 1 in a series. Be sure to read part 2 and part 3!