WPO Guest Blog: Accessibility, the Forgotten Realm in Digital Design

By: Janet Ogdis

Learning and understanding are fundamental components of our human experience. Oftentimes, our journey to understanding can become frustrating due to obstacles. These obstacles can range from ongoing conditions (such as dyslexia) to distractions in the given environment (distance, visibility, etc.).

In the design world, users’ obstacles should be acknowledged and responded to in order to achieve accessibility and usability. Without accessible design, user experience can require a lot of patience. In order to make solutions available to everyone, thoughtfulness and consideration should be at the forefront of the digital design process.

A Closer Look at Accessibility and User Interface Design

User interface (UI) designers have an important role in boosting accessibility across digital platforms. They are responsible for producing the visual cues that a user will directly interact with. UI designers have the power to break down complex content and complicated systems into a clear path that is intuitive for users. When a UI designer considers accessibility in their work, they create a smooth experience for all.

In a recent interview with UI Designer Shunsuke Hayashi, we discussed how companies can make their products more accessible. Hayashi explains that, in order to increase accessibility, companies must focus both externally and internally, meaning that accessibility standards should be applied to user-facing materials, and that accessibility should become a focus for everyone within the company (not just UI designers).

 

What are the Best Practices for Accessibility?

Hayashi advises that designers not treat accessibility as an obstacle, but rather as a driving force:

  • Work with text and images; some users will respond intuitively to pictorial communication, while others may need to read instructions in order to understand. A strategic combination of the two ensures that all users will make the connection in some way.
  • Review accessibility standards for the medium you are designing for.
  • Create a pattern library. That way, designers can create and reuse interface assets, which helps to maintain a consistent brand and gradually introduce accessibility considerations. This is also a good design habit, as it minimizes development time and effort.

Accessibility vs. Differentiation

In competitive product marketplaces, it is important for brands to stand out and captivate viewers. Design is typically the primary focus when striving to differentiate a product. However, a captivating visual is not always the most accessible one, and a focus on making something interesting or unique can risk overshadowing accessibility.

A good way to ensure that a product or system is accessible is to design for the simplest common denominator. A beautiful design can be appreciated for its aesthetic value, but if it lacks intuitive usability, it falls short in its intent. Problem-solving for the user facing the most obstacles is great practice for balancing accessibility and differentiation.

Standardization vs. Innovation

People have different ways of processing information, learning, and achieving a successful outcome. They face different challenges in adapting to change. When striving to make a product accessible, an important factor to consider is how it has evolved over time. Familiarity is indicative of a strong, intuitive relationship between the user and product; it is a quality that is developed over time. When a product is familiar, the user has achieved an understanding and can use the product with ease.

While standardizing a product is essential to attaining familiarity, it can also hold a product back from growth and evolution. Brands and their products are constantly updating to infuse new technology and remain relevant. Many times, in attempting to be innovative, these brands overdo new features, and lose loyal users by making their once-familiar product challenging to navigate and understand. A careful balance must be struck between standardization and innovation in order to avoid abrupt changes that users cannot keep up with. The key to creating this balanced transition is to make incremental and gradual changes.

Looking Forward

Thoughtfulness and consideration steer the design process to optimal accessibility. It is important to make sure that the design holds up against the user’s established behaviors, habits, and assumptions. Changes should be incremental and gradual so that a user can remain familiar with the product; familiarity creates a level of trust, which is the key to establishing a relationship. While new innovations are a necessary part of every growth strategy, they can be at odds with familiarity. A successful product is a carefully and thoughtfully created experience that is accessible to all.

Houston Business Journal: 4 Things I Learned Starting A Business As A Woman

By: Pamela O’Rourke

 

Six months isn’t a lot of time. It isn’t enough time to grow a baby, let alone a business, but that’s all the time I gave myself to start one.

When I went to banks looking for a loan to start my IT consulting and project management company, they turned me down. So, I wrote a business plan, pitched it to friends, put in some of my own money and opened my business with $250,000 in capital and gave myself that six-month benchmark.

Six months has turned into 19 years, and that quarter-million in start-up capital has grown into nearly $300 million in annual revenue. My business, ICON Information Consultants in Houston, now employs 3,500 contractors within the U.S. and Canada.

My experience trying to get a loan is far from unique. Women entrepreneurs lag woefully behind their male counterparts when it comes to their ability to get a loan. Only 3 percent of venture capital funding goes to women, and we receive a paltry 4 percent of commercial loan dollars. What’s more, a 2016 Fundera study found that on average, those dollars come with a higher interest rate and must be paid back sooner.

It’s why Women Impacting Public Policy, of which I’m a member, has made access to capital one of their top policy priorities in 2017. But accessing capital is just the tip of the iceberg. The hurdles women business owners face in achieving success are many.

In my 19 years in business, I’ve cleared many of those hurdles and learned a thing or two about being successful:

  1. Turn characteristics often described as dirty words for women into your strengths. ICON Information Consultants began as a human capital solutions firm in the area of information technology. IT has always been a male dominated field, but as my dad frequently told me, “Remember, Queenie, men put their pants on just like you — one leg at a time.” I took that advice one step further and decided to turn some attributes often considered dirty words for women into strengths: competitive, ambitious, tenacious. My goal was to ensure that ICON Consultants remained at the top of their clients’ lists. Always.
  2. Be smart about hiring, right from the get-go. I realized early on that in order to be at the top of my industry, I had to build a team that shared my hunger to continuously learn and improve. The people I hired needed to be as competitive and ambitious as I was. You can start a business by yourself, but you can’t grow it by yourself. Employees are your most precious asset. Know what you need and what type of people can help you get it.
  3. Find your niche. Be focused and knowledgeable. Being focused on IT, I chose to work only with Fortune 100 and 500 corporations because of their significant investment in technology. It’s why, after starting the business, I managed to cross over into the mid-market range within months. I forecasted netting $70,000 in my first year, but ended up bringing in $2.5 million. In 2016, revenues exceeded $270 million. What’s more, ICON Information Consultants was the first U.S. certified women-owned business to obtain dual certification with the Women Business Enterprise National Council and WEConnect International, highlighting our presence in every Canadian province. In 2016, our Canadian revenues exceeded $32 million USD.
  4. Toot your own horn. Once you have a prospective client’s undivided attention, know what their needs are and be direct in telling them how you’ll meet them. Ensure they know why you’re great at what you do and why they need to hire you. You don’t have to overdo it, just be yourself, relax and talk about what you know best. That’s how glass ceilings are shattered.

 

The Encore – Prudential: Helping To Protect The Future Of Your Business Part II

The Prudential Insurance Company of America and its affiliates offer a wide range of insurance products that can help your business continue successfully in the event of your death or disability. Insurance is a vitally important business tool that is often overlooked.

Whether your business is a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company, or a closely held corporation, Prudential can help. Purchasing life insurance for business needs may prove to be one of the most important decisions of your life.

 

Evaluate your business risk.

If your business is structured as a …

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Don’t forget, life insurance awareness is during the month of September!

 

WEGG – The Story of Happy Beginnings: Women Entrepreneurs

In this post we focus on:  Why women don’t see themselves as entrepreneurs; five challenges faced by women entrepreneurs; gender differences in perceptions and propensity to start a business; and, diversity in innovation.  It’s really a story of happy beginnings about and for women entrepreneurs.  Read on.

1. Why women Don’t See Themselves as Entrepreneurs (The New York Times)

This article addresses why don’t more women become entrepreneurs?

Key point at the end:

She [Sheila Lirio Marcelo, the founder of Care.com] also advised women to develop thicker skin. “Men tend to shake off rejection more quickly than women,” she said, “but it’s absolutely true that entrepreneurs are made or broken by how they bounce back from adversity.”

2. Empowering Equality:  5 Challenges Faced by Women Entrepreneurs

This article focuses on what holds women entrepreneurs back? Why are women-owned firms less likely to also be growth-oriented firms?

3. Seeing the World with Different Eyes:  Gender Differences in Perceptions and the Propensity to Start a Business

Across countries, women own significantly fewer businesses than do men. The authors in this paper show that this is due primarily to the fact that “the propensity to start businesses of women is significantly lower than that of men. The lower propensity of women, in turn, appears to be highly correlated to women’s lower average levels of optimism and self-confidence, and higher fear of failure.”

4. Diversity in Innovation – Working Paper (Harvard Business School)

In this paper, the authors document the patterns of labor market participation by women and ethnic minorities in venture capital firms and as founders of venture capital-backed startups.

Huffington Post: 7 Tips For Women Entrepreneurs To Achieve Purposeful Leadership

By: Lili Gil Valleta

It has been proven that mentoring improves performance and women are better suited for leadership. However, while women may have the natural ability to lead they are often more self-critical compared to their male counterparts and therefore hold back from jumping into opportunities or leadership roles; unless they feel 100% ready. This is exactly why the International Women’s Forum and the Knight Foundation engineered a program that challenges women leaders not only intellectually but emotionally as well to make the jump. A two-day session, hosted in Miami, reframed typical training and panel forums by turning the room into a safe space for ideas, stories, partnerships and innovation to flow.

 

Over 25 women entrepreneurs gained one on one access to inspiring women leaders ranging from Kashi’s co-founder Gayle Tauber to Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro CEO of the Global Fund for Women, Olympic silver-medalist Dr. Judi Brown Clarke, retired United States Air Force Brigadier General now Harvard lecturer Dana Born, among others.

 

Putting the need to pitch or impress aside, attendees and speakers alike opened-up to share the full reality of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur and leader. This is what made the forum effective going beyond an impressive line-up into building an environment where women gained business strength from the power of vulnerability.

Moderating the two day session was inspiring, so much that it moved me to create flip-chart art to capture the essence behind every presenter. However, this learning should not be only limited to those hand-selected to attend. This is why I felt compelled to capture seven key learnings that can help inspire even more entrepreneurs.

 

1. Create a movement not just a project. Dr. Kanyoro of the Global Fund for Women knows first-hand what it takes to create real and sustainable impact. Impact happens through collaboration and by making the sum of the parts greater than the whole. Movements don’t come from one project or one person, they come from rallying up like-minded people moved by a common spirit. Whether you are moved to stop human trafficking or moved to revolutionize the fashion industry, entrepreneurs must play for something bigger than themselves and bring others along the way.

2. Find the innovation side door in corporate America. Startups and small businesses often find it hard to get the meeting at a large corporation or be considered for a corporate contract because size, paperwork and lack of immediate scale may get in the way. NextHealth Ventures CEO Nina Nashif, shared an insightful trick to get access and potentially be evaluated through the lens of innovation and not size; find the innovation department. Many companies today have their own internal incubators and that may be the side door that works for you instead of the lengthy traditional routes. CEO of Cook’s Warehouse Mary Moore also emphasized the importance of vendor partnership for win-win business propositions and Global Diversity & Inclusion Procurement director Theresa Harrison from EY educated attendees on the importance of making the Supplier Diversity professionals your internal champions.

 

3. A boss brings the goodies and masters context. Two breakthrough leaders broke down the fundamentals of being a boss. Former CEO of Grey Group Europe, Middle East & Africa Carolyn Carter set the stage with a basic yet profound concept, “bosses bring the goodies!” Whether it is bringing pizza for the team or a new multi-million dollar contract, bosses bring goodies that inspire and motivate their teams. Additionally, Major General Linda Singh, responsible for the Maryland Military Department, shared the inner workings behind Baltimore’s riots and her role as a newly appointed boss. At a time of chaos, her emotional intelligence and ability to master the context of the situation, equipped her to read the room, maneuver emotions and help refocus peers and even supervisor in the middle of the storm. Her unique ability to bring clarity during chaos turned her into an agent for peace and a spokesperson for the city.

Advantage | ForbesBooks: The Greatness of Gratitude

By: Bea Wray, Chair Entrepreneurship Practice, Advantage Media

After years of working side by side with scores of entrepreneurs, there is one generalization I have come up with.

There is no one generalization.

But there is one key ingredient that separates the successes from the almost-rans.

Gratitude.

First, gratitude makes the right people want to be around you and opens the door to more relationships.

Entrepreneurs who are thankful for the people around them and show it have a devoted following of partners, advisors and employees who are willing to follow them.

Second, gratitude opens up opportunities and energizes creative thinking.

Grateful individuals are better able to form social bonds with clients, better able to utilize coping skills to defer stress, better able to maintain positive affect, and are more creative in problem solving.

Finally, a grateful spirit won’t give up so gratitude fuels the attitude needed to drive entrepreneurial success.

Gratitude provides a safety net for those times when you fail and empowers you to get back up. All those meetings where I walked away empty-handed. I was still grateful to be in the room. The lens of gratitude blurs the lens of defeat.

WPO would like to thank Advantage | ForbesBooks for providing this week’s sponsor blog content. 

WPO Guest Blog: Creating a Mindset of Courage To Step Into a Bigger Arena

By Marissa Levin

It takes great courage to think big. It’s much safer to stay where we are comfortable, because big thinking requires us to examine what’s holding us back.

It requires us to evaluate the decisions we’ve made in our lives that seemed right at the time, but perhaps ended up not serving our highest purpose.

One of my favorite books is Marshall Goldsmith’s “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” Primarily a business book, Goldsmith asks us to examine all of the elements that we employ at certain levels of business growth, and then assess whether they are still appropriate for our organization as we grow.

This applies to employees, customers, partners, vendors, processes, IT systems, financial systems, capitalization strategies, and everything else that shapes any business.

We can apply this philosophy to our personal lives too. Understanding that everything in life is impermanent and in a constant state of motion, we are creatures of evolution. For growth-minded individuals, it is natural that the people, events, and experiences that defined us and supported us in one phase of our life may not be the same as we personally evolve.

As we grow, our world will expand to include new communities and new opportunities.

Reflecting on the first half of 2016, I’ve embraced three new opportunities and communities for quantum growth:

  • In January, Inc. Magazine invited me to join their community of columnists. As a lifelong writer and entrepreneur, the opportunity to integrate these two passions with a publication like Inc. was like winning the lottery. However, I unknowingly stepped into one of the steepest learning curves I’ve ever encountered.Many times I felt inept and questioned whether I was in over my head. My editorial team never wavered in their belief of me as I grew into the role of a columnist. My mindset has gradually shifted from one of doubt to one of confidence. However, it took many soul-searching conversations with myself and with my inner tribe of support to keep going.

 

  •  In April, EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) Global asked me to join their Global Communications Committee (GCC) to help set the internal communications strategy for outreach to its 11,000 global members. We are responsible for creating consistent messaging across a range of diverse communities & cultures, that unifies, engages, connects, & excites all members. I momentarily questioned my ability to successfully achieve the objectives assigned to me, but once again I shifted my mindset to one of confidence and determination to succeed.

 

  • In May, Women’s Presidents Organization (WPO) contacted me to consider assuming the role of Chair for its Northern Virginia chapter. WPO is a global organization of several thousand women leaders who run companies that generate an average of $13 million in annual revenues. Their Zenith-level members gross more than $153 million annually.These women represent the very best of women’s leadership. The role of the Chair is to facilitate monthly meetings for groups of 15-20 local women leaders to help them develop their greatest leadership potential. Again, I heavily weighed the responsibility presented to me. I’m being entrusted with a global Brand, and the women I will facilitate bring serious business challenges to the group. All of the women in WPO are incredibly successful. To be a leader of leaders is the highest leadership calling.

In each of these examples, I had to be comfortable with the unknown, and with being the least knowledgeable and/or experienced in the community. I had to embrace being “new.” What almost held me back in each opportunity were the questions, “What happens if I fail?” “What if I am not enough?”

These questions can lead us down a dark path of imagining worst case scenarios that likely will not materialize. I consciously flipped the question to, “What happens if I succeed?”  With this thinking, my potential is limitless. One of the most transformational books of my life is “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself.”

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