Collaboration and Accessibility: Designing Tools that Let Everyone Work Together

Collaboration tools are meant to help everyone work together, so there's no point designing them in a way that leaves some users out. For GoTo, accessibility isn't an afterthought at the end of the design process - we've built it into every step of shaping our products. Monica Miller, Wendy Fox and Meg Cramer from our product team are all on the front lines of our product innovation and design. Read on for their perspectives about building tools that are easy and accessible for all users. 

The True Meaning of Accessibility

Q: How does GoTo keep accessibility in mind as it develops its products?

A: The core of collaboration is communication and empathy, which means that shutting people out is the worst thing that can happen. Designing collaboration tools is fundamentally about just letting everyone do their jobs, so we think about it in terms of the idea of elevating the meeting experience for everyone, whether their impairment is permanent, temporary, or situational.


Accessibility as a Basic Design Principle

Q: How do you approach testing and iterating on designs intended for accessibility?

A: Design, product management, and engineering are the main groups that shape how products are created with accessibility in mind. The design team interviews and observes people with varying needs to understand how assistive technologies fit into our user experience. With these needs understood, we create workflows that map feature requirements to what users want to accomplish. We collaborate closely with product managers and engineers to create prototypes and continuously gather feedback on what we’re building.

In the last year, as we've worked to improve how we build products, we've changed our design system to prioritize elements that meet accessibility standards. Those who are new to accessibility sometimes think it’s a limitation that will diminish the design, but in fact it’s quite the opposite—an accessible product is an opportunity for increased creativity that improves the delight and usability people will have with the experience.

Q: Can features designed for specific users end up being more broadly useful?

A: They can, and they frequently do. Just look at keyboard shortcuts for GoToMeeting. They were initially designed for people who struggled to use a mouse or trackpad, but everyone is used to the idea of tabbing through a form because it's faster. Color customization and contrast are great for anyone working in bright or poor lighting. Voice control works for anyone in a hands-free situation.

The GoTo Advantage

Q: What makes GoTo's products stand out in terms of accessibility functionality?

A: One thing our users mention often is the ability to record every aspect of a meeting - from what was said to what was shown - which generates a transcript and a video recording. They tell us it’s a huge benefit to have the flexibility to review what happened in the meeting on their own terms, whether it’s reading what was said instead of listening, or being able to pause the video and take notes on their own time.

Another unique feature is GoToMeeting's high-contrast mode. We recently spoke with a customer for whom screens are blindingly bright, making buttons hard to identify on the screen and forcing him to rely on other people to tell him where to click. Now that our product includes high-contrast mode, he can look at the screen with comfort—and with far less panic and stress than digital meetings previously made him feel.

We’ve also got some exciting developments planned for the new GoToMeeting. Right now, we’re working on making our accessibility features consistent and uniform across our web, mobile, and desktop experiences—for every device and operating system. We’re also exploring how we can be better integrated with screen readers and other assistive tools, along with providing live captions during meetings.

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Originally published in September, 2019 on CIO.com.