Find out how specializing can help your business. Chris Hinds of Equalize Digital shares their story of going from generalist designers to web accessibility specialists, giving them clarity and a competitive edge, winning clients more easily and making their marketing efforts easier.
- From Chef to COO – Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire
- Accessibility Checker plugin (affiliate link) (This is an affiliate link, which means I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking the link. It will not cost you anything additional to use it. Any proceeds go toward expenses for the website and podcast.)
- WordPress Accessibility MeetUp
Chris Hinds is a business manager with more than 15 years of experience overseeing, coordinating and executing complex, high-budget efforts both on and off the web. He’s spent the last seven years in the WordPress space. During that time, he has helped to build two different businesses.
Today, Chris serves as the COO of Equalize Digital, which offers tools, education, and services designed specifically to help WordPress websites become—and stay—accessible.
Getting to Know Chris Hinds
Colleen Gratzer: It’s so great to finally talk to you, Chris. I know we had a few attempts and didn’t work out, so I’m really excited to talk to you finally.
Chris Hinds: It is absolutely my pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
Colleen: Well, thanks! I normally start out each episode when I have a guest on with a couple of fun questions. But first, I saw that you attended the Culinary Institute of America, so I really have to ask how you went from there to getting into websites.
Chris: That is quite the story. I know at least some of your audience is in the WordPress space, right?
Colleen: Yeah, yeah.
Chris: Some of your listeners have probably heard of WordPress.tv. There are two talks by me on WordPress.tv about that exact thing. If you look for “From Chef to COO – Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire.” It has the full story.
But I will save your audience time and give you the short version, which is I am indeed a trained chef. I worked for 10 years behind the stove, up to the executive chef level. I have opened and closed restaurants, done the whole nine yards.
The way that I got into the WordPress space and into the agency space was through my wife, who is now my CEO, Amber, who had a freelance business that helped us earn extra money because as many people probably know, you don’t make very good money in restaurants.
That was her side hustle that helped supplement our income. That eventually turned into a full-fledged business. In 2016, I left the restaurant industry and helped rebrand and turn it into an agency that has since shifted into a more specialized form, which I know we’re going to talk about, but that’s the short version.
Colleen: Wow, that’s really interesting.
Here are my questions then. As somebody who’s done all that with cooking, you have to have your favorite thing. What is your favorite thing to cook?
Chris: I get that question a lot, and a lot of trained chefs will say that they don’t like that question because it’s so hard to choose. But for me, it’s actually a very easy answer, which is, I love preparing, enjoying and exposing other people to authentic Indian cuisine.
The very first chef that I worked under, who was from Kerala in South India, trained me how to make that kind of food authentically and gifted me cookbooks. This was when I was, 18 or 19, so it was definitely in my formative years of developing my own culinary identity and palate.
Even to this day, my family celebrates Diwali annually, the Indian Festival of Lights. We invite a bunch of friends over and I make a ton of authentic Indian cuisine. We all eat until we can’t move. It’s generally how it goes and I am very proud to say that we also have Indian families come that are from India.
For people watching the video, I’m very obviously not from India. But we have Indian families come, and they’re doing double takes looking at me like, “Did you really make this? You didn’t have someone else bring this in, right?” So I’m, I’m pretty pleased with that reaction when I get it. But, yeah. It’s Indian food hands down.
Colleen: Oh, wow. That’s really cool.
But there’s got to be one thing that you never want to eat that someone else makes, because it’s not you making it. What is that one food? There’s got to be something.
What can you never eat somewhere else because you make it so good you just can’t, you know, you just can’t have it anywhere else?
Chris: I’m going to sound like an egotist here, but that is my most common experience at most mid-range restaurants, I could have made this better at home.
Generally, for me, at least eight out of 10 times, the benefit of going to a restaurant is purely that I don’t have to do the dishes afterward and clean up. It’s not because the food is better than what would be at home.
So any mid-range casual place that I might find myself at, I 100% could have made it better at home. But it’s about saving time more than anything else.
Colleen: But wait a minute. If you’re cooking, doesn’t Amber do the dishes then?
Chris: Not always, no. I’m generally the guy that’s in the kitchen. She has it pretty good in that regard. But I get to not touch the laundry, so we have balance in all things.
Colleen: Okay, because I don’t do any of the cooking. I can make eggs, scramble eggs, and I can bake cookie,s but my husband does all the cooking. He does it really well and I told him he should be a chef. But so I do all the cleanup with that. That’s funny.
Having a Generalist Web Business
Colleen: Let’s talk about Road Warrior Creative, which was the business that you had before. Now you’ve been with Equalize Digital for 3 years, I think?
Chris: Yeah, thereabouts.
Colleen: Tell me about Road Warrior Creative. What was that like? What kind of work did you do? Who were your clients?
Chris: Road Warrior Creative was a web agency that grew over time to have five full-time W2 team members, plus a handful of contractors. It was still very much a small agency. It was and it paid the bills. It was never much more than kind of a lifestyle business, if that makes sense.
It was inside-out branded, so the name didn’t mean anything to anyone else except for us internally because it was all about freedom. We lived and worked out of a travel trailer during the summers and traveled around.
Colleen: Oh, cool!
Chris: If you looked at the old website, which you could probably still find on the Wayback Machine… Most of it is redirected to Equalize Digital now.
But there were even pictures and videos of the trailer, which we had fully wrapped and branded. It was a brand that spoke to our team and us internally, but not really to customers because we weren’t specialized. We were generalists.
We did everything from SEO and online marketing, email, social and ads to building websites. We attracted a very general group of customers.
We had a collection of people in the public event space. We had some in the public sector. We had just some general small businesses. We also had some people who were in higher education, over time we accumulated some of those.
The other one that we did have for a while is we had a small handful of food brands, which obviously translated or resonated with them in terms of my background. For a while there I was even doing some food styling, food photography and food videography for those brands.
But it was just one of those companies that kind of grew out of that desire to have more freedom, more self-determination, not have to ask anyone if you’re going to travel somewhere or do something and to just have something that could pay the bills, could support a few people and their families and it was less about specializing in any one thing.
Colleen: Well, so you had a team, but like did you ever find—because I have found this going from just being one person to having a couple of people working for me and helping, is that—did you find that doing all these different things, it was hard to come up with processes for all these different kinds of work? It’s like a lot of, you know, switching hats all the time.
Chris: It was incredibly hard. To some extent, even as we’ve specialized, it’s still difficult to manage processes effectively. That’s something that we’re still working on today, to be honest.
I think working on refining processes, making them more efficient and documenting them effectively is a constant. However, I will say the more you do, the harder it is to document everything effectively, right?
We found ourselves just trying to find people who could own a particular aspect of what we were delivering and not have to have their work checked and just deliver the outcome effectively.
We had just outcome-focused sort of jobs or roles in the team. We had our developer who is now our business partner, Steve, who owned development. That was his responsibility, and it was entirely up to him to achieve the outcomes that were set up for him.
That is not the most ideal way to run a company, obviously, because you have no ability to train or upgrade your team if you have to only hire people who are perfect at what their area of expertise is or near perfect. That was incredibly challenging, and I don’t recommend it.
The other thing too, is that when I was doing all the things… You mentioned emails, ads and all this other stuff. It’s like, oh my gosh, the email code would drive me nuts. Everybody wanted everything to be pixel-perfect and it’s just not going to happen like that. It’s too much.
But I also found that—when I was a generalist—I was competing for projects instead of people just coming to me like, “I need to work with you.” We’re talking to all these different designers.
Then I had a lot of repeat clients that would stay with me, that worked with me for years, even decades. But when it came to getting new clients, I found it really hard as a generalist. Did you have that same kind of experience?
Chris: Yes, so for us, the growth strategy primarily focused on referrals. It wasn’t super effective. Otherwise, I think we would still have that agency. Because if the agency was wildly successful, there would have been no reason to specialize or do what we did, which I’m sure we’ll get into more later.
Our growth was 90% referral or repeat business driven and that’s just not a risk that you want to take on if you can help it.
If 80% of your income—in our case, back in the agency days it was coming from five or six customers—you lose even one or two of those in a period of three to six months, you’re in serious trouble, especially if you have a team that’s relying on you to cover their salaries.
So that was incredibly difficult and, yes, to your other point. The more you specialize and do really intentional marketing around that specialization, the better of a time you’re going to have, in general, just getting leads coming in and getting people that can engage with you.
How Niching Helps Your Business
Chris: Whether you’re using a free product or putting out some sort of content or whatever it is that’s kind of making up your presence that brings people in, if you’re just focused on a very small subset of things within a niche, your effort is just naturally more focused and you’re going to get more people that are coming to you for that specific thing, that specific need.
You can usually charge more too, which is a secondary benefit.
Colleen: Yeah, absolutely. That’s been my experience too.
But it’s funny when you become known for that one thing, that’s really when you get all that traction.
That’s how it was for me. I started my business in 2003, and it wasn’t until 2016 that I started specializing, and that’s when I got into accessibility. But I searched for years. I talked to different coaches. I’m like, “What is my thing going to be?”
I was mostly serving nonprofits but I’m doing all the things, and nonprofits isn’t a niche. I thought maybe I should focus on a certain type of nonprofit or just focus on a certain type of work.
I thought, “Oh, but I like the creative stuff,” and “Oh, I like the technical.” I do them both really well. I can’t pick and I was just in this limbo for years, and then accessibility just happened to me by accident, and then that whole thing just took off.
Once people started knowing me as not just a graphic designer. It was like, “Oh, you’re that accessibility person.” If anybody hears the word “accessibility,” I would get tagged in Facebook groups or on LinkedIn and people would introduce me via email, like you’re the person I need to talk to. That was so much easier.
Chris: Yeah, it’s incredibly easy when you become known for a thing, whether it’s an individual person or a company or a combination of the two.
That’s something that I think Amber, our CEO, has really mastered, is being out there and being visible and creating visibility for our overall brand. It’s definitely paid dividends for us in terms of what we see coming in and how much traction we see we’re getting.
How to Pick a Niche
Chris: The other thing too, that I would say, like as a point of advice for your audience, is to look closely at what you’re already doing and see if there are patterns because that is actually how we identified accessibility as the area we wanted to specialize in.
We were doing so much repeat work with accessibility, with state universities and nonprofits, and we were seeing that requirement increasingly come up.
The first thing that we ended up doing is we started adding a slide to our presentation decks about it and presenting that as something that we could do on our website, like as a service under the old agency. I think that just through the law of attraction, obviously, attracted more of that work through our existing customers.
But then we discovered the idea of, as we’re creating processes around this, doing this more and more, that there was a real gap in the market for what we’re doing just based on what people were telling us in our conversations with our customers.
So what I would say is whether it’s accessibility, whether it’s working for a subniche of a niche, like a certain kind of nonprofit, if you’re any sort of designer or freelance person that has a lot of clients or a small agency, probably the answer of what you should specialize into is already staring you in the face.
You just have to look and try to find the patterns and try to create through the line of,
“What am I incredibly good at that a lot of my customers are asking me for, that I also care enough about that I wouldn’t mind just focusing on this one thing?”
Those to me are the three criteria for what a niche should be if you’re going to be effective at it.
When you picked accessibility, at what point did you and Amber decide, look, we need to start specializing? Were you just fed up with certain things that were going on and you’re like, maybe we should just try specializing? What happened there?
Chris: Well, I wish I could say that we just suddenly decided that and made like the perfect decision and it was done, right?
But like many things, you make mistakes along the way and you have you take the wrong turn and then have to course correct.
The initial conversation that happened internally was that we needed a product. At the time—this was in 2019 or so, like late 2018—we were working with so many organizations in the event space. So these are like public events/conferences and we had some very large high-profile organizations.
One was Lesbians Who Tech, which focuses on LGBTQ+ involvement in tech and they’re still around today. They’re huge. Thousands of people attend their conferences on each coast every year.
The other one was—if you’ve ever heard of—The Lean Startup. Eric Ries and his company was a customer and they had their annual events. We also had a large international architecture firm, so there were a few people in the event space who were coming to us for work—new website builds.
One thing we noticed was they don’t have a good way to build and show a multi-track event schedule on their website, so we actually built the free MVP of what eventually became called WP Conference Schedule, which we sold to the Events Calendar last year for a nominal fee. We had never done much with it after the initial launch and it had a few hundred users.
We built an initial product and then COVID … and you know what COVID did to the public event space. All of our public event customers panicked and left.
We had a massive decline in revenue in our agency, because we didn’t have a niche. We didn’t have a clear identity that resonated with our customers. We were just a deliverer. We were a delivery vector for services that most companies need in terms of marketing.
But there was nothing about that that really made us that special, other than that we were reliable and we delivered good work. But there wasn’t much else there that built any identity or built any loyalty.
During that initial portion of COVID, I want to say that the revenue decline was somewhere in the ballpark of 30% to 40% over a three- or four-month period. We lost some very large customers. It was really scary and it was really tough.
I know that we weren’t the only agency that it was tough for. There were a lot of people out there in the digital marketing space who really struggled during that transition. We weren’t nimble enough to really capitalize on the changes because I know there were plenty of other agencies and freelancers that did really well during that.
It just depended, I think on where you worked and what sorts of customers you had. We had a path set in front of us. It got completely disrupted and blocked and then we had to make a very quick decision, which was, “Okay, this clearly isn’t going anywhere.” We’re either going to shut this business down or we’re going to figure out what the next product is really going to be and what we’re going to specialize in.
That was before Steve was involved in the business as a partner. He was just an employee at that time. We were—thank goodness he stuck around—actively shrinking the team. It was a very tough time.
But eventually it just clicked. We were doing so much work with the public sector. Our public sector customers were still paying us despite this economic difficulty that was going on. We knew we needed to specialize. So it was like that thing I said where it was staring us in the face, coupling that with the other thing we had tried to niche into, just completely dead ended.
Accessibility was right there. It seemed like a good opportunity and we genuinely cared about it.
At around this time, going into 2020, we had just launched our first large, six-figure-plus budget government project where we had built a portal, and we had invited user testers in from the Texas School for the Blind to test this thing.
During this time, shortly before all of this stuff with COVID happened, we also were hearing screen readers and interviewing people who were using assistive technology just to get through their day for the first time in 2018/2019.
We cared a lot about it. We knew that it would make a difference and it would be a way to create this new brand that would put good back out into the world that could align our business objectives with our personal values and just be generally successful and also be specialized.
That’s what happened. It was honestly a pretty winding road to get to accessibility.
My takeaway there would be if you’ve pursued a niche before or you’re about to, and that doesn’t pan out for whatever reason, just pay close attention to why it doesn’t pan out.
It doesn’t mean that niches are bad. It may just mean that you chased the wrong one. In our case, we were unlucky because the niche we chose to pursue went belly up in the first part of 2020 for a period of several months.
Rebranding a Creative Business
Colleen: So then you all decided to rebrand into Equalize Digital at what point? Why did you instead of just changing the focus of Road Warrior Creative… What made you decide to rebrand?
Chris: This actually was surprisingly a very easy decision. We had known for a long time that Road Warrior Creative was not a good brand. The reason that I firmly believe it wasn’t a good brand is what I referenced before. It’s inside-out branding.
The name of the brand had meaning for us, but it did not have meaning for any target audience. Unless we had decided to niche down into websites for, I don’t know, RV parks or something, maybe that would have made sense.
But we knew the second that we were going to do accessibility that we needed a name that speaks to the outcome we’re creating, what our intended audience is going to care about and why they’re going to reach out to us.
There were, oh, so many names and so much back and forth with trademarks, because we have an actual trademark or wordmark on the name. But eventually we got to Equalize Digital.
Colleen: It’s so hard to come up with a name and then something that even has all the handles on social platforms and the website URLs available. I mean, it’s a lot of work.
Chris: Oh, and we had to buy our Twitter handle from someone in California. So for us, it wasn’t even perfect.
Colleen: Oh, wow.
Chris: Luckily they didn’t gouge us too badly because we really leaned in on the social good angle, so they cut us a deal.
Colleen: Oh, well, that’s good. That’s just crazy.
After you rebranded, I’m sure you had clients that were still were still wondering what was going on there. Then you’re like, do we want to stick with this work or do we want to still continue doing the old work for clients? How did that transition happen?
Chris: I would say the transition is still going. So Equalize Digital became an official website and a name at the end of 2020. That was around the time that Accessibility Checker [affiliate link], our accessibility scanning tool for WordPress, also launched the free version. Then the paid version launched in January of the following year, in 2021.
Colleen: Great plugin, by the way.
Chris: Thank you.
During that time, the old agency website actually still existed, and the agency website maintained its existence. We were still sending bills and doing things under the old company name for all of 2021.
So, originally, Equalize Digital, which is now Equalize Digital Inc., a Delaware corporation, was originally just a DBA under our agency’s LLC because that was the most expeditious way to get it done initially.
That transition was a lot of communication. We sent out a communication to all of our existing customers saying hey, there’s this other name here now. This is focused on accessibility and accessibility products and services. The other agency is still here. We’re still the same team, et cetera. It went on that way for a full year.
2021 to 2022 is when we did a full flip of the switch, and we’re like, okay, the LLC doesn’t exist anymore. We are Equalize Digital Inc.
Equalize Digital Inc. acquired everything from the old LLC to operate under its umbrella. So there was a lot of legal stuff that happened, a lot of business registration stuff that happened that I won’t bore your audience with.
Suffice it to say, we partnered with a very large law firm to get all that done and have it be very clean. Basically what we did is we just redirected the entire old agency website to a page on Equalize Digital’s website saying, “Road Warrior Creative is now Equalize Digital.”
This is what we’re still doing. This is what we’re not accepting for new work. We actually still have, I want to say, four customers that we’re still doing marketing services for. We still have, I want to say, around 50 to 60 websites that are on some sort of care plan from our agency days.
The reason that we still have that work is because in general, it is very low maintenance. It has a pretty good MRR [ monthly recurring revneue], so it helps keep the current company’s finances more sustainable and stable as it grows because we’ve obviously taken on investors.
We are hiring and spending beyond what we’re earning because we have investment funds and so we have a burn rate right now and we are actively investing heavily in growing Accessibility Checker and growing this to something at scale. That MRR of those maintenance customers helps cushion some of that a little bit, if that makes sense.
Colleen: Mm-hmm. That makes sense. I did the same thing when I went from doing all the things and then to specializing. I had some clients for whom I was doing stuff all the time and just kept doing stuff for them and then as I got more accessibility work, I just started getting rid of less of the other stuff and narrowing things down.
A lot of designers are afraid to specialize because they’re like, “If I specialize, then I’m going to lose out on all these other clients or this other work that I want to do.”
How Specializing Helps You Get More Clients
Colleen: Do you feel like your new branding and specializing actually has helped you get more work and makes up for any of that work that you would have lost from the clients that were no longer going to be a good fit?
Chris: Absolutely. I will say that from a new client acquisition standpoint, I think the number 1 thing that niching does for you, in my opinion, is it cuts out the shiny object syndrome of marketing.
If you’re properly niched, you know who you need to speak to and you know where they are, and you know what channels you’re supposed to be using. Those, I think, are the hallmarks, if you’re just general marketing agency number 5,724. We never really knew as Road Warrior Creative where to effectively market ourselves because we didn’t actually have an identity.
If you give yourself a real identity that means something not just to you, but to your customer, then you really can amp up what you’re doing for marketing and have it be more meaningful and have it actually attract the people you want to be working with.
I think transitions can be scary, but as you’ve just heard, both from Colleen and from me—I’m talking to the listener here—these transitions are not just flipping a switch.
It’s like all of your old clients are gone that were paying you reliably and suddenly you’re starting from zero. You can be very gradual. You can be very intentional, and you can even have two brands that you are running simultaneously for a while and just take new clients on the brand you want to eventually replace the old one. It can actually be fairly simple.
Colleen: Well, it’s funny, because when I got into accessibility, I just took this class. Somebody recruited me to take her class in document accessibility, and I thought I didn’t have any clients asking me for this, so we’ll just see what happens. I also thought this might be nothing. I might have just paid for this course and invested in it, but never do this work again. I have no idea.
And I just started talking about it and more clients started asking for it, and then it snowballed. You could test the waters that way too. Start talking maybe about doing one thing and then see what comes of that too.
Like what you’re saying, it could be a very slow transition that definitely works and you get to keep your income for a little bit as you gradually work your way up with that.
The other thing too, is that a lot of designers have a fear of, “If I don’t do all the work that my clients want me to do then they’re going to go elsewhere for that.”
I remember one time years ago, I had a client suggested, “You should offer SEO because you do websites.”
I don’t want to offer SEO. I don’t know SEO and if I do SEO, it’s going to be half-ass and I don’t want to do something half-ass just because you’re asking me to do it.
I guess I’m going to have to start learning it or I’m going to have to find someone else. Then I was just like, “No, just stop.” There’s always going to be something else that’s connected to that, that’s connected to that, that’s connected to something else. No, I have to draw the line here.
There are so many designers who don’t even want to code websites. They just want to design websites. I tell them it’s fine. Just stick with designing websites. Don’t try to be a developer too.
Turning Away Work
Colleen: What do you do if clients come to you for work that you don’t do? Do you feel like it’s a loss?
Chris: So that leads me to something that I was hoping I would get to say, which I think is probably one of the more underappreciated parts of going into a niche, which is partnerships.
They are the number 1 driver now of our own growth. I can’t stress this enough. If you only do one or two things…
So we have a WordPress accessibility scanning tool. We have remediation plans where people can reach out to us and have their website audited and remediated in tandem on a month-to-month basis, and then we can do standalone audits and we can do monitoring plans for agencies or large organizations. That’s it. And then we will build custom websites that happen to be accessible. But that is hopefully getting off the table in the next six months to a year.
We’re hopefully sunsetting that last one. But my point is that’s it for us.
If anyone needs anything else, the answer is, “Well, we can’t help you but we have this great person over here who does incredible work in this area. Let me refer you.”
Your customers have other needs beyond what you can deliver for them if you’re in a niche and you’re not trying to be the everything person. And so if I’m, say, like Joe Hall, who’s a really cool guy that does a lot of accessibility, and he also does SEO… I really like him. He’s a great guy. If I had someone reach out to me for SEO, I would probably refer them to Joe Hall at Hall Analysis.
If I send enough people Joe’s way, Joe might reach back out to me and say, “Hey, I noticed you’ve been giving me a lot of referrals I’d like to help you out if I can.” I have these few customers who have been asking me about accessibility remediation plans or scanning tools or whatever. Can I send them your way?
You can just pick your people or you can have these conversations with other specialists and you can build these little reciprocal networks of referring people back and forth. That is one way that you can grow doing things within your specialty without having to dump a bunch of money into ads or sponsorships or whatever else. You can just build these partnerships.
For us, because a lot of agencies benefit from using our tool, we actually partner with a lot of agencies who will refer us the accessibility work and, in turn, because we don’t really like building websites. I’m hoping your audience doesn’t include our potential customer base that would be coming to us for website builds.
But I’m just being honest here. Brutal honesty: our team doesn’t super love building websites. We would love to stop. We’re very good at it, but it just stresses us out and we want a less stressful existence.
Colleen: It’s a lot of work.
Chris: It’s not that we’re bad at it. It’s just stressful. We charge a lot of money for our websites, because we don’t really want to build a lot of them and they’re kind of stressful. So we’re just going to charge a lot and that’s kind of the barrier that we’ve put in place.
We very frequently get inquiries from people who want a website, but they don’t have the budget that we’re at, so I’m able to farm those out selectively to agencies who are partnered with us in some way. It’s a great give-and-take relationship, and everyone gets to do the types of work that they want to do.
Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships. It is one of the more underrated parts of going into a niche.
Colleen: Oh, absolutely. But it’s so much easier too because then you can just focus on just the type of work that you want to do, that you’re good at and that you have processes for.
And then you’re more profitable, you don’t have to sit there and go, now I’ve got to switch hats all the time because now I have to do this other type of work that I don’t really want to do or that I’m not really good at or whatever.
It’s just so much easier. I think the other thing too is like a lot of designers—and I was like this too—just want to take on anything and everything. You feel that’s what you should be doing.
But you can be very selective and when you’re more selective, you’re more profitable.
Chris: If we’re talking about designers here, I have a very micro case study. These are friends of ours, Bill and Duane from CultivateWP. They, for years, were in that kind of reciprocal partner relationship.
Bill is a very well-known developer who came up in Genesis, and many people have probably heard the name Bill Erickson, who listened to this at least tangentially.
Duane was a designer who was very skilled and very good at what he does. They just had this arrangement where Duane’s design projects would always have Bill as the developer. Bill’s developed projects would always have Duane as the designer.
Now they have created CultivateWP. They’re business partners, and they are the biggest name in designing and building custom, highly performant blogs for people in the food blog niche. That’s all they do, and they have this incredible company that’s now blowing up.
That’s the other thing that can come out of these partnerships. Just because you go into this niche doesn’t mean you won’t find this amazing partner and then maybe eventually your niche turns into a more holistic business with someone that you can really rely on to do great work. Then you can build a team, if that’s your ambition. It doesn’t have to be your ambition.
Niching down or specializing down, I’ve seen it create these opportunities that just generalism will not do.
Colleen: I totally agree. I resisted it for years. now I just wish I had done it sooner.
Chris: I totally wish that I had listened to all the people 10-plus years ago saying, “Niche down, niche down, niche down.” They were right. They were 100% correct.
More About Web Accessibility
Colleen: Well, this has been really insightful. Did you want to talk about the plugin?
Chris: Right now, I think what I would love, because we are very much in the realm of advocating for accessibility, much like you, Colleen, is I would just encourage your audience. If they’re doing anything inside or outside of WordPress, it doesn’t matter. Just check out WordPress Accessibility MeetUp, please. It’s on MeetUp.com.
You can also just go to equalizedigital.com and then under the “About Us” drop down there’s a link there for WP Accessibility MeetUp. It is a twice-monthly MeetUp that runs both morning and evening. We have times that are friendly for people that are in Europe or Asia and then we post the recordings as well. So there’s, I think, 40-plus videos. Colleen, you’ve been a presenter at this MeetUp.
Chris: So your audience will know if Colleen presented at our MeetUp, there’s going to be good content there. It’s going to level up your game in terms of accessibility and give you new stuff to think about.
We want as many people as possible to know that what they do on the web matters in terms of accessibility to learn as much as they can and to advocate for it when they can. WP Accessibility MeetUp, please check it out.
Colleen: It’s a great MeetUp, and you know, there’s always so much to learn in accessibility. I mean, nobody out there knows everything.
You know some people or some designers seem to think, well, I don’t know everything about it, so I can’t do it. But nobody knows everything, It’s a journey, it’s not a destination.
Colleen: What I also like about the MeetUp, too, is that you talk about so many different subtopics of accessibility. You also have people doing demos with screen readers, and you’re doing audits live with different people. It’s got so many great aspects to it.
Chris: Thank you. Yeah, we try to have a lot of variety.
Colleen: If you’re not going to plug your plugin, I’m going to plug your plugin, because the Accessibility Checker plugin [affiliate link] is awesome! I’ve tried several other accessibility plugins in the past, and a lot of people think that a plugin, you can just install a plugin and it’s going to make your site accessible. They don’t work that way.
But your plugin alerts you to so many things that you can fix that so many other plugins never even get into. Some people might just install something that only checks for a few things and so they’re not getting that much done when they’re installing that plugin.
But with yours, you identify so many things on the page, and when you’re working on a page in the back end of WordPress, you can see the report, which is super easy to read.
Designers should love it because it’s really awesome. It’s easy to read and it just breaks it down so easily to tell you what that error is and then how to fix it.
Chris: Well, thank you so much! I appreciate the shoutout for that.
I will say, too, that for the agencies in your audience, the paid version of Accessibility Checker does do bulk scanning, so if you have larger websites, it can scan those in bulk.
Just before WordCamp US this year, we released a centralized reporting feature that will give you a sitewide score for accessibility to help with your reporting to customers. We are currently working on and should release sometime in November a historical reporting module that will extend what we’re already doing. You will actually be able to track progress over time.
Hopefully, if you’re doing it right, you’ll be able to see a declining number of issues over time for what’s detected in our automatic scans, so we’re super excited about that.
It’s part of our overall objective just to help organizations do accessibility governance better and do it natively inside of WordPress, instead of having to rely on these ridiculously expensive external sasses that charge $50,000, $75,000 to $100,000 a year.
Colleen: Awesome. Okay, so that’s at equalizedigital.com.
Chris: Yes, and you’ll see Accessibility Checker right up in the main navigation.
Colleen: Okay, great.
Well, thanks so much for coming on, Chris. This is great.
Chris: Yeah, thank you so much, Colleen. It’s really great talking to you today.