Lessons Learned From 7 Years Of Freelancing

Claire Brotherton

Claire Brotherton

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Jan Koch  00:03

Welcome, everybody. Thanks for joining me again on the WP Agency Summit. I’m here with Claire Brotherton, who I’ve happened to know online for quite a while, I think it is like three or four years now maybe even more. But now it’s the first time that we finally get to talk to each other. And I’m super pumped that Claire is on the summit to share her journey of building her own business as a writer and as a web developer. Thank you so much for taking the time, Claire.

Claire Brotherton  00:32

Thank you.

Jan Koch  00:33

Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you’re doing in the WordPress space?

Claire Brotherton  00:38

Well, the moment I’m doing a mix of things, so I went into the countries in degree came up with that. But so, so development within my natural home web development, but my mum’s an English teacher. So I also have a bit of fun talent writing saved from her. So when I started my own business, I wanted to blog to definitely have fun. And to do, you know, content marketing feels the best kind of marketing to do, I’m not really good at the hard sell or anything like that. And so I started my blog, and a little bit, so further down the lane, and I saw some opportunities to rate for other sites using WordPress. And so I got kind of started with that as well as doing the web development work. So I’m kind of doing a mix of both now. And I think they enjoy them equally well.

Jan Koch  01:42

It’s really interesting. And when did you guys started with your business? Or when did you make the decision that you would start your own business?

Claire Brotherton  01:50

It was back. So it’s August 2013. So that’s like, just gone seven years actually. But yeah, that’s when I sort of officially started.

Jan Koch  02:03

Interesting. And where did you get that spark from? For me, it was a conscious decision when I was working in my job as a business consultant. And I felt that the job wasn’t serving me well. And then I started a master’s degree that also sorry, for bumping into the mic, that also failed. And I had a nervous breakdown in that situation. And then I started my business, I made the decision that I just had to venture out on my own. Do we have also a story where there’s this one moment that made you decide to start the business? Or is it more like a natural evolution for you?

Claire Brotherton  02:41

I think, for me, it is more of an evolution, I did have some more little health issues. So I thought to myself, just going straight and then doing a full-time job was not going to be an option for me. And that taking a freelancer was probably kind of give me that bit more flexibility to look around any issues at hand. And, and it’s sort of a double-edged sword because I’ve realized that without having built some of that background in a regular nine to five job, I kind of went into the freelancing world but very cold. And you know, I didn’t have a huge bank of contacts or anything to draw on my blog with the world.  So some probably, yes. So starting out was really hard for me. I sort of feel like maybe the situation we’re in now with you know, a lot of people working from home remote working that that is no such an unusual thing to do. but I think back then, it was yeah, it was more.

Jan Koch  03:46

Yeah, yeah, I have a similar experience. And I remember back then I was still living with my parents. And it was they were both working in their offices in the financial administration here where I live, and they weren’t used to working from home. So it was quite different for them to have their son be at home all the time. And now they are working at home too because of the situation as you mentioned, and they get to see how challenging it can be to work from home to just stay productive to do things to not have the face to face communication with coworkers and stuff like that. And it’s something that you personally have found a way of dealing with properly through like online communications, or are you more of an introvert and you don’t really need that many face-to-face interactions on your day. 

Claire Brotherton  04:39

Um, well, I’ve done a bit I supposed I’ve done a bit of both because like a couple of years ago, I did get some decent part-time work for a local company. And that was interesting and eye-opening as well, just to see how they worked and how that compared and contrasted with the way that I work. I mean, I would say I’m not too introverted anyway. So, you know, having a busy office and lots and lots of charts which is probably not what I would want need but it was nice having, having colleagues for a style. And, you know, I was only coming in two days a week. So I did still feel very much a part-timer. It was different. It was just interesting to see how they run their business.

Jan Koch  05:31

Yeah, I can imagine. Let’s get back to the early days of your freelance career, if you don’t mind, like, you mentioned that you tested the waters with both feet, both feet, if you will, and you just jump into freelancing, which is similar to what I’ve done, too. I would love to know how you got your first clients in that business.

Claire Brotherton  05:55

But I thought it was through somebody new actually because I’ve done some voluntary work, you’d call it for setting up an organization. And they were helping people with long term health conditions to find some form of work that suited them. And I met a lady through that and she said, so she picked me up for a design job. She said, Oh, I know a charity locally and they’re looking for your website, would you be interested so basically proposal and got it and that was an exact moment, I have my first freelance job. And I believe the website is still live. 

Jan Koch  06:40

It is fantastic. And it’s really those connections that you make in life, I guess that for me, were a trigger to get the ball rolling with clients and get the first clients. 

Claire Brotherton  06:55

Yeah. 

Jan Koch  06:56

Though, what I struggled with, when I’m really honest, is getting like this consistent stream of clients in the first place. That was really challenging for me,

Claire Brotherton  07:05

I know, I feel like is that the same? And that’s definitely been like the quiet moments and just times were just, you know, do something completely different. And the thing we’re like, wanting to do the part-time job was a little bit in response to that. But you know, I’m, I’m so glad to have that experience. But yeah, it’s definitely hard to feel like you’re in constant contact with people.

Jan Koch  07:34

I think that it’s also partially to the social media world, if you will, we’re all entrepreneurs you see are sharing their highlights and are sharing how great life is. and business is doing fantastic if you look at what they do on social media, and how they write blog posts, and email campaigns and stuff. But when you get a look behind the scenes, yeah, it’s been you really see that most businesses are struggling, most businesses are very aware of the challenges that come with running a business that comes with bringing constantly new leads in that come with delivering projects on time. Do you? Did you create any light like thought patterns or any routines that help you deal with the stress that comes with running a business?

Claire Brotherton  08:20

Um, well, I think I’ve always had to be very careful about how I manage my time and energy. So I’ve had to, you know, sort of create barriers almost sometimes just to kind of say, you know, these are some lines they won’t cross. Like, I think I decided early on. And, you know, Saturdays I don’t want to do any working stuff, these are definitely mine, my day off, you know, Sunday and might do a little bit, but not Saturday. You’ve got to have stuff, you’ve got to draw the boundaries. But on the other hand, you know, sometimes I work in the evenings, and I’m kind of happy with that cause I’m not so much a morning person anyway. So that suits me, but I have had, I have had to work on projects before. Because I didn’t mean to stress, there’s one particular thing that I just decided, you know, this is not helping me at all. It was just pulling down my mental health, physical health, and I had to step back. I was actually working on someone else. And fortunately, he kind of stepped in and finished it off. But yeah, that sort of taught me, I think about being careful about what I can do. And sometimes there are just difficult clients. And, you know, I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault as such. It’s just, you know, they’ve got certain expectations and I’ve got certain expectations and maybe they just don’t meet in the middle. And, you know, if you find that you’re, you’re kind of going to be full-on sort of saying, you know, these kinds of things are too difficult to do. Or, you know, I’ve already kind of explained this to you, we can’t do it that way, then you know, they’re not always going to change their mind and you start bashing your head against a brick wall if you think you can do that. 

Jan Koch  10:13

Yeah, that’s something I learned the hard way too is like some clients. They’re just not a good fit, and as you said it’s nobody’s fault. What I came to do is I have a very clear vetting process in place. Now, before I work with a client before I take them on, I make sure that at least they respect my processes. So that for example, that means, don’t call me by no means call me. But send me an email, send me a text message if you will. And I’ll get back to you at my own convenience. And that is something that stressed me out quite a bit, in the beginning, is like, I would take on any client because I just needed the money. And in the beginning, most businesses, they don’t, if they don’t have, like, reserves they can live on. It’s, it’s a necessity to bring in the cash flow. So sometimes you have to take on these clients. But as soon as I could I got rid of those.

Claire Brotherton  11:13

Well, I think I’ve been exactly the same rule. And yes, it’s really hard though when you feel you just got to take something, you know, you need that money. And then and then you maybe deep down thing. I don’t know if this project was fun for me, but nothing else is coming up, you have to do it. But then I suppose you just you, that’s what you learn is who you can best work with an income workflow. But if somebody looks like they’re a real for fit, then I’m not even sure you want to pass them on to someone.

Jan Koch  11:47

Maybe to people you don’t like. Yeah, that’s actually a good point is being aware that somebody is not a good fit, and just passing them on to a friend who might actually be the best person to work with them? You never know in the beginning? Um,

Claire Brotherton  12:07

and then if you do that for someone else, it can, you know, you can get that good karma back. 

Jan Koch  12:15

Yeah, yeah, I do have these relationships with quite a few people actually, where when I am booked solid, or I know that I’m not the best person for a project, I just refer them to agency owners who I’m friends with. And they do the same for certain types of work. And I think that’s a really important point that you’re hitting on here is building relationships in your market, because we’re, we’re in such a big market. And there are so many potential clients in our market that there really is no real competitiveness, I feel it’s all about who you want to work with. And then there are plenty of people to reach out to and to work with. Interesting, do you have a process for lead generation right now? Or is it all about the content marketing that you mentioned? 

Claire Brotherton  13:02

Well, it’s funny, because at first I just, I just last week, I’ve done someone I knew quite well through content marketing communities know, like, why he’s been great. He built some funnels for people. So I was just doing this five-day funnel challenge. And I kind of went through that. And it really got me thinking about, you know, who is a monster here to work with and everything? And who, how do I find these people who were kind of nurtured along the way? And I think, yeah, it can be done a lot better that I did have an email list at one point. And then I just a kind of abundance and emails about how to period but I got really sick and just couldn’t do anything like that. So and then when GDPR came in, I just thought, right, I’m not doing anything with SMIs will abandon it and restart at a time when I feel more comfortable doing it. So I know, these sorts of things are important. And, you know, I think he works a lot with Facebook ads. And I did have a Facebook pixel on my site, and I took it off again because I just wasn’t using anything. And I feel like probably Facebook isn’t the best for me, I think probably email list is better… I love using Twitter, but I haven’t really had many leads to that. It’s much more just for fun for me.

Jan Koch  14:24

Interesting. You should talk to Bridget Williard by that by there any chance because Bridget is the queen of Twitter for me, if you will, she really knows how to market on Twitter and how to enjoy doing that. She’s also giving a talk on the summit. So that might be something for you to check out. 

Claire Brotherton  14:42

I’ll definitely keep an eye. Yeah, she’s pretty good at what she does.

Jan Koch  14:47

Yeah, definitely. How do you go about lead generation then? Is it more about word of mouth marketing and referrals on how you get the leads?

Claire Brotherton  14:57

Yeah, and I think that’s where I realized that the process for saying that because wherein referrals are something you don’t really have any control over. At least if you have your own funnel and your own system, you’re in control of that, you know, what’s happening with it was referrals are nice to get, but you just never know whenever or cannot. And it’s sometimes the timing is just wrong. Oh, this would be a really good job, but I’m not taking on right now. So I’m gonna have to pass on it. 

Jan Koch  15:33

Yeah, that’s a good point. But also, on the other hand, I think it’s important to have this referral lead gen funnel, it is a funnel because you’re intentionally building the relationships with people who refer leads to you. So in a way you can control by how many people you’re building these relationships with. And then obviously, the number of leads is outside of our control. But I think it’s still very important to have people who refer work to you just because you never know who those people are talking to. And what type of relationships can come from those connections?

Claire Brotherton  16:10

Yeah, and I think, I feel like yeah, or opportunities for some face to face interactions and networking is obviously, fingers dwindled, practically nothing. Um, but I suppose that’s where the online space opens up. And I think, okay, I’m not doing very well at email marketing cause I’m not doing it. But at least I’ve managed to keep my blog going. And at least I’ve got a portfolio.

Jan Koch  16:41

Okay, and you have fantastic content on your blog. Before we jumped on this call, I had a look at your latest posts about the auto-updates. And I love how many images you use, like every single step you have a screenshot for and you’re elaborating what’s visible on that screenshot and how people use that. And to be honest, I probably don’t take that much time on creating my own content, that despite the fact that I’m not creating written content regularly for my own site, I probably wouldn’t take this much effort to detail any little screenshot about that. So kudos for that. And I wonder if you have a process for writing your content marketing and your blog?

Claire Brotherton  17:25

Well, I do try. And for my own stuff, like think ease a little bit about the SEO, sometimes I just have written things the right way. But I do try and pick out key phrases people were looking for, and that kind of thing. But yeah, the screenshots they take forever, although I’ve just found some sent me off about a new snipping tool for taking them. So that’s great, because it’s already saving me some time is used to just screenshot the whole screen, and then I had to crop it. And but yeah, I don’t have. I am a bit more inconsistently blogging than I used to be. I’m trying to do at least one post a month. Because I’m not being asked to write for some other blogs. The time to write a moment is getting about speed. 

Jan Koch  18:17

Which is a good problem to have, though. Because it means that you are getting more exposure and you get you’re getting money this way and you’re writing for other companies. 

Claire Brotherton  18:25

This is true. 

Jan Koch  18:26

Yeah. So what type of work do you mostly do? Is it more writing? Or is it more development these days,

Claire Brotherton  18:34

It’s probably around a 50 50 split. I’m doing at the moment I’m doing a website for a new business that has been successful. And that’s been around for a while. So I’ve done a certain amount of work on that. I’m not quite sure when it’s going to finish. Because I think we plan to do it all. And get it done by the middle of the summer and then came along. I have also been doing since the beginning of European and waiting for WP shows on doing regular posting on-demand and the excitement I’ve got coming up is funny interesting because it’s actually building on something…

Jan Koch  19:30

That’s really nice. And I’m glad you’re bringing on accessibility because that’s something that I personally need to learn a lot about. And I think my websites let me do that again. I’m glad you’re bringing on accessibility because that’s something that I need to learn about myself and I think my websites aren’t accessible or at least not as accessible as they should be probably. Can you walk us through how you work with customers when you’re improving their websites for accessibility?

Claire Brotherton  20:04

And well, I’ve done, I’ve done one or two audits were just basically taking a few pages, sample a website and then kind of check them against the content accessibility guidelines. Look. We’re in version 2.19. And the aim is usually to get to the double a standard, there’s three of them a double a and triple a. Triple-A is really hard. I don’t think many sites are actually trying to achieve that. But double A is certainly an achievable one. So once that you’ve got able to sit way, after I came up with my report on the pages, the owner said, well, actually, I think we do you want to be designer, rather than trying to, you know, remediate all the issues at heart with that particular person. So I went to Genesis things, which are generally accessibility ready and just remodeled it.

Jan Koch  21:14

Interesting. So you started off with an audit, but then it turned into a full redesign project?

Claire Brotherton  21:19

Yeah. Yeah. And I’ve got possibly another one or two or that sort of coming up. I need to finalize the details on.

Jan Koch  21:36

Interesting. What goes into these standards, like what has implemented accessibility really look like on a website?

Claire Brotherton  21:45

There are four general principles, and as part of their guidelines, perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. So there’s sort of general things that cover sorry, I’m not saying very particular here, but and the idea is that websites will meet all of these four things. So perceivable is whatever senses you can use? Can you get to that website content? Or is it billable in alternative formats? If it’s in one sort of format? So if it was audio, if it was a podcast is our transcript for people who come lessen spends, and so on so forth? operable is generally not everyone can use a mouse? Or can they get through it by the means using a keyboard or gesture interfaces on the face? Understandable is just about looks like these things. But one aspect of it is just not making your content too difficult to read. And just keeping it simple for the vast majority, and understand that and robust. I think its to do with cross the basin, cross that one, compatibility. 

Jan Koch  23:06

So that’s things like font size, being big enough for people to read it easily. And contrast and stuff like that. Yeah,

Claire Brotherton  23:15

Yeah, there was a part of it. And then probably one of the simplest ones is just a tentative text for your images and very simple thing to do. But a lot of people can miss it. 

Jan Koch  23:28

So for screen readers, it is for people with vision impairment?

Claire Brotherton  23:33

Yeah. 

Jan Koch  23:35

Interesting. Yeah, that’s definitely something I need to pay more attention to. Because when I’m building, for example, the summit website, I’m slapping so many images onto the summit, I have on the landing page, maybe there is the one to say much, but 70 or 80 images with all the speakers and sponsors and logos and stuff like that. It’s really hard work to fill out the old text for all of that, but it’s so important.

Claire Brotherton  24:00

I just feel like, well, for me, it’s just come second nature. You know, I just think I’m gonna see them, that’s just what you do. I suppose it needs to get to that level of perception within, I don’t know, and well within all content creators, not just developers. And because I feel it is a job for everyone. And voting at the moment is a collaborative thing. I really need to be saying to the client, right? These images need alt text, but your best place to say, Well, actually, rather than me, I can add something. But it might not be how you want to describe them.

Jan Koch  24:39

Yeah, it’s so important and that that is something that certainly isn’t second nature for me is that I’m building the websites. I’m mostly under time pressure and I want to get things done pretty quickly. So I’m just slapping the images on rather than thinking about what do people with vision impairments or other disabilities struggle with Ben coming to the website, and I don’t fill out the alt text, for example, or I don’t have the font sizes big enough because they look good when they’re a little bit smaller or something like that. I think there’s, there’s a trade-off you need to make I think when you’re building websites is get it done and get it done the right way.

Claire Brotherton  25:20

Yeah, and I spoke about choosing, you know, the right thing to begin with, or, you know, the right process to begin with just helps you along that way. Because it just kind of takes you along the right path, so to speak. If you build something and then subsequently, it’s not accessible, it’s much, much harder to fix. So much easier if you just adopted the right processes at the beginning. 

Jan Koch  25:48

Yeah, yeah, I couldn’t agree more with you. And I think that even laws coming up. I think California has released a law recently about accessibility, something like that, I could be wrong. But I think that I saw a blog post about that. And I saw a presentation about that even. So there even could be a really nice selling point when you’re building websites, for agencies, or for our clients to just slap on another couple of hundred dollars onto the project and to make the website accessible and to even educate your clients in the first place, I guess, because they likely won’t care about accessibility.

Claire Brotherton  26:27

Yeah, and I think you do need that buyer from the clients because if then they don’t really understand and get it themselves. If you just think all we need to check this box somewhere, or somebody told us you know, we want avoid a lawsuit, you know, it would be very easy to go to the site that was successful when it was launched, and then have people get some sloppy down the lane and not bother doing the things that he could do.

Jan Koch  26:53

Yeah. And that reminds me of something. But you have here in Germany, I’m not sure how it is in other countries, but companies here can get a corporate social responsibility badge where they have to fulfill certain standards in how the company operates, and how the company cares for customers and engages in social activities outside of the business. And that there should be something similar I feel when it comes to accessibility so that companies have spent the money and the time on getting their website made accessible, can brag about that, and can be vocal about caring for people with disabilities and caring for just contributing to a better nature of the web if you will.

Claire Brotherton  27:41

Yeah, and it might not even be you know, so far transitional idea. A disability could just be you know if you injure your hands one day, and you take 100 minutes and you realize can difficult is to do that on the keyboard and whatever. Or you’re right somewhere, got your phone, you want to watch a video, and then somewhere really noisy, oh, it doesn’t have subtitles, or it’s crappy or auto-generated ones, then it’s really sometimes just for really simple situations. But you realize, oh, actually, the things that mean, and websites more accessible actually help a huge range of people. And it’s not just the disability doing it.

Jan Koch  28:26

Yeah. And that actually, now that you’re bringing this up, I didn’t realize what I’m doing this. But essentially, when I’m spending time with my 13-week old daughter, and she’s falling asleep, or she’s just sleeping in my arm, and I want to watch a YouTube video or something like that, because I’m bored, right I’m sitting 30 minutes on the couch. I watched them without sound. And I’m looking just at the subtitles when it’s an educational piece of content. And I didn’t realize that I’m doing that. But without the subtitles, I wouldn’t be possible to even see those videos and to make the most out of the time besides obviously, cuddling with my daughter, but that is something that just comes to my mind right now, as I’ve mentioned that.

Claire Brotherton  29:09

Yeah, there’s a lot of situations going on. I think people just kind of sometimes cross over or just.

Jan Koch  29:18

yeah, I think we’re too busy running around like headless chickens in our lives sometimes. Oh, that is so interesting. Now. I’ve made the decision to have all the sessions transcribed for the summit based on one of our previous conversations. I have a virtual assistant working on that so that they’re not just like machine-generated transcriptions but checked by a human. Do you have any tips on creating captions for videos in an efficient way because I will have like 40 hours of video when I’m ending with all this, all these sessions so creating captions for that would be quite expensive.

Claire Brotherton  29:59

I think you’re going right in the right way. And sourcing some eye-catching a couple of webcam videos. And it is really is just fun I got stuck into it. There’s a particular process that he asked me to follow the use of software as a service Amar. And that it’s not just getting all the Whitestone is getting synced to what people are saying, and then making sure that the lines of text that people read are not too long. And there’s a real art to doing that. Once. I mean, absolutely just kind of done them at times d or, you know, the moments where I just thought, I want to put something else aside and I’ll do this and I realized I could be you know, I could be sitting there for 20 minutes or something and listening and transcribing and I maybe we get five minutes of audio done or video done and it just seems so slow but then I think the people who do this for a living they’re much more attend to it and much faster. Yeah,

Jan Koch  31:15

Yeah, and I’ve just checked a service that I’ve used in the past for captions on my YouTube videos because they are quite short – rev.com – and they increased their prices they now sell captions for $1.25 per minute. So converting that to my 40 hours of the full summit yeah, that’s three grand in captions. Jesus so that that is probably not going to happen this year. Maybe next year I’ll find a way to make it work in an efficient way. 

Claire Brotherton  31:53

Bigger sponsor or something. 

Jan Koch  31:55

Yeah, I do have many sponsors already and I’m very thankful for that. So I do have like WP Engine and Yoast, WebARX. Let me just pull up the list when I’m starting to name a few sponsors. I have to name them all I guess. So, there are WP Buffs and WP Engine who are the gold sponsors? And then we have Weglot, Yoast Themeco, WebARX, iubenda, Omnisend, WP Remote, Cloudways, and the Agency Trailblazer Podcast. So this goes to show that I think the community realizes that virtual events are needed and companies are willing to contribute to bringing people together in our space, which is a fantastic thing. And I’m really appreciative of the sponsors. But then hosting these events is so much work that I really currently at least I don’t have the three grand on headway on spending them on captions. Just being transparent about what it takes to host the summit here, because it’s eaten up quite a bit of time and a couple of months on my time where I’m not doing anything else but preparing and running. So for next year, I have to find a way though, and I’m putting this out publicly that for next year, I’m striving to have captions on the summit. And thank you, Claire, for bringing this to my attention because it really is super important. And I hope that people watching this can see how important accessibility really is based on this conversation. Now, enough of rambling on my end.

Jan Koch  34:15

What I wanted to say is Claire, thanks for bringing this to my attention. Because it’s really important that we keep accessibility in mind, especially with events that hopefully bring on a couple of thousand people and connect them. But I would love to know if there are any, like low hanging fruits that agencies can leverage when they’re building websites and they just could incorporate into their processes to make sure that the websites they build are more accessible.

Claire Brotherton  34:53

I’m definitely starting to access them ready because they’ve got a certain amount of features built-in. And that just sort of saves you having to do some of the donkey work. I mean, I think one of them, it’s probably not one that designers relish. But one of the main aspects of creating an accessibility readiness to have all links in your content is underlined. That’s not necessarily the header or the footer. But the contents, it just, it just makes them clearer to everyone. Because you shouldn’t just do it by color. Because if somebody was colorblind or has particular perception, we will not be able to tell which, which are the links, I think they did find a theme or a website once where they decided to make the links gray, and then the text was black, it was almost impossible to see which were the links, and I was just literally rolling and lace over the whole thing. All right. But yeah, it says it’s a simple one, but it’s kind of very old school. If you remember the early days of websites in the ’90s, remember, you know, the big green screens and everything was like a blue underline. Yeah, I’m a long way since then. But you know, actually going back to some aspects of this early data. 

Jan Koch  36:20

Yeah. And I still find myself trying to click on most underlined elements, to be honest, it’s still something that is ingrained into how I use the websites underlined and everything that’s blue is potentially a link.

Claire Brotherton  36:32

Yeah, I’m sure. I think there’s another, there’s another one that I know, there’s a lot of accessibility that I can think of. But again, it probably isn’t that easy fix. But it’s some links that look like buttons. Because buttons have a special, they have their own way of interacting. And because it can, you can use the spacebar on the button to activate button, but you can’t seem to link if you try to help with a link, you’ll just end up scrolling through but I think it’s just become such a thing. It’s obvious, you know, all right, it looks like a button. But it’s a call to action. We know that but users don’t necessarily.

Jan Koch  37:14

That’s a good point. So what are your thoughts on all those page builders popping up then? Do you think they’re a good thing? Or are they like really bad for accessibility?

Claire Brotherton  37:24

I’m gonna repeat a couple of the most popular ones, some little while back. But I did find a number of things I was less happy about from the accessibility point of view. And I know that there were certain things that we were trying to do that were harder, you know that if you’re building a forum, and you think, all right, I’ll just use Elementor’s built-in form or something like that, then it’s not going to be as accessible as a forum, perhaps with a dedicated forum plugin.

Jan Koch  37:59

What is that the markup of the form or the design of the form was? 

Claire Brotherton  38:05

Well, it was simple things sometimes, like a lot of forms were made just use placeholder text within the fields, they’ll get rid of the labels, and they’ll just have the placeholder text. And those problems with that in that. One problem is sometimes the placeholder text is a lighter color, and it’s difficult to read. And then another problem you’ve got with placeholder text is when you put the cursor in to actually take something, then the placeholder text obviously disappears. And that might not matter if it’s a very short form, or if it just enters your email or something. If it was a really long form, and has no placeholders, then it get completely lost. 

Jan Koch  38:46

Yeah, I have to confess that I used that on the WP Agency Summit too, for the opt-in, which is just a name and an email. So that’s quite straightforward, I would say. But I agree that when you’re on a forum to maybe enter billing details and a shopping cart or something like that, and you’re doing that on the mobile phone, and you just have to place all the tags, I get completely lost.

Claire Brotherton  39:08

Yeah, yeah. And then as you say, it’s remembering other devices as well. Well, I don’t know what you lead with, I suppose. I do think desktop first. But you know, maybe mobile-first is probably a lot more appropriate.

Jan Koch  39:26

Yeah, yeah, I agree. That’s actually something that I like, I use Elementor most of the times, and I’m building my sites. And with Elementor, you can toggle between the views where you can design for mobile, for tablet, and for desktop separately. That is something that I like and that I use quite often is to ensure that when I design on desktop first, I still check for tablet and mobile and see that the website is easy to use. I’m over two. So one, one thing I struggle with is having elements that are too small on mobile, just with my fat fingers, I just missed them on the screen. And I don’t tap on the right elements. I always get annoyed when that happens.

Claire Brotherton  40:07

Well, I’ve seen them. I’ve seen that error, as well, that, you know, thanks to small mobile, the one thing Google Search Console on their site, and I realized I changed the theme on it, not that long ago. And it was actually in the code box, and it decided to like expand the mode, you know, all the way across the screen. So mostly, you know, apps and rubbish on mobile and had to go back and get them to wrap.

Jan Koch  40:36

That’s a good point that you bring up the Google Search Console, is that a good place to look for when you are trying to improve accessibility?

Claire Brotherton  40:45

And I suppose, yeah, you need to have access, if it’s a brand new site, or if it’s client site and you access you’re not going to be able to use that as a tool. I know that. So I don’t know, Search Console so much. But Google lighthouse has got an accessibility score in it, which I think is quite telling that to say that we don’t know, we couldn’t sort of say, oh, it’s a ranking factor. But the very fact that they think they did in one case makes me think, well, it must be important.

Jan Koch  41:17

Yeah, I would bet that it’s in some form or another ranking factor. I have Adam Silverstein from the Google Developer Relations on the summit to when he talks. 

Claire Brotherton  41:30

Ask him then. 

Jan Koch  41:30

Yeah, I’ve already done the session with him, unfortunately. But he, he hinted into something in that direction, whereas the web fighters will become more and more important. So that’s how long does the largest content pain take? How long does time to interaction take and things like that? So that is all about usability and accessibility. So I would assume that all those glitches that Google Search Console tells you about when you have mobile issues, will also negatively impact your ranking in some form or another. But just my two cents here for this.

Claire Brotherton  42:06

Well, well, you were just mentioning second where you’re saying that, by the way, some WCAG 2.1 brought a guideline. And for that, you know, they’re saying that they’ve got social media buttons or something on mobile, then they should be big enough and far enough apart so that you can tap them properly. And you’re not getting all mixed up.

Jan Koch  42:30

Yeah, yeah, that’s so important. And I wish we could talk for longer Claire because there are so many rabbit holes to go down into. But unfortunately, we come towards the end of our conversation here. So I appreciate that, that you’ve come on and that you’ve shared your journey. And also your thoughts on accessibility. And I hope that people watching this, got away with some of the low hanging fruits and remember that to incorporate into your processes. So underline links in the content. For example, check the mobile layout check if pop-ups block the entire mobile screen. And if you can close proper pop-ups properly on mobile, make sure elements are easy to tap on mobile at the all texts to your images, and all the other stuff that Claire shared with us today. Claire,, where can people get in touch with you if they want to learn more about what you’re doing?

Claire Brotherton  43:25

Well, my website is, I always have difficult things. I don’t know why it’s such a long domain name, but again, it was like a lot of other ones weren’t available. So it’s a bright clear web.com, abrightclearweb.com. 

Jan Koch  43:39

That is fantastic. And I’ll make sure to link it below the video. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your wisdom with us Claire. 

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