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Q&A with Andrea Biraghi: How Docebo is making an accessible learning platform

• 6 min read

How Docebo is making an accessible learning platformAccessible e-learning is more than just following web accessibility guidelines, or web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. Our learning programs are most powerful when everyone becomes stronger from them.

The best talent in your organization could be left behind if learning is not inclusive, which could mean that you’re preventing a subject matter expert from being born in-house who could eventually help others replicate success. That is literally a lose, lose if there ever was one!

At Docebo, we are committed to continuously innovating learning environments to provide an accessible and positive learning experience for any audience!

Docebo has redesigned the front-end of its learning platform to conform as closely as possible to WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility guidelines and provide learners with a more accessible experience. Even if a learner has a disability that could otherwise create challenges in providing a meaningful and functional learning experience, we’re here to bridge that gap. We’ve also found that accessible learning platforms actually provide more usability and positive experiences to everyone who uses it, which we’re excited to unpack with you.

This enhancement took some heavy lifting, and honestly – we’re so excited about it. So much so that we wanted to give you an insider’s perspective on the scope of it l, right down to the planning and the execution of it. We sat down with Docebo Italy’s own Andrea Biraghi 🇮🇹 in a Q&A to pick his brain on the ins and outs of this project, and just what it took to make it happen.

Q1: Thanks for chatting with us Andrea! So tell us: what made us want to invest in making our technology accessible to begin with?

Great question!

So, first of all, obviously, at Docebo we believe in diversity, equality, and inclusion. We wanted this core belief to also be ingrained into our product, not just in our people.

Secondly, accessibility also means more positive usability, and not even just for a certain audience. This is an important note because a lot of people think that accessibility only benefits individuals subject to impairments or disabilities, but actually that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Accessibility brings new improvements to the table that everybody can benefit from.

Here’s an example for you. As readers, when you use the web, which of the following aspects are important to you?

  • Interactive elements that are easy to identify
  • A clear and consistent journey and clickable options
  • A color contrast that is easy to navigate, without straining your eyes
  • Clear feedback that tells me if I’ve successfully deleted or added something
  • The ability to use the site on your computer or smartphone without any added challenges
  • Form elements that include clear labels that tell you exactly what to do when there is something wrong or, even better, provide you with the right information to prevent any possible mistakes

All of these sound pretty great, right? Perfect!

Wouldn’t you say, then, that the above accessibility and usability examples are valuable for everyone? 😉

Q2: When did this transformation start? 📆 Can you take us from start to finish through the different phases or e-learning accessibility checklists you had to go through?

Sure! So, let’s just start by saying that accessible e-learning is not something that happens overnight. It’s a journey, and quite a challenging one, full of learning opportunities – but, we are Docebo. So obviously, we love challenges as a way to improve what we do.

This is why we started the accessibility journey at the end of 2019. We had this goal of having parts of the product learner experience accessible before the end of 2020. To summarize the journey, these are the most important phases we went through:

✅ Phase one – the people 🧑🏽‍🤝‍🧑🏽: We started by building our internal dream team for this initiative, made up of Docebians that really believed in this mission. We needed their willingness to commit every day to this project and to maintain a drive to learn new things along the way.

✅ Phase two – learning the principles 📝: We realized that you can’t make a product accessible if you don’t understand the principles of e-learning accessibility, and how to apply them to people’s needs. We did a lot of research and sought out a lot of data to prepare for this journey. We could not have done it without some support from external SMEs who helped us reach our goal. This was and has been fundamental.

✅ Phase three – discovery 🤖: This is where we had to ask ourselves: where are we now? What do we want to achieve? What will it take us to get there? These three questions were kept at the forefront, alongside the needs of our learners.

✅ Phase four – showtime 🍾: This is where you start redesigning/fixing/rebuilding the front-end of your product with accessibility in mind. Designers and front-end developers work together to implement it within our product, through our brand new Accessible Design System, which allows us to scale up the entire product experience.

✅ Phase five – testing 💯: This where you have to really unpack the question “does our product now consider the needs of a wider range of people to ensure that everyone is able to experience it”.

✅ Phase six – value communication 💬: This is the phase where we solicit feedback and try to understand how we can best make sure that this initiative has the biggest and most positive impact on our customers and their people.

Q3: PHEW! that sounds like a whole lot of hard work! Were there any challenges that you experienced during the development and testing phases? How did you overcome them?

Another great question. One of the biggest challenges (which still will be in the future) was ensuring the new product experience was REALLY for everybody.

Imagine this: if I ask you to log-in to Docebo, go to your courses, and start one of them, no matter what, you’d probably be done after a few clicks. Now, if you were to throw away your mouse or switch off your monitor, and try that same course of action, you’d need a new approach. 😊

We asked ourselves:

  • Did we consider every aspect of every possible experience we wanted to cover?
  • What is the Docebo experience like with a screen reader or without a mouse and only a keyboard?

These (and many other questions) needed an answer. Thanks to the testers, we learned a lot, and we were able to fix or improve the way Docebo functions so that everyone could positively experience our product. (Remember the massive learning moments I mentioned before? This is one of the biggest ones).

Q4: Andrea, we know you always have the end-user experience in mind when you’re building. Can you speak to how you wanted this experience to look and feel? What was your number one priority? ✨

*Andrea laughs*

(side note: we love Andrea for many reasons – one being his laugh).

Well – as a designer, my priority number one is always delivering great experiences which positively impact people’s lives, and focusing on that experience always pays itself back in fulfillment. I’m sure that all the product owners here at Docebo would agree with me on this.

Accessibility is not limited to just the visual component of the interface or the way it’s “to be used”. It’s not just limited to the physical appearance, but rather it’s something you feel and expect to happen for the most part, no matter what your abilities are.

Accessibility is also (and I’d say mostly) made of actions that live under the hood of the LMS, so there should be a strong focus on the product code semantics, again, to make sure the product is easy to understand for everyone, including people that use assistive technologies.

Q5: This is great, Andrea. Thank you for chatting with us. On a final note, what are you most proud of about this accessibility launch?

My teams. For one, they did an amazing job. In the beginning, piecing together a flow that would be fully accessible, where a person could log in and take courses while still maintaining the integrity of Docebo’s positive user experience, all in less than one year seemed crazy. We started from scratch, did a lot of learning and testing, and now we’re approaching the first release step toward our end goal – and well… this makes me really proud.

Secondly, the fact that we are making our product usable by everybody, there’s something to be said about how impactful that is. We can contribute something really unique and special here by enabling a great and remarkable user experience. How can I not be proud of that? 💙

Finally, a lot of other teams here at Docebo supported us in this journey by taking care of several pieces of the puzzle that we weren’t able to manage all by ourselves. It’s been a real collaborative and cross-team effort with tons of co-creation. I’d love to mention every single person, but I don’t want to miss someone, so, thank you all!

Final thoughts…

This story is one we’re excited to share, and it’s one that we’re so proud of. An accessible product gives everyone who uses it a better overall experience. With these product updates, we hope this launch unlocks the potential for businesses to hire and effectively upskill pristine talent, no matter their range of ability. Finally, a huge thank you to Andrea, and of course, we hope you ALL enjoy this latest update of Docebo, from our offices to yours.