An Accessible Way to Announce New Features

Published August 29, 2023

As a business owner or company leader, you always look for new, cutting-edge features to enhance the user experience. By constantly improving and expanding your website or app’s features, you increase engagement and the amount of new and returning customers. Adding updates is also a great way to show users your value their experience and are always on the lookout to improve.

You don’t want your effort and updates to go unnoticed by your customers. To prevent that, it’s good to announce new features through notifications. When doing so, it’s important to make it accessible to those living with disabilities. 

A survey from the Pew Research Center says that 75% of Americans with disabilities report using the Internet daily. With this in mind, it’s good to assume that much of your audience would benefit from accessibility accommodations. 

These users will also greatly benefit from announcements to help prevent change aversion (a short-term adverse reaction from users in response to changes in a product). Users get into a routine on frequently used apps and websites. To mitigate adverse reactions, it’s good to make changes known.

Here are some tips on announcing new features with accessibility in mind.

Email campaigns

Alerting users via email is a great way to give advance notice of any changes. To keep the email accessible, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Ensure text is easy to read: Choose an easy-to-read ‘sans-serif’ font that doesn’t have too much flair (ie; Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana are often used in web design because of the accessibility aspect). In addition, choose a practical size. The standard is size 12 or higher to be accessible for those with low vision who may need a larger font to see. Pro-tip: Size 16 font and bigger are considered large point.
  • Use bullet points of numbers to break up content: This is another way to reduce user change aversion. Bullet points and numbers help make complex or heavily detailed content easier to read and digest. It is also great for those using screen readers. Screen readers inform the user where the list begins and ends, how many items or points are included, and which item they are currently on.
  • Include alternative text (alt text): If you’re including images, it’s mandatory to include alt text. Alt text describes images to website visitors who cannot see them. The special code that alt text creates is read by screen readers or other assistive technology. It’s pivotal for those who are blind, have other visual impairments or have physical or cognitive disabilities to understand images on a website to have a user-friendly experience. A good rule of thumb for alt text is to ensure it is simple and to the point.
  • Label links and buttons clearly: Embedded links often provide additional information or next steps. Instead of using vague language like “click here,” call-to-action phrases that let the user know they’re expected to do something really drives the point home. Something to remember, good link text makes sense independently as a sentence or phrase. 

In-app notifications

This is a good way to inform users about updates and changes while they’re already in the app (or on the website). A common way to do this is through notifications, pop-ups, tooltips, etc.

If going this route, consider those users with screen readers. User alerts are injected into the page and read by the screen reader. Make sure notifications are simple and straight to the point. 

Be sure to use alerts sparingly. We should use alerts sparingly so users won't read them automatically if they appear on page load. It’s important to ensure the notification has enough merit to warrant a pop-up notification, as pop-ups can disturb user workflow.

A webinar or video

A webinar or video may be necessary if your site or app has undergone extensive updates or a completely new redesign or restructure.

“Webinars and videos are excellent ways to demonstrate what a new product feature does rather than giving lengthy explanations,” says FeedBear. “When you do it right, you can show more in a 1-minute video than you could with a 2000-word blog post.”

If making a video, keep the following in mind:

  • Include both audio and visual elements: If using visual aids to relay information (graphs, lower thirds, additional images, on-screen text, etc.), that information must be explained audibly for those with visual impairments. 
  • Include captions: Captions don’t just write out what the speaker is saying, it also includes important cues to make sure that people with hearing disabilities can fully engage in the content (ie; a knock at the door, the sound of whistling, etc.). Not to be confused with subtitles, captions run in tandem with video. 
  • Provide a video transcript: This is a word-for-word text file of your audio, your video will have a great resource component for those with either hearing or visual impairments. This is a very important step for video that features no audio since it summarizes video content to those with visual impairments. This can be particularly helpful if you’re including a visual guide. 
  • Host your video in an ADA-accessible video player: A 508-compliant video player allows users to use assistive technology or keyboard commands. This makes it easier for those who cannot use a mouse and ensures speech commands can access the video. 

Be open to user feedback and give a platform to voice concerns or any potential glitches. When allowing feedback, ensure a clear, easy-to-find way to relay this information. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Provide multiple contact options to accommodate the preferences or needs based on disability, like live chat, phone, email, etc. 
  • Make customer service options clear and easy to find. This lessens the chance of user frustration which results in them disengaging.
  • Train customer service representatives accordingly. If you are working with people as your support agents, ensure they have the proper training to assist those with disabilities. 

Users will appreciate the work you’re putting into your website and app even more if it’s communicated in a clear and accessible manner. 

Event: Creating a Sustainable Digital Accessibility Business Plan

Join us on Tuesday, October 24th at 1 PM ET for our next event on Creating a Sustainable Digital Accessibility Business Plan.

Every business needs a digital accessibility plan. Learn how to craft one for your business, no matter the size, that is sustainable as your business grows.

Register for this free online event here.


Vendor Directory now offers an impartial listing of digital accessibility vendors.  Search for products and services by category, subcategory, or by company name.  Check out our new Vendor Directory here.