Gravity Forms is a Platinum Sponsor of WordPress Accessibility Day 2022. Last week, co-lead organizer, Amber Hinds, sat down with Morgan Kay, Software Engineer at Rocketgenius, Inc. (the company behind Gravity Forms), and Rian Rietveld, Web Accessibility Specialist at Level Level, to discuss Gravity Forms’ approach to making their plugin and its front-end output more accessible and to tease their talk Form Accessibility and Beyond.
About Gravity Forms
If you’re not familiar with Gravity Forms, Gravity Forms is a powerful WordPress plugin that can allow you to easily build forms without requiring any code. Gravity Forms is used by businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, and web professionals. It can be used to create everything from basic contact forms to complex forms with conditional logic, payment processing, and more.
How We Use Gravity Forms
Incidentally, all of the forms on the WordPress Accessibility Day website are built with Gravity Forms (we were paying for Gravity Forms before they became a sponsor). We’re using Gravity Forms to accept donations, allow attendees to register, for speakers, sponsors, and volunteer onboarding, to gather event feedback, and more.
It was quick and easy for us to connect our Stripe account and start collecting sponsor payments and donations. We were able to easily create pending posts ready for review for speakers and sponsors when they submitted their onboarding forms – this saved the organizing team from having to do a ton of data entry. Our attendee registration form automatically creates users on our WordPress site, and with some custom coding we were even able to quickly display lists of microsponsors and donors that loads from Gravity Forms entries.
On Making Gravity Forms More Accessible
The Gravity Forms team is committed to accessibility. Over the past three years, they have significantly enhanced their plugin’s front-end output and the editing experience to ensure that it can be used to build accessible forms on websites where accessibility is a priority.
When asked what motivated Gravity Forms to focus more on accessibility, Morgan stated that accessibility is very important to them as a company and that their whole team believes accessibility should be a big part of all websites.
Everyone who works with the company is very kind and caring. One of our company values is empathy for our customers and caring for all of our customers.Morgan Kay, Software Engineer at Gravity Forms
Rian, who was brought on to audit Gravity Forms several years ago and has been consulting on their accessibility journey, mentioned that accessibility is a key requirement for government and public websites. She noted that by focusing on accessibility, Gravity Forms was able to widen the audience for their plugin and expand the types of organizations that can use it on their website.
Tips for Plugin Developers
If you want to make your plugin more accessible and make it a viable product to be included in government and enterprise website builds, Morgan and Rian had some tips for where to start.
First, just try using your plugin – whether on the front end or back end – with a keyboard only (no mouse) and with a screen reader (such as NVDA for Windows or VoiceOver on Mac). You want to be able to do everything that you can do with a mouse, without a mouse.
Some resources they recommend for learning about accessibility include:
You can hire a consultant like Gravity Forms did to audit your plugin, but if you don’t have a large budget, there are still plenty of needed improvements that you can identify and fix on your own.
Tune in for Form Accessibility and Beyond
Of course, a great resource for learning about accessibility is WordPress Accessibility Day! Tune in on November 2nd at 18:00 UTC for Morgan and Rian’s talk, Form Accessibility and Beyond.
The talk will cover form accessibility broadly, but not just how to write standard-compliant code in your forms. They’ll also discuss form design, form usability, and the kind of big picture thinking about how to build forms so that all users can fill them out with no stress, and of course will show how Gravity Forms can be used to build accessible forms.
Special Gravity Forms offer for WordPress Accessibility Day Attendees
Want to try Gravity Forms on your website? Gravity Forms is offering 30% off all new Gravity Forms licenses to everyone who attended WordPress Accessibility Day.
WordPress Accessibility Day attendees can also enter to win a free 12-month Gravity Forms Elite License, valued at $259. Gravity Forms’ Elite License gives you unlimited access to the full suite of features and Add-Ons — the ultimate package for collecting, managing, and sharing business data. Get full control of your forms with webhooks, advanced automation, and more.
For more details about these offers visit Gravity Form’s sponsor page and watch the full interview video below for more thoughts on plugin and WordPress accessibility from Rian and Morgan.
Gravity Forms Interview Video
[Amber] I think we are live, so we’re gonna get started. I am Amber Hinds. I am one of the organizers of WordPress Accessibility Day. I’m super excited to be live today with two of our sponsors and speakers at WordPress Accessibility Day.
Morgan is from Gravity Forms and Rian is from Level Level and the A11y Collective and um we’re going to be talking a little bit about specifically on Gravity Forms and um and then we’ll tease their talk a little bit which should be really fun.
We do have open captions today just because some of the social media platforms don’t have captions. If you prefer closed captions we will correct them and have a video available after the fact with closed captions um. So to start us off Morgan do you want to introduce yourself and tell anyone who’s never heard of Gravity Forms a little bit about what Gravity Forms is?
[Morgan] Sure. Yeah so I’m Morgan Kay. I am a software engineer at Rocketgenius which is the company that makes Gravity Forms and if you don’t know Gravity Forms, it is a form building plug-in for WordPress um, but it does a whole lot more than just build forms. Basically anything you can imagine doing with a form: e-commerce, um polls, quizzes, connecting to all sorts of CRMs, um integrating with all sorts of different services, Gravity Forms can do all of those things.
[Amber] Great and Rian, do you want to introduce yourself?
[Riane] Hi I’m Rian Rietveld and I’m from the Netherlands, so I have an accent um. I work for Level Level that’s a WordPress agency and I also work for the A11y Collective that’s an online learning platform for um accessibility. and um, Morgan ask me to join her, because we’re going to talk about Gravity Forms and I did some consultancy for them.
[Amber] You helped gravity forms with some of their accessibility initiatives?
[Amber] Um so Morgan, I don’t know if you, I know you’re more on the software development side at Gravity Forms, so I don’t know if you know sort of the background on um what made Gravity Forms interested in sponsoring WordPress Accessibility Day?
[Morgan] We’re really concerned about accessibility. Accessibility is very important to us as, as a company and we think it should be a big part of all websites. So it’s just part of our values.
[Amber] Yeah and so as as Rian mentioned, and as you were saying, as part of your values and I know we use Gravity Forms actually the um WordPress Accessibility Day website, all of our forms, they’re all Gravity Forms and so I, I’ve been kind of following along as you all have gone through this journey um to put significant effort into making the plug-in more accessible and so I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about what inspired that effort and what that journey looked like?
[Morgan] That effort actually started before I joined the company about two and a half years ago, so I wasn’t around for the decision-making process um, but I do know that Gravity Forms, everyone who works with the company is very kind, and caring and one of our company values is, is empathy for our customers and caring for all of our customers.
So I know that that was a big part of the thought process behind it um, kind of the first step was bringing Rian on board as a consultant to teach us all about accessibility and to do an accessibility audit of Gravity Forms. Rian, do you know any more about that, that decision-making process?
[Rian] Um well I think it’s the empathy, but also um it’s been it’s required more and more for government sites and public service site to apply to WCAG or section 508 and Gravity Forms wanted to join that effort and also like that Gravity Forms could be used on websites for government or for websites that need to apply for accessibility standards. So, that’s also been one of the part of the decision making.
Just being up-to-date and modern and to um yeah current standards.
[Amber] Yeah, I mean it really does expand your customer base and where your tools, your software tools can be used, if you can meet those standards.
[Amber] Yeah, can you tell us a little bit Rian, about the, that auditing process and what that looks like, like if another and I’m, I know I’m throwing you a question on the fly that wasn’t on our question list, but if if another plug-in is interested in going down this path and being audited or trying to fix their problems, what is, what does that look like from a plug-in perspective? I know we talk about testing websites a lot um is it different for a plug-in?
[Rian] Yeah, because a plugin can be used in many different ways example, Gravity Forms, people can use it in many different ways or any many yeah different settings, also and it’s implemented in a theme and people can just adjust that also. So you have much more variables um into into that and it makes it harder, because other people are really controlling the plug-in. So you have to take into account many many cases the plugin is used. What I did first was just an um a review of every field and just an install with everything and then test every field also the error messages, how people get information.
Like if they have a wrong field entered or if they have combination of fields, conditioning fields or like the submit button hidden, all kinds of scenarios we tested. And I wrote a report about that and handed it over to Gravity Forms and said well this is what you need to do.
[Amber] Yeah and so then they got to go through the process of fixing things and I imagine that you came back and retested after they made some of their changes?
[Rian] Yeah and I also met a team and we um I just, a kind of awareness session and asked any questions they had, so that was also very useful.
[Amber] Yeah um so on that note do either of you have tips for plug-in developers? If they are interested in making their own plug-ins accessible, um maybe even if it’s a free plug-in and they don’t have a huge budget to bring a consultant, is there a good place to start or someplace where they could they could learn more beyond of course WordPress Accessibility Day, which we want everyone to attend next week?
[Morgan] Um, Honestly my my first advice is just try it, use it with keyboard navigation and um and voice, a screen reader.
Um you’ll find a lot of problems really quickly that way and um quickly gain a lot of sympathy for your users, once once you try to use those tools on your own if you aren’t used to using them. Um you’ll realize how painful it can be um. Rian is the, is the better person to answer the question about what resources are out there there. There are a lot of good resources.
[Rian] Yeah, yeah there are a lot yeah um well , testing your your plug-in with keyboard only um if you Google that you get a lot of WebAIM have a, has an excellent page about that and how it’s really not rocket science. You, it’s easy to to learn and then you understand how people struggle to go through a website um. Well you can follow courses on the A11y Collective, because we explain how to test and how to, what’s needed for accessibility. Um of W3C website there’s a lot of information also about WCAG and about how to test.
Um there’s a website called A11yproject. com and there’s a ton of information about accessibility and how to test and where to start. So there is a lot out, yeah out there.
[Amber] Yeah those are all really great resources.
I know I’ve used some of those myself as well so. Um one of the things that I have really admired about Gravity Forms and I think is worth highlighting or discussing a little bit more, is that not only did they do work on the front end of the plug-in, but they there have been notices that have been added into the editor for users to provide guidance in the dashboard to help them make more accessible choices as they’re building their forms. So, I was curious if you have, either of you had thoughts about that? Why it’s important to add those and in addition to what was done um to improve the front-end accessibility of the forms?
[Morgan] Um we, we say that you can make accessible forms with Gravity Forms. You can also make inaccessible forms with Gravity Forms um so we we needed to make sure that someone who chose Gravity Forms, because they knew it could make accessible forms, was also aware that they could make decisions that would make their forms inaccessible and putting those notices in the editor, so for example, the we have the multi-select field. The multi-select field is just not accessible and there’s no way to make it accessible. So, if you pick that field there’s a little notice saying, this field has its accessibility problems you shouldn’t use it.
Um we just wanted to provide guidance to users without expecting all of our users to become accessibility experts. So that they could make good decisions and keep their forms accessible. [Amber] Mm-hmm, yeah, because there’s so much that just comes with the content creator is building out things on the site?
[Morgan] Yeah yeah.
[Amber] And I’m guessing there’s maybe some things in the plug-in that you can’t remove, because of backwards compatibility issues?
[Morgan] Yes, yes.
[Amber] Is that kind of like that field, for example?
[Morgan] Yeah yeah, we had big discussions about that yeah, because backwards compatibility is also one of our major commitments.
We want to make sure that an update never breaks your website or your forms. Um, so there were some things that we talked about just removing, but we couldn’t for backwards compatibility reasons. So that’s part of why some of those notices are in there.
[Amber] Yeah that is always a challenge when you’re employing developer and you have a huge user base like Gravity Forms does.
It’s easier if you’re like, well we only had 100 users, oh well, but when you have tens of thousands. . .
[Rian] I think the most discussions were about that.
How to maintain backpack compatibility, but also get it accessible as it is now. That was a lot of work, a lot of thinking.
[Amber] Yeah, I mean I think in some world that’s kind of why ARIA exists, right? Like why I’ve seen instances where they add role of button to something, because they’re worried about breaking if they change it to a proper tag.
Um of course, you have to use that carefully, but yeah. Um so I’m curious from both of you, if there was one or two things that you would like to see improved in WordPress itself, WordPress core from an accessibility perspective, what would that be?
[Morgan] Um I mean, honestly it’s been a long time since I’ve played with Gutenberg without a mouse, um so I’m not sure how accessible it is these days, but I know that Gutenberg has had challenges all along. Um it’s a very complicated user interface and um super important that it remains accessible.
[Amber] Yeah, do you have anything Rian?
[Rian] Um well, um I, I was playing around with full site editing um experience and as a non-disabled person I struggle. So, I wonder if someone cannot see or is only able to use the mouse, of the keyboard, they struggle even more. I think it’s not intuitive, but maybe if you work a lot with it it gets more more easy , but at the moment I just think it’s undoable to actually, for example add a menu, or stuff like that.
It’s really hard, because I don’t get the interface.
[Amber] Yeah I haven’t, I haven’t tried full-site editing much. I’ve been kind of hiding from it, but I’ve been hearing this from people that they’re saying I’ve worked in WordPress for many years and I couldn’t figure out how to create a new navigation menu in full site editing.
[Rian] And you’re you’re forced into that full site editing mode and a struggle how to get out of it.
And on adding a menu, it was really nice what it was and it was fully accessible and now it’s like I, I don’t, cannot figure out how it works. So, but that’s maybe something that needs work.
[Amber] Yeah yeah, I think I’ve heard a lot of that and I could definitely agree with you. I’ve seen the same thing even with when the full screen mode on the post or page edit screen became default and clients would go to edit a post and then they’re like I don’t know how to get back or how to close it.
Yeah and I’m just like, oh you just need to go in the setting and make this not your default, every time, so that you can see the menu on the left and you know where to get, where you need to go, but it is like interesting . . .
[Rian] It’s out of our hands.
[Amber] Things that we don’t realize can trip people up, yeah, and I think that’s probably why user testing and getting a lot of feedback is really important. Um so you two are giving a talk it is, I’m trying to figure out if I still have my schedule up, there we go. Uh it is on November 2nd at 1800 UTC. Could you two tease the talk a little bit for us?
Why should people tune in? What can they expect to hear about?
[Morgan] Well, obviously we’re going to talk about forms, um but we’re not just going to talk about how to write codes, standard compliant sorry standard compliant code, in your forms um we’re also going to talk about form design, form usability, the kind of big picture thinking about how to build forms, so that all of your users can fill out your forms with no stress.
[Rian] Yeah, it’s not only about Gravity Forms, um it’s about forms in general, but we also show um how you can set up a form in Gravity Forms, fully accessible. So it’s a bit of both and it’s a takeaway for, for all people who use forms or want to build forms.
[Amber] Sounds great. I know I’m definitely looking forward to that talk.
Um, so my last question just if either, if anyone wants to get a hold of either of you, find you on the webs or someone wants to learn more about Gravity Forms, where should they go?
[Morgan] Gravityforums.com and I guess the best way to get in touch with me is via email at rocket genius dot com.
[Amber] Okay and Rian if anyone wanted to follow up with you?
[Rian] Yeah, um my company website is level-level. com and you can find me on Twitter @RianRietveld, that’s my handle, just my name.
[Amber] Well, I really appreciate you two spending time with me chatting today. We’ll have the recap posted up on a blog post on the WordPress Accessibility Day website soon. For anyone who’s watching, go register. It is free.
It starts next Wednesday on um at 10 a. m Central. I’m in central time so I’m not thinking the correct time for the world, which is not great. Uh at 1445 UTC we’re going to have opening remarks and our keynote speaker, um Nicolas Steenhout will be kicking things off at 1500 UTC, so.
Thank you both for joining me, and we hope we’ll see everyone there and everyone will tune in for your talk.
[Rian] Thank you.