FirstFuel is the global leader in customer engagement for energy providers and their business customers. The company has developed an analytics platform that turns complex energy data into insights that help utilities work more effectively with their customers.
Increasingly, FirstFuel noticed that prospective customers were building digital accessibility requirements into their requests for proposals (RFPs).
From a business perspective, it made sense to assess the overall accessibility of their platform. “We were going to be doing that work anyway,” said Rick Kellstrom, Senior UX UI Designer. “In this market, it’s a competitive edge to be accessible.”
FirstFuel partnered with Perkins Access to improve their platform’s accessibility. Perkins Access began the engagement by conducting a full accessibility audit and guiding the necessary remediation work.
“As we kicked off the project, it was apparent that this was going to be a great partnership, FirstFuel was really interested in understanding how to improve the user experience for people with disabilities, and they were very responsive to our recommendations. We knew they were going to be a great client to work with,” said Gary Aussant, Director of Digital Accessibility at Perkins Access.
“I knew that there would be a lot of change coming, and that was a good thing. It’s all about user experience — and Perkins Access helped us keep that in mind. The more accessible the platform became, the more user-friendly it would be,” Kellstrom said.
And in the end, all the change was worth it.
“It was a big pill to swallow, but we got through it and now we’re in a much better position. Better performance is better for everyone,” said Kellstrom. “The incredible thing with Perkins is seeing how detailed and how thoroughly they approach accessibility — and do it the right way. The team was a great guide for us to follow. The recommendations always work out well.”
Once the audit and remediation work were complete, FirstFuel committed to the idea that what they learned about accessibility would become ingrained into their culture.
“The accessibility work we’ve done with Perkins will absolutely influence the way we develop our product going forward,” Kellstrom said.
Accessibility is now built into the quality assurance (QA) process. Every feature must reflect a best attempt to address accessibility issues. For example, new features and functions are tested on mobile and desktop using screen reader software to ensure that visually impaired users can easily access the information.
“Our primary job as consultants is to help our clients walk before they can run,” Aussant said. “Like most digital companies, FirstFuel is not going to stop adding new features and functionality to their product. Our partnership with First Fuel helped them create a sustainable approach to accessibility so that they can successfully maintain an experience that works for all people, including those with disabilities.”
“We’re in a much better situation than we were a year ago — and we’re still coming back to Perkins for regular check-ins, but there are a lot fewer issues popping up. Perkins Access has changed the way we work.”
– Rick Kellstrom, Senior UX UI Designer, FirstFuel