Today, Rigid launched a private beta of its Stark app for Mac, which streamlines accessibility compliance to make products more inclusive while making it easy for everyone involved in a project to collaborate. Companies can upload their design files to Stark’s tool, which then identifies accessibility issues and suggests changes.
Stark began in 2017 when Cat Noone and her team realized there was no easy way for designers to make sure their designs were accessible and inclusive. Today, more than 500,000 people have used Stark’s built-in plugins for apps like Adobe XD, Figma, Sketch, and Google Chrome, which offer checks and suggestions to make sure visuals meet. accessibility standards for the visually impaired.
“We started with plugins, and they’re still a great way to raise awareness by highlighting issues that are occurring in your product,” Noone told TechCrunch. “But they don’t solve accessibility issues for you in a way that evolves or in a way that ensures everyone is involved with the product. “
But Noone says the Stark Mac app will “overwhelm accessibility” by making it even easier to solve large-scale issues with many design files. For example, if an app like Twitter changed its font (which it did recently, sparking a conversation about the need for customization in accessible design), designers would have to eagerly change the font on hundreds of different screens within of the application. But Stark makes this process much faster.
“What Stark does is, whenever the issue occurs, it allows you to take that suggested change, open the design file, make the change, and go ahead and sync it. “said Noone. “So at this point you not only have that individual screen, but you have your whole design system, each screen where that instance appears rectified. It’s huge, because it takes your design development time and lasts. ‘crushes completely, and our goal is to reduce your time to compliance, while also telling you why it was rectified.
No one has said since last year, when Stark raised $ 1.5 million in seed funding, that the product can be the grammar of accessible design, working at both the consumer and the enterprise level. . While the company is not yet profitable, some of Stark’s existing customers include Microsoft, Pfizer, Instagram, and ESPN. Additionally, Stark hosts a Slack community for those interested in accessible design, as well as a public library of accessibility resources which Noone says is the largest on the internet. Stark has a limited free plan that allows users to try the product and join their Slack, but access to their existing suite of tools costs $ 60 per year. Teams can request a quote for a custom plan, which adds access to unified billing and multi-team management.
Accessibility is crucial for tech companies because if their products cannot be used by people with certain disabilities then they are missing out on a massive customer base. But, if being inclusive isn’t enough motivation (sigh), then money is.
“Especially during recent events, the pandemic has prompted so many companies to increase their digital presence. We’ve reached a point where tech companies that don’t make their products accessible to all possible users are being shut out of the market, and they’re missing out on that windfall, ”Noone said. But Stark makes it easy to modernize years of old design files to meet accessibility standards. “The Stark application for Mac ensures that you no longer need to employ those 10 or 20 consultants, because the people who create the product are trained and the tools go with them. “
For now, the private beta of the Stark app for Mac will work with Sketch, but Noone says the app will quickly roll out compatibility with other popular design tools like Figma and Adobe XD. Then, it will allow users to assign tasks to others within the application by integrating with project management tools. Those interested in trying the private beta can contact Stark to access his website. The beta will be free, but once launched publicly, Stark will announce a pricing plan.
“We’ve had the luxury of building this alongside a very vocal community,” Noone said. “Okay, we’re in the process of moving to a private beta, but it’s still very beneficial for engineers and designers. “
The Stark team is made up of 17 people, with people working remotely in eight different countries.
“We have a team from all over the world, with so many languages, so many skin colors, so many directions – the way we see ourselves and the way we navigate the world is inclusion in itself, which I think is quite magical, “No one said. She wants Stark to be able to adapt to emerging technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality, while taking into account that accessibility is different in different cultures. . “We’re a reflection of the product we’ve built, and I think it’s ridiculously easy to put our money where our mouth is, because it’s something that we experience every day as a collective.”