Creating 'Foolproof' websites

Two former stars of Richard Branson's Norwich-based Virgin Money have followed their entrepreneurial boss' example by setting up their own business.Their company, Foolproof, helps companies make sure their websites are generally easy to use and accessible to disabled people.

Two former stars of Richard Branson's Norwich-based Virgin Money have followed their entrepreneurial boss's example by setting up their own business.

Their company, Foolproof, helps companies make sure their websites are generally easy to use and accessible to disabled people.

Taking a cue from Mr Branson's business style, Pete Ballard, who was formerly marketing director of Virgin's Norwich-based financial services arm, and Tom Wood, who was advertising and brand manager, believe they have spotted a gap in the market.

They aim to help under-performing e-commerce businesses take a fresh look at their operation and, by making them easier to use, improve sales.


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"We help clients make their sites more usable and hence more successful commerc-ially," said Mr Ballard. "Closely related to this is the issue of accessibility, as it just doesn't make sense to exclude disabled people.

"It should be far easier for a disabled person to buy a CD online than go to the high street, but they are excluded by many websites."

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Foolproof, with five staff working from offices in Bracondale, Norwich, already has an impressive client list, including Alliance & Leic-ester, Nationwide Building Society, Swinton Insurance and Virgin Travelstore.

Mr Ballard and Mr Wood believe it makes sound business sense to ensure websites are accessible to the one in seven people in the UK - about 8.5 million - who have some form of disability. This might be blindness, colour blindness, a physical handicap which makes using a mouse difficult, or intellectual disability.

Part of the solution is to make websites compatible with specialised web browsers used by disabled people which can convert text into Braille or into synthesised speech or link to special keyboards which don't need a mouse.

They expect that the threat of litigation and bad publicity as access for the disabled becomes a bigger issue will give their business a boost. The Disability Rights Commission is testing 1000 websites and is due to report its findings in December.

Services offered by Fool-proof, whose website is at www.foolproofservices.co.uk, include evaluating websites, training sessions and advising on website construction.

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