A practical guide to provide web accessibility for your customers
It' no secret that ecommerce is a booming business, and that people with visual disabilities are a large demographic of online shoppers. So it makes sense that ecommerce websites should be making efforts to be accessible to this group.
As a shopper, you want to get the best value for your money. That means making sure you have all the information you need to make an informed decision before you make a purchase. The unfortunate reality is that many ecommerce sites aren’t accessible to everyone. This can be especially true if a website has a lot of images or videos with captioning and little textual information about each product. Over 200 million people in the U.S., Europe, and Asia have some kind of visual impairment or difficulty reading small text. Many of these individuals also struggle with navigation on websites due to their disability. But don’t let this scare you away from starting an ecommerce site! There are many ways we can make our sites more accessible and inclusive.
What is Accessible Ecommerce?
Accessible ecommerce simply means designing your website and product descriptions to include everyone, regardless of their ability. This can range from providing enough information about what specific products are and do, to making sure all the text on your site is easy to read. Visually, accessible ecommerce means that the website is easy to navigate and the images don't distract from the content. The site should also be compatible with assistive technology, such as screen readers, and have a clear colour scheme.
Why is it Important?
Ecommerce is a boon to people with disabilities because it gives them access to products and services that might be difficult or impossible for them to obtain in person. But there's still work to be done. People with visual disabilities often have trouble shopping online because many ecommerce sites don't offer screenreader accessibility options, which means they can't navigate around the site easily or use its features.
A study by the World Wide Web Consortium found that "customers who can use your website with their screen reader are likely to have better experiences than customers who do not have that ability." In other words, if you don't make your site accessible, you're leaving money on the table. It is a respectful and smart business practice to provide an accessible website so that you can reach all your customers without adding challenges to some.
Another reason web accessibility is important is that it's the law! There is a legal principle in the UK to provide equal accessibility for products or services. The Equality Act 2010 legally protects individuals from discrimination and promotes a fair workplace and wider society. The Equality Act requires website owners to actively provide an equal website experience to all their users. Failure to provide this may lead to legal repercussions.
Accessibility Tips for Your Ecommerce Site
Screen reader compatibility
Screen readers are tools that allow users with visual impairment to navigate websites by reading aloud the text on the website. This means that you need to ensure that every product on your site has a descriptive name that allows the reader to understand what they’re seeing. This also includes short and concise product descriptions that don’t go overboard on the marketing talk. If you’re adding a lot of adjectives and irrelevant information about the product, a screen reader will just read the product name and nothing else.
This can also be implemented for address validation on the checkout section. The address finder screen reader will read out the address as a user types and hovers over the address options displayed.
Check your text is legible
The most important part of an accessible ecommerce site is legible text. This means that the font type and size is large enough for shoppers to comfortably read the content. You should also avoid using fancy fonts or images for important information. This includes things like product descriptions or instructions for using your product. Instead, you should be using simple fonts like Helvetica or Arial with font sizes ranging from 12 to 16pt. You should also avoid bolding certain words within a product description, as this can make it more difficult for people with dyslexia to read.
Another way to make sure your text is legible is by allowing customers to increase or decrease the font size on your website using their computer’s keyboard shortcuts.
While you don’t want to make your font size too big, you also need to make sure you’re not using an excessive amount of white space. This can make your site appear more like an empty page and be too distracting for people with low vision. You should also make sure you’re not using too much white or light-coloured text on a bright or dark background. This is common when people use a blue or black background for their ecommerce site.
Images and video with captions
When you’re including images or video on your site, you need to make sure that each one has a caption. This includes the product images you’re using on your site. You can also include descriptions of what your product is doing in the image or video. This can be helpful for individuals who prefer to learn visually.
Add visual cues to indicate drop-down menus or buttons
For a shopper who can’t see the buttons or menus on your site, you can indicate the presence of these options by adding visual cues. These include borders, lines, or arrows that point to the drop-down menu or the button. You can also add icons to represent each menu.
Don’t use flashing or flickering animations or movements
Flashing or flickering animations or movements are extremely distracting for shoppers with visual impairment. This can also be a problem for individuals who have dyslexia or attention deficit disorder. You should avoid using these effects on your website, especially on the product pages where shoppers will be spending the most time.
Ecommerce customers expect an easy, flowing experience that helps them make purchases comfortably. With the recommendations above, ecommerce websites can help create this experience for customers by being inclusive and easy to navigate for everyone, regardless of their ability.