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5 ways to make your eCommerce site more accessible

by wrich

As the shift to digital commerce accelerates, businesses are greatly concerned with enhancing their customers’ digital experience. However, in the race to engineer the future customer experience, businesses should not lose sight of their analogue holdout customers. There is also recognition of the need for inclusivity and accessibility. This latter concern is not just a matter of physical disabilities, it’s also about remaining accessible for the digitally disenfranchised.

We spoke to Dean Benson the founder of Visualsoft to find out the top 5 ways to make your eCommerce site more accessible.

The primary goal of any eCommerce website is to attract as many visitors as possible, and essentially keep them coming back for more. As a result, most online stores tend to include various functionalities and features to achieve this.

But what the majority of eCommerce organisations forget, is that their potential customers also include a large portion of people with disabilities that may require additional assistance to receive your content, and gain value from it. With 15% of the population living with a disability, as identified by the World Health Organisation, certain aspects of the digital environment – like design – can make it difficult to read, navigate or interact with.

For an eCommerce store owner, if your website isn’t usable for those with a disability, whether it’s auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech or visual, you’re effectively “closing” your store to a significant portion of shoppers. Improving your site accessibility isn’t just a nice thing to do, it benefits those who may be at a disadvantage, helps you reach more customers, and improves SEO too.

What is Accessibility?

Web accessibility is based on the principles of universal design. The content and design of a digital product or service should be useful to and usable for everyone, including those with cognitive and physical disabilities.

So really, accessibility is paramount in being inclusive as possible and creating the smoothest customer journey for everyone. Providing accessible sites is part of the law in some countries, which can open up significant markets that otherwise would not be able to use your services or buy your products.

5 Best Practices to Make Your eCommerce Site More Accessible:

1. Use colour with care

2. Make multimedia accessible

3. Clear page titles & headers

4. Minimise the use of tables

5. Choose easy to read fonts

Use colour with care

According to the Colour Blind Awareness Organisation, there are approximately 332 million colour blind people in the world (equal to the entire US population), meaning that using colour to communicate functionality can prevent those people from understanding the information.

So for example, you might use the colour red to indicate that the customer missed or entered the wrong information whilst checking out. Someone who is colour blind might not be able to detect why they seem to be encountering the problem. So making sure you use other cues like ‘this field is required’  helps users to perceive the same information.

Make multimedia accessible

Video and other multimedia play a critical role in increasing engagement on your eCommerce site. Whilst blind and the visually impaired can’t see visuals, deaf users and those hard of hearing can’t hear audio.

You can use an audio description or alt text to describe visuals-only parts such as images, gestures, and changes in settings, among others. It will help blind users to enjoy the video. You can also provide text captions that synchronise with the video and audio tracks for users who are deaf or hard of hearing, remembering to use colour contrasting captions.

Additionally, search engines are much like deaf and blind users. They can’t listen or watch videos. However, they do index text. As a result, video transcripts allow search engines to discover and index your multimedia content much easier.

Clear page titles & headers

A lot of people with a disability like to use screen readers, a device that reads aloud the content on the screen. So it’s essential that your eCommerce site is laid out in such a way that these devices can interpret. You should write all of your page titles, heading and subheadings in a way that makes logical sense, using clear and understandable language.

Minimise the use of tables

Whilst screen readers can inform the user of the number of rows and columns in a table, it is often a challenge to decipher the tabular data in the same flow that matches the order.

So, wherever possible, it is advised to use CSS for data presentation to make the information accessible. However, if you must create a table, use the correct headers for each row and column.

Choose easy to read font

Some users are going to have more trouble than others if they need to squint trying to read your headlines. Make sure your fonts are simple and avoid unnecessary dips and curves – that means no cursive fonts!

The Future Of eCommerce Accessibility

Since the pandemic, shoppers have become more reliant on purchasing goods and services online, especially those that are vulnerable.

For an eCommerce website, prioritising web accessibility during these uncertain times is a victory for all. Every little bit counts, so increasing the number of customers buying from your online store is a must. Ensuring that everyone can easily access the goods and/or services that you offer also helps to create a supportive and reliable environment. Of course, the pandemic will eventually end, but being able to provide help and comfort through your business during these trying times can only mean good things for your business. By implementing web accessibility, your eCommerce business can be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Doing the right thing is not the sole benefit of ensuring website accessibility. For online shops, this means the success of the business and more importantly, one more step towards creating a digital world that’s open to all. 

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