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The internet can and should be open for anyone and everyone to use and navigate as they please. However, an estimated 70% of websites are not accessible to users with visual impairments alone, according to a study by Deque. This represents $6.9 billion in potential revenue that e-commerce sites that do not optimize for accessibility leave on the table.
And this is just one of the many markets representing users with different needs. Users with mobility impairments, sensory disorders, hearing impairments, and even limited internet access require accommodations that make e-commerce accessible.
With ethics as well as revenue at stake, we’ll explore why accessibility is vital and how you can make your e-commerce sites more accessible to the millions of users who may currently be locked out of what you have to offer.
In 2010, 56.7 million Americans were living with a disability. This number represents 18.7% of the US population and a huge market of individuals who may want to purchase your goods and services over the internet. Unfortunately, barriers created by poor optimization make that impossible. According to the Deque study, as many as two-thirds of transactions begun by people with impairments are abandoned before payment due to inaccessibility.
Imagine handing this business over to competitors simply because you didn’t add some minor accessibility features.
Not only is inaccessibility morally irresponsible, but it can be costly as well. Accessibility in web development is in some respects required by law, mandated for government entities by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and established as a precedent for businesses in the Robles vs. Domino’s Pizza ruling.
Failing to provide accessibility features can result in high legal costs. One prominent example of a company having to pay these costs was the 2006 lawsuit against Target. The retail giant ended up having to pay nearly $10 million in legal fees due to its failure to create an e-commerce site that was accessible to users with visual impairments. E-commerce sites have been deemed by law to be more or less equivalent to public spaces, so accommodations must be made for those with disabilities.
In the shift to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, understanding the impacts on people with disabilities is especially vital for e-commerce businesses. Online accessibility is essential for workers as much as it is for consumers, and for those living in rural areas with limited network connectivity, there are special challenges to face.
E-commerce sites must make accommodations for all kinds of users and employees alike, taking into account the following in web and feature design:
- 19.9 million Americans have difficulties lifting or grasping, potentially impacting mouse and keyboard use.
- 8.1 million Americans have a vision impairment that necessitates the use of a screen reader, magnifier, or comprehensive color design.
- 7.6 million Americans have a hearing impairment that makes captions and transcripts necessities when using video.
- 19 million Americans have limited access to fixed broadband services at threshold speeds, making low-bandwidth usage key for e-commerce accessibility.
Every one of us faces challenges in one form or another. It is the ethical, compassionate, and even financially responsible thing to make your e-commerce site work for all kinds of users. Understanding why accessibility is a necessity is the first step towards making your e-commerce site available to a broader audience. Then, follow these strategies.
If you’re going to be successful in your e-commerce endeavors, you need a comprehensive process for ensuring the accessibility of your site and products. These strategies can help you avoid negative social media, lawsuits, and more while building the greatest possible customer base.
Here are five tips for integrating web accessibility into your e-commerce site:
- Choose a great hosting or content management platform.
The first step for many e-commerce businesses in integrating accessibility options will come in finding a great platform to host and manage your content. Many website building tools have accessibility options readily available and can help you integrate these features with ease.
WordPress, for example, offers Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines to help users build and promote all kinds of accessible content. These guidelines paired with accessibility plug-ins and other useful features make for an easy path towards optimized accessibility for any e-commerce site.
- Build accessibility into the site’s architecture.
If you’re creating and managing your own site, you can and should design accessibility into the very framework of your platform. This is not only effective in broadening your user base but it also helps the search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for your site.
One of the best things you can do for both accessibility and SEO is to ensure that your site uses limited bandwidth and loads quickly. This helps make your online store more accessible even for users with limited internet access. Then, designing a clearly-branching site with logical links and headings will enhance the user experience.
- Simplify navigation.
Similarly, methods of navigation on your site should be designed to accommodate all kinds of users on all kinds of devices. This means keyboard, touch, mouse, and voice navigation options all possible within the context of your online store and your information pages.
Construct informative page titles, build comprehensive sitemaps, leave breadcrumb links to take users back to previous pages, and above all design a navigation layout that just makes sense. This will help users find what they’re looking for, whether they are using a keyboard, their voice, or a wide variety of other devices.
- Coordinate your colors.
Low contrast in your site’s colors, font, and background can make for an accessibility nightmare. Those with vision impairments will find it impossible to navigate a site that has low contrast in its color choices. To make your site accessible, you need to coordinate your use of colors so that text is clear for all kinds of users, including those who are colorblind.
Study color schemes that work for colorblind and other vision-impaired users and design your site around a functioning palette. As a result, all types of users will appreciate the attention to detail and easy-to-read nature of your site.
- Include alternatives.
One solution cannot work for all types of users. In e-commerce, this is essential to keep in mind as you develop a variety of content. If you have plenty of text on your site, ensure that it is compatible with a screen reader. If you have videos and images, make sure you have alt text captions and transcripts so that hearing-impaired users can still understand what is present.
By giving your users options, you make a more accessible site that any user can navigate and appreciate.
If you follow these steps, you’ll build a website sure to meet the needs of a wider audience. This can only be a positive, as you will grow your customer base while proving your dedication to a positive customer experience for every type of user. Innovating for accessibility means a website that runs smoothly with options that help customers succeed. In turn, you’ll get better SEO results as well as increased revenues.
If you aren’t already operating a highly optimized, accessible e-commerce site, now is the time to make these changes.
Web accessibility is vital for any e-commerce site. Keeping your business open to all who want to engage with it should be the goal of any online marketplace, and accessibility gets you there. By accommodating the needs of millions of users, you show empathy and care while avoiding legal problems and lost business, so follow these strategies and build an accessible e-commerce platform now.