Running an Accessibility Audit on Your E-commerce Shop

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The e-commerce industry has exploded in recent years. Advancements in technology have made it easier for just about anyone to open a successful online shop, and the demand for ordering products online has continued to increase. Today, there are over 9.5 million e-commerce sites in the U.S. alone, with millions of people shopping for products they need and want from the comfort of their homes, or even with their phones in the palm of their hand.

Whether you’re about to launch an e-commerce shop or you know your existing site needs an update, it’s vital to make sure that users of all ability levels are able to access it. That includes people who are neurodivergent, as well as those who might have mobility, vision, or hearing issues.

Thankfully, implementing accessibility measures in your shop is easy with a bit of planning.

Knowing what needs to change or which accessibility tools you should put in place starts by running an accessibility audit on your shop. If you’re not sure how to do that, we’ve got you covered. Let this be your step-by-step guide for performing an accessibility audit. We’ll model these steps after the code of conduct put in place by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

We’ll also go over some best practices you should put in place to ensure your shop is inclusive and open to everyone. The more you focus on accessibility, the more you’ll open yourself up to a wider audience of consumers.

With that in mind, let’s go over your website accessibility compliance checklist.

What to Include in Your Audit

Performing an accessibility audit doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By focusing on the fundamentals, you’ll be able to get through your audit efficiently and learn where the biggest trouble spots are located on your site. Use the following steps as you work through your audit to deliver a more accessible and enjoyable customer journey.

  1. Make sure all of your web pages are optimized for screen readers
  2. Images must have “alt tags” to help visually impaired users
  3. Tables must have “alt tags” for screen readers
  4. Automatic scripting
  5. Web forms need to be accessible without the use of a mouse
  6. Any necessary plugins should be presented in link form
  7. Inclusive color schemes
  8. Keyboard-friendly browsing
  9. Images and videos that don’t cause harm or contribute to seizures

How did you do? Even if you haven’t performed an audit yet, chances are, just by looking at this list, you can think of a few areas of concern. Focus on the “weak” areas first, but don’t ignore the small details. As an e-commerce business, your overall success relies on a large audience. The more accessible your site, the more consumers you’ll attract.

What’s Affecting Your Performance?

If you’re not entirely sure what’s affecting your website performance, personalize your audit. There’s no “one size fits all” way to measure the accessibility of your site. Utilize the data you’re collecting on a daily basis to drive your accessibility decisions.

By using business intelligence to collect and interpret your data and analytics, you’ll be able to see certain browsing trends, analyze customer behavior, and quickly discover problems in your processes. Maybe most of your site is incredibly accessible but you’ve overlooked the color scheme and it’s difficult for people with color blindness to navigate. Or, maybe your content is too wordy and complicated for people to see or for screenreaders to grab.

Things like poor-quality graphics and images and a site that isn’t optimized for mobile devices can also create problems. Take note of where your users are spending the most time, the products they’re purchasing, pages that get abandoned quickly, and what they might be leaving in their carts. Speaking of which, if you’re not already using a shopping cart format versus a web form, it might be time to make a switch. If you’re only selling a single product, a form can work, but having a shopping cart setup tends to make e-commerce sites more accessible by reducing clutter. Order forms can also be tricky for screen readers. A cart setup makes it easier to view their items quickly and have a visual image of what’s in their cart. If you decide to use forms, make sure to prefill as many sections as possible so customers don’t need to provide their information more than once.

Best Practices for a More Accessible E-Commerce Site

Your audit will show you what needs to be changed on your site immediately. However, you shouldn’t stop there when it comes to implementing accessibility tools. There are so many easy ways to improve accessibility and open your digital store up to everyone. The more inclusive your site is, the more likely it will be for those with disabilities or neurodiversity to become your biggest brand ambassadors.

If you’re still stuck on how to improve accessibility, start with the following easy additions:

  • Use header tags for easier content navigation
  • Use alt text for every image
  • Use standard HTML tables to organize data
  • Make forms accessible

You don’t need to be an expert web designer or coding whiz to make these accessibility changes. If you’re currently in the process of building your e-commerce site, consider using a content management system (CMS) that supports accessibility and makes it easy to put some of these solutions in place. Certain management systems will encourage accessible practices, and some, including dotCMS, will produce a report of any accessibility problems your site faces – including likely and potential problems that might need a second look.

With so many e-commerce sites across the globe, your business is constantly competing. While focusing on things like marketing, having quality products, and keeping your content relevant is always important, you could be missing out on a large portion of your target audience if you don’t also focus on accessibility. If you’ve never run an accessibility audit on your e-commerce shop, it’s not too late to discover your weak areas and implement the changes necessary to create an inclusive and welcoming online shopping experience.



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