Improve website accessibility for all abilities

Many customers remain unable to access websites due to design that doesn’t consider their needs. On the back of Purple Tuesday, 12th November, web design experts are seeing to raise awareness of the issues which once resolved could not only make their offerings more inclusive but also contribute to their revenues. Efforts from high street retailers, such as introducing a weekly “quiet hour” to provide a welcoming environment for shoppers with autism, and trained staff wearing badges to show that they are able to support customers with dementia, are good examples, however when it comes to websites and apps many retailers lag behind.

Hilary Stephenson, managing director at user experience (UX) agency, Sigma said: “There has been a step change in recent years as retailers welcome those of all abilities in-store, however there’s still lots to be done when it comes to online accessibility. The responsibility is on all businesses, whatever their size or sector, to ensure their services are accessible – as nearly one in five people in the UK has a disability or impairment. Better accessibility should not be an option, or consideration in hindsight, it should be a central customer experience consideration from the start.”

Research by disability charity, Purple, revealed that three-quarters (75 per cent) of disabled people have had to leave a physical store or website because they were unable to finish a purchase due to their disability.

Some of the most common examples of inaccessible websites and bad UX design practice include:

  • Cluttered layouts, excessive pop-ups and intrusive adverts
  • Hard to find, and the small print of, returns policy or delivery options
  • Confusing and long-winded terms and conditions
  • Checkout time pressures, time-limited discounts and scarcity
  • Poor colour contrast on important calls to action, links or buttons, resulting in missed content or functionality
  • Videos without audio descriptions or audio without subtitles on product descriptions
  • 360 videos, options to change the product colour, fabric or pattern, and other interactive customisation features that don’t work with assistive technology

Hilary continued: “Retailers that make their websites more accessible to disabled consumers, for social and ethical reasons, will also benefit commercially as they enable more people to purchase their products and services. The ‘purple pound’ is estimated to be worth £249 billion, per year, however less than one in ten business have plans in place to cater for those with disabilities. Implementing online accessibility measures like audio descriptions of what is happening on-screen will improve the user experience immensely. Apple’s VoiceOver or Google’s TalkBack software, will help to guide those with visual impairments through the online experience. There are also many ways to improve life for those with motor impairment and hearing issues online too.

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