How To Make Online Shopping Platforms More Accessible

Published June 17, 2024

In the past decade, online shopping has surged in popularity, a trend that the pandemic further accelerated. That said, it’s essential to recognize that not all customers are the same. According to the World Bank data, approximately 15% of the world's population, equivalent to 1 billion people, experience some form of disability. In the United States, a CDC report states that around 25% of adults have a disability. These statistics underscore the importance of making online shopping platforms and digital storefronts accessible to people with disabilities.

Benefits of eCommerce web accessibility for businesses

Implementing web accessibility in e-commerce offers four important benefits for businesses:

Expanded customer base

An accessible user interface opens your online store to a much larger customer base, potentially increasing sales and profits.

Brand reputation and trust

An accessible eCommerce website demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and social responsibility, enhancing the brand's reputation and fostering positive word-of-mouth.

Reduced bounce rates

Accessibility measures can decrease the likelihood of shoppers leaving your website without making a purchase, thus improving conversion rates.

Legal compliance

Ensuring accessibility helps you comply with laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), safeguarding your online store from accessibility-related lawsuits.

How to improve online shopping accessibility for people with visual impairments

Improving online shopping accessibility for people with visual impairments is vital for creating an inclusive e-commerce experience. Here are key strategies and considerations:

  • Use clear and descriptive text: Ensure that all text on your website is clear, concise, and descriptive. This includes product descriptions, navigation menus, and buttons.
  • Implement proper heading structure: Organize content using HTML heading tags (e.g., <h1>, <h2>, <h3>) to create a logical and hierarchical structure. Screen readers rely on these headings to provide context.
  • Provide alternative text for images: Include descriptive alt text for all images. This allows screen readers to convey image information to users with visual impairments.
  • Use high-contrast color schemes: Ensure text and background colors have a high contrast ratio to improve readability. Low-contrast designs can be challenging for users with low vision.
  • Resizable text: Allow users to resize text to their preferred size without breaking the layout or causing text to be cut off.
  • Responsive design: Ensure your e-commerce website is responsive and works well on various devices and screen sizes, including smartphones and tablets.
  • Offer text-to-speech functionality: Implement text-to-speech software or browser extensions that enable users to have web content read aloud.
  • Keyboard navigation: Ensure all website functions and interactive elements can be accessed and operated using only a keyboard. Ensure a logical and intuitive tab order.
  • Accessible forms: Design sales, inquiry, feedback, or contact us forms with accessibility in mind. Use proper form labels, provide error messages, and ensure users can easily navigate between form fields using the keyboard.
  • Transcripts for multimedia: Include transcripts for videos and audio content. This allows users with visual impairments to access the information presented in multimedia formats.
  • Aria roles and landmarks: Utilize ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) roles and landmarks to provide additional accessibility information to assistive technologies.
  • Skip to content link: Include a "Skip to content" link at the beginning of each page to allow users to bypass repetitive navigation and jump directly to the main content.
  • Regular accessibility testing: Conduct regular accessibility testing with screen readers and other assistive technologies to identify and address issues promptly.
  • User feedback and testing: Involve individuals with visual impairments in user testing and gather feedback to improve the accessibility of your website.
  • Accessibility statements: Publish an accessibility statement on your website, outlining your commitment to accessibility and providing contact information for accessibility-related inquiries.
  • Stay informed about accessibility standards: Keep up to date with evolving accessibility standards and guidelines, such as WCAG, and implement relevant updates on your website.
  • Training for web developers: Ensure your web development team receives training on accessibility best practices to integrate them into the design and development process.

How to improve online shopping accessibility for people with hearing impairments

Your digital storefront can address the shopping needs of people with hearing impairments more effectively with the following strategies: 

  • Provide subtitles for videos: Include subtitles or closed captions for all videos on your website. This allows users with hearing impairments to read the spoken content.
  • Transcripts for audio content: Offer transcripts for audio content, such as podcasts or product descriptions, so that users can access the information in a text format.
  • Sign-language videos: Consider creating sign-language videos for important content on your website. This accommodates users who rely on sign language as their primary means of communication.
  • Clear visual communication: Use clear visual communication methods, including icons and graphics, to convey information effectively without solely relying on audio.
  • Avoid autoplaying audio: Do not autoplay audio content, as this can be disruptive for users who use screen readers or sign-language videos.
  • Accessible contact options: Provide accessible contact options for customer support, such as email or chat, to assist users with hearing impairments.
  • User testing with deaf and hard of hearing individuals: Involve individuals with hearing impairments in user testing to gather feedback and identify areas for improvement.
  • Training for customer support: Train customer support representatives to effectively communicate with users with hearing impairments, offering alternative communication methods when needed.

How to improve online shopping accessibility for people with fine motor control concerns

To provide a more inclusive and accommodating online shopping experience for people with fine motor control concerns, here are a few proven strategies for your e-commerce platform:

  • Accessible touch targets: Ensure that interactive elements like buttons and links have adequate size and spacing to accommodate users with fine motor control challenges.
  • Keyboard accessibility: Ensure all website functions and features can be accessed and operated using keyboard navigation. Ensure a logical and sequential tab order.
  • Voice commands and voice assistants: Implement voice command capabilities to allow users to navigate and interact with your online store using Siri or Google Assistant.
  • Alternative input methods: Provide alternative input methods, such as voice recognition or head-tracking devices, for users with difficulty using a traditional mouse or touchpad.
  • Error prevention and correction: Design forms and interactive elements with error prevention in mind. Include clear error messages and offer easy ways for users to correct input errors.
  • Adjustable interaction settings: Allow users to customize interaction settings, such as click sensitivity and double-click speed, to suit their needs.
  • Large text and buttons: Offer the option to increase text size and button dimensions to make it easier for users with motor control concerns to select items and navigate.
  • Avoid timed interactions: Avoid features that require rapid or timed interactions, as these can be challenging for users with fine motor control difficulties.
  • User testing with target audience: Conduct user testing with individuals with fine motor control challenges to gather feedback and identify areas for improvement.
  • Feedback mechanisms: Implement feedback mechanisms that allow users to report accessibility issues and provide suggestions for improvement.

How to improve online shopping accessibility for people with memory concerns

Here are a few strategies to improve the digital shopping experience for people with memory concerns:

  • Simplified and consistent navigation: Maintain a clear and consistent website navigation structure to reduce cognitive load. Simplify menus and minimize the number of clicks required to find products.
  • Progress indicators: Implement progress indicators during checkout to help users with memory challenges track their steps and understand where they are in the purchase journey.
  • Visual reminders: Use visual cues and reminders, such as icons or progress bars, to reinforce important information and actions throughout the shopping experience.
  • Clear and concise content: Provide clear and concise product descriptions, policies, and instructions. Avoid jargon and complex language that may confuse users.
  • Shopping lists and wishlists: Allow users to create and save shopping lists or wishlists. This feature helps users remember items they intend to purchase and easily access them during future visits.
  • Persistent carts: Implement persistent shopping carts that retain items even if users leave the website and return later. This prevents users from losing their selections.
  • Order confirmation and summaries: Provide clear order confirmation pages and summaries, including itemized lists and pricing details, to help users review their purchases before completing the transaction.
  • Automatic session saving: Automatically save users' sessions and shopping cart contents to ensure they can pick up where they left off if they return to the website later.
  • Limited timeouts: Extend session timeouts to accommodate users who may take longer to browse and make decisions.
  • Simple checkout process: Streamline the checkout process with minimal steps and optional guest checkout to reduce cognitive demands on users.
  • Visual and auditory cues: Utilize both visual and auditory cues, such as confirmation sounds and visual highlights, to reinforce successful actions and interactions.
  • Help and support resources: Offer easily accessible help and support resources, including FAQs, live chat, or customer service contact options, for users with questions or need assistance.
  • Regular content updates: Keep product listings and information current to avoid confusion and discrepancies that may affect users with memory challenges.

An accessible digital storefront means happy customers

Creating an accessible online shopping platform is the right thing to do and a strategic business decision. By making your digital storefront inclusive, you can attract more customers, comply with legal requirements, and enhance the shopping experience. It's a win-win situation that can increase sales and positive customer feedback, ultimately benefiting your e-commerce business in a competitive marketplace.

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