If your business sells products, there's a good chance you're making at least some of your sales online. The e-commerce industry peaked during the pandemic, but growth is expected to continue, albeit at a slower pace.
When it comes to securing sustainable e-commerce success, the necessity of accessible design is undeniable. So in this article, we will explore the significance of accessible design in e-commerce and its impact on business growth.
The business case for accessible design in e-commerce
E-commerce is currently growing at a rate of about 8% per year. That's nearly half the rate of growth in 2021, meaning that it's more important than ever to have a well-adapted approach to e-commerce to balance out your business strategy for sustained success.
Investing in accessible design yields a significant return on investment for e-commerce businesses. Inclusive platforms reach more people, increasing the potential for sales and revenue. And since accessible designs have better usability, that positive user experience can lead to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty, fostering repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.
Being accessible can provide a competitive advantage for your business as more businesses move into the e-commerce space and competition increases. Especially at a time when digital accessibility lawsuits are on the rise, demonstrating a customer-centric commitment to inclusivity can boost your brand's reputation and attract a more diverse customer base.
Applying accessible design for e-commerce
Success in e-commerce relies on reaching customers and engaging them enough to become paying customers. And providing a smooth user experience is a big factor in this. If your digital storefront is difficult to use or navigate, prospective customers may give up and go elsewhere to find what they need. Following the principles of accessible design to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to your storefront will simultaneously provide a better experience to all users.
The most efficient way to ensure your storefront is accessible is to start planning before the design process even starts and to continuously evaluate accessibility throughout the design and development process, iterating and improving as needed.
Consider the following questions to help determine if you're on the right track:
- What do your customers need? – User testing and feedback are crucial throughout the production and life of any digital product or platform. But you can learn about and address their needs from the start by getting user input during the planning and discovery phase. Spend time learning about the pain points and issues they've had with other platforms to avoid making the same mistakes.
- How accessible are your product details? – Depending on the products you offer, the information you provide to explain them may include written descriptions, images, video demonstrations, and other content. If each of these elements presents unique information needed to fully understand the product, alternatives — such as closed captioning and transcripts — are essential. But if you produce content to present and reinforce the same critical information, you set things up to be more accessible by default.
- How intuitive is interface navigation? – E-commerce sites can be complex, and with so many options, many users won't bother with a site that's too hard to navigate and find things on. Stick to established design patterns, embrace simplicity, and make interactions and calls to action clear and straightforward.
- Is your content optimized? – Digital storefronts can be content-heavy, which can slow down load times and lead to confusion. Limit the amount of content that needs to load at one time, optimize images, and consider utilizing a content delivery network (CDN)[Note: Link to Nick’s CDN article when published] to improve data transfer speeds. Ensure content is both mobile-friendly and compatible across browsers.
- Is the checkout process user-friendly? – Most online shoppers don't follow through with purchases, and slow load times are one of the main reasons people abandon a purchase. Avoid unnecessary complexities to minimize the steps needed to complete the checkout process. And ensure no traps could prevent users from completing the process while using an alternative navigation device.
- Is there already a solution that meets your needs? – Because of how complex digital storefronts are, building accessibility into them is harder. And, chances are, you don't need to build a custom digital storefront from scratch. Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento are at the top of the list of accessible e-commerce platforms. By choosing a solution that's already been built for accessibility, you can focus on the accessibility of your content, customer service, and other aspects of your business.
Consider these questions to build a strong foundation for your digital storefront. Refer to digital accessibility standards, perform accessibility testing, and audit regularly to identify opportunities for improvement.
Though e-commerce growth may be slowing, that doesn't mean your business has to stagnate. Accessible design is essential to making digital storefronts usable for more people. Yet it's also one of the keys to success as an e-commerce company. It shows commitment to inclusivity, reaches more people and provides a better user experience for all customers.