Creating an accessible online presence

Online shopping is here to stay and increasing rapidly. There’s lots of information about making a shopping site accessible. But people shop for more than goods – they shop for information too. So some of the ideas for shopping translate to information and service sites too. Here are some basic tips on creating an accessible online presence.

Anyone in charge of creating or maintaining a website should understand the basics of accessible design. It’s not just a tech person’s job.

A smartphone with graphics depicting a design problem being fixed.

A short article in SmartCompany magazine takes a business view of an inclusive shopping experience and lists seven things companies should do. Some of these points are well-known to many web designers and developers. When a website is difficult to navigate, people leave, they click away from the site as the video below shows.

Accessible online presence: key points

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)Regularly update your website to comply with WCAG standards. This includes text-background contrast, enabling keyboard navigation, and providing alternative text for images.

Responsive design: Ensure your website automatically adjusts to various screen sizes and resolutions to suit all devices, including smartphones, tablets and different computer screen sizes. 

Site navigation: Organising your site with a clear structure, clear headings and logical sitemap will improve navigability. Utilise Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) landmarks to help screen reader users navigate your site more effectively. Clear and consistent navigation aids users, especially those with cognitive differences, to understand their location within your site.

Enable customisation and ensure content accessibility: Include options for users to customise visual elements, like font sizes and colours, and consider integrating text-to-speech functionality for people with vision impairments. If you have audio and video content, provide captions and transcripts to aid users with hearing impairments. Avoid content that could affect users with photosensitive epilepsy and clearly label any content that could pose a risk.

Optimise customer service channels: Some users have difficulty communicating via traditional channels such as phone or text. Offer email, phone, video calls with sign language support and real-time chat, to accommodate diverse communication needs.

Checkout processes: Simplify the checkout process with clear instructions and error messages to minimise confusion and to enhance the user experience.

Test with users and commit to ongoing improvement: Conduct site testing with a diverse group of users, including people with various disabilities. View accessibility as a continuous effort. Regularly audit and update your site to keep pace with changing technology and standards.

The title of the article is, How to create an inclusive online shopping experience.

Other resources

This website has a section on ICT guidelines for practice. Here are just three items for quick reference.

Microsoft’s inclusive design toolkit.

Google spells out accessible, inclusive and usable.

Which font to use? All of them?

The Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge has done a lot of work on product images and labelling. They claim that their design guidelines help increase sales by 29%.

Accessibility Toolbar