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Insights / 04 Dec 2023

Inclusive E-commerce: Designing for all Shoppers 

It should be obvious, but making your website more accessible is really a good thing, both for your market and your business. In this article, I will explain why this is the case and why it is worth the time and investment to make your e-commerce website open to all shoppers, regardless of any challenges they might have in the way of accessibility. 


Why is accessibility so important? Let’s break it down: 

1. It’s required by law 
From June 2025 the EAA (European accessibility act) must be enforced within the EU member states. That means that people with disabilities, any disability, should be able to shop online like any user. For this, the platform, website, or webshop must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) guidelines level 2.1/AA. (However, an exception is made for smaller companies, with a turnover of less than 2 million euros per year and fewer than 10 employees.). There are other laws requiring accessibility online in other parts of the world as well. 

2. You automatically expand your target audience and market 
Surveys such as the Click-away pound survey have shown that a majority of shoppers with accessibility challenges will leave a website that is not accessible to them. 

3. Conversion rates will in all likelihood improve 
Making online stores accessible to people with disabilities will help other users, such as those with slower internet connections or older devices 

4. Google and AI will love you 
Search engines prioritise websites that are easy to use and provide a good user experience. AI indexes the web much in the same way. 

5. It’s the right thing to do
Everyone deserves equal access! 


Which disabilities are we talking about exactly?

Usually, when we talk about accessibility and the web, we focus on those with partial or total loss of vision. These users are usually quite used to screen-readers of different kinds and many are very good at accessing information and using digital services, provided of course that these are adapted for screen-readers. There are however many other challenges that affect how users experience a website and these vary from colour blindness to dyslexia and different forms of sensory overload issues. Many of these can be characterized as ”invisible” challenges, but they nevertheless create significant problems for many people. Among the estimated 15% of people with some form of disability, these invisible challenges account for as much as 80%. 


Where do I start?

 First, try to put yourself in the position of someone with accessibility challenges. A tip is to use a browser extension like Funkify which you can try for free. When you access any website with this installed you will experience it as a user with a disability would. For e-commerce, colour-blindness is a challenge and there are specific simulators and evaluation tools for this, such as Toptal’s ”colorblind web page filter”. 
 
Then, I suggest checking out one of the many websites about accessibility, like the a11y Project website
 
OK, but what about the coding and platform side of things?

Second, audit your e-commerce solution with one of the many tools available for the purpose. I can recommend the Wave Chrome extension tool, which will show you visually which elements on the page are non-compliant and generate a report. 

If you are in the design or development phase, it is a good idea to check color contrasts and typeface visibility with a tool such as colourcontrast.cc

Most commercial e-commerce platforms do a pretty good job but a lot is happening when it comes to presentation layer fixes, so be sure to use the latest version. 

Any suggestions for quick fixes? There are a number of very common issues: 
1. Poor site structure - If a website doesn’t use headers or present information in a logical order, visitors using screen readers can’t scan content to find the information they need. 
2. Insufficient color contrast - When colour pairings have insufficient contrast or when colour alone is used to provide information, text can be difficult or impossible for visually impaired users to read. 
3. ”Read more” links - Updating link names to reflect the context of the content on the target page helps disabled users understand precisely where clicking the link will take them. 
4. Missing ALT texts on images - Pictures, illustrations, and charts make no sense to visually impaired website visitors without adequate descriptions to provide context.  
5. Insufficient or messy keyboard navigation - Keyboard navigation allows every interactive element of a web page to be selected using the tab key, which enables full access and improves usability for physically disabled website visitors.   
6. Inaccessible online forms - Accessible forms provide a clear relationship between labels and their corresponding fields and options to extend time limits for form completion. 

That was a very brief introduction to the subject of accessibility. If you want to learn more, please check out the recording from my recent webinar on this important subject here
 
Good luck! 
/David Aler, Strategist 

Do you want more tips and need our help to develop your e-commerce? Reach out to Johan Cassel, Sales Manager, 070-494 24 60 or at johan.cassel@cloudnine.se

It should be obvious, but making your website more accessible is really a good thing, both for your market and your business.

David AlerDigital Strategist, Cloud Nine

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