Retail websites need work on their accessibility!
E-consultancy recently published an article discussing the findings from Webcredibles ecommerce accessibility for high street retailers 2010 report. Around half of the retailers fared relatively well with scores of over 60% (names like Next, Argos, B&Q and Boots) but there were sites below even 40% accessibility (Woolworths, Currys and Bodyshop). The full list of scores is featured on the report.
The main point of the article is that the trend towards becoming more accessible is actually going in the wrong direction with these top sites actually receiving overall a worse accessibility score than the previous year. The difference in this year’s score and the previous year’s score is little but it raises a number of questions with the main one being why these websites are not having the necessary work done to them to make them accessible.
Web accessibility measures websites on a whole range of criteria and essentially promotes an ease of use to the population, particularly those who suffer from some form of disability. Although it is much more than that, generally accessibility guidelines cover overall good practice for building websites. Abiding to these guidelines helps usability of the website and should ultimately lead to a better conversion for all users. So what are the guidelines?
What are the accessibility guidelines?
The guidelines vary depending on which organisation the company needs or wants to be compliant with. The most comprehensive is WCAG2 which gives detailed technical information to the developer and designer and ensures the website is accessible, user friendly, updatable, future proof and much more.
The criteria webcredible used in their report is a bit more basic and outlines 20 factors that the website should be doing. These are as follows:
1. Text is resizable and remains legible when resized
2. Descriptive page titles used
3. Information images have useful ALT text
4. Decorative images have null ALT text & aren’t links by themselves
5. Text isn’t embedded within images
6. Headings are correctly labelled as headings
7. All sections of the page have their own heading
8. Headings stand out from regular text
9. Link text makes sense out of context and is front-loaded
10. A focus state is provided for links
11. Links use a high contrast colour
12. Links employs the widest possible area
13. All lists labelled as lists
14. Skip to main content link provided
15. Decorative items not inserted through HTML code
16. CSS used for layout
17. Form label present and correctly positioned
18. Labels assigned to form items
19. Form items don’t cause auto-refresh
20. Forms effectively designed
These guidelines vary from being very easy to implement to others that require more thinking when designing a website (and for a website that already exists a potential overhaul of how it works).
Why are these companies not rushing to make their sites compliant?
The work and therefore costs involved with making the websites compliant in itself can be the main hindrance to getting them done but there are other problems. Some of the latest technology and code is not supported by the accessibility guidelines. More advanced features on websites often break the accessibility guidelines and despite being an attractive feature for a lot of people, can cause major usability issues for others.
Finally the most common problem is the trade off for having a funky designed website and the limitations that are imposed by accessibility. Whilst it is often beneficial to have the brand and website accessed by as many people as possible, the styling of the website must also represent the brand correctly.
So will we see an improvement next year towards better accessibility? The question is hard to answer because yes it should, given the economic recession and the necessity to become open to a wider market (17% more people according to e-consultancy). But this may require compromise on brand portrayal or an expensive overhaul that companies do not want to spend the money on currently. I predict we will see a rise in the compliancy of these sites but not to the levels the accessibility gurus would like to see quite yet.Tweet