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How to Make Sure Your Online Store Is Accessible

Online shopping makes it possible for anyone to browse various products and make a purchase at their leisure. Naturally, the shopping process and experience is different for everyone, considering we all have different tastes, habits, and preferences. However, for some people, online shopping can be quite difficult.

Some internet shoppers may live in a country with a poor internet connection. Or, they might have to rely on screen readers to browse and access websites. And some people may be using a keyboard to navigate websites due to permanent or temporary disability.

In fact, in the United States alone, 54% of all disabled adults use the Internet on a daily basis which means you need to make sure your store is accessible for everyone, regardless of their status and conditions.

In this post, we’ll cover what accessibility is and share advice and steps you should take as an online store owner to ensure your e-commerce store complies with accessibility guidelines.

What Is E-Commerce Accessibility?

When it comes to e-commerce accessibility, it means people with disabilities can access, contribute to, and use the web without any difficulties.

Not only does it encompass physical disabilities such as visual, auditory, cognitive, or other permanent disabilities, it also includes temporary disabilities due to injuries or aging as well as disabilities due to outside forces such as a slow internet connection.

Why It Matters

The most important reason why accessibility matters is that you have no control over who visits and interacts with your store. If your store doesn’t adhere to the accessibility guidelines, you could find yourself in court and are liable to pay significant fines.

On top of this, web accessibility is one of our basic human rights and it has a huge impact on your business. If your online store is accessible, it’s also optimized to provide all users with the best possible user experience which then translates into better customer satisfaction, increased brand loyalty, and more revenue.

Finally, the last reason why accessibility matters is because adhering to accessibility guidelines means your store follows the recommended coding standards and uses semantic markup. This contributes to a better rank in the search engine which means you can get more organic traffic.

How to Check for Online Store Accessibility

Before diving into specific tips on making sure your online store is accessible, the first step is to check if your store is accessible or not. Here are a few of ways to test what you have.

  • Visit your online store and go through the purchase process as if though you have a disability such as color blindness or have to rely on your keyboard to navigate around it and all the way through the checkout process
  • Use a service like WAVE Web Accessibility Tool to see potential issues, errors, and warnings for your site. This free tool will let you know if you have errors such as empty links and buttons, low contrast between the text and the background, and more
  • Get feedback from real users by using a service such as UserTesting.com. This will allow you to get objective feedback which you can then use to improve customer and user experience.

How to Make Your Online Store Accessible

Web Accessibility Guidelines were published back in 1999 by W3C. They are responsible for maintaining the guidelines and the most current version dates to December 2008.

According to those guidelines, for a website to be accessible, information found on that website must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. If any of those criteria are missing, that particular website is not considered accessible.

In layman’s terms, this means that once visitors come to your online store, they have to be able to perceive, use, and understand the information on your site. That information also needs to be robust enough so that various assistive technologies can correctly interpret it.

Here are the main points to follow based on the Web Accessibility Guidelines to ensure your online store is accessible to everyone.

  • When dealing with buttons and links, consider adding a question mark or an asterisk as an additional way to make them different from the rest of the content and to make sure people with color-blindness can understand what they are
  • Use high-contrasting colors when it comes to text and background. Black text on a white background works better than using colors that are similar or close to each other on the color wheel.
  • Avoid using seizure-inducing content such as animated GIFs and flashing animations.
  • Remove or limit the use of CAPTCHA wherever possible. Research shows that CAPTCHA is largely ineffective against spammers on top of being deemed inaccessible
  • Add support for braille and the ability to enlarge the print with mouse and the keyboard to your online store.
  • Include alt text and text descriptions for content such as images, videos, and audio used in product pages and elsewhere in your store
  • Make your product descriptions and other content easier to read with the use of formatting options such as headings, subheadings, bullet points, and shorter paragraphs
  • Avoid using jargon, technical terms, and abbreviations without defining them to make sure content in your store is easy to understand
  • Make sure the text in your links is easy to understand and describes what you are linking to rather than using generic terms such as “Click Here”
  • If your links are set to open in a new tab, be sure to notify the user
  • Buttons, menu items, drop-down menus, and navigation should be accessible via keyboard and mouse
  • Ensure each page includes skip links at the top so your visitors can jump to main content as soon as the page loads
  • Checkout forms need to have proper labels that clearly explain what the field is for. You’ll also want to make sure that each field on your checkout form provides visitors with warning and confirmation messages
  • Avoid using music or videos that play automatically when a user lands on your website. Content such as videos and audio tracks should have clearly visible controls for play, pause, and stop buttons. This type of content should also have transcripts included as well as closed captioning and sign language whenever possible
  • Buttons that trigger downloads such a PDF receipt for the purchase an invoice or similar should have descriptions that tell visitors what will happen once they click the button
  • Talk to your developer and ask him to use WAI-ARIA roles to provide meaning for HTML elements like accordions and tabs, their functions, and states; as well as adding tabindex to elements such as and that don’t usually receive focus
  • Consider using a plugin such as WP Accessibility to fix common accessibility issues such as providing keyboard focus, preventing links from opening in other windows, and more.

Final Thoughts

Making your online store accessible helps you not only to contribute to making the whole web accessible to everyone but it also helps you improve your SEO, customer experience, and drive more organic traffic to your site. Use the tips in this article to improve the accessibility of your online store.

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