Easier website navigation and cleaner layouts are more attractive to customers, increasing your chances of making a sale. Because of this, eCommerce technology is ever-changing. It evolves to accommodate buyers and make the user experience as hassle-free as possible. No matter how good a product or service is, customers are less likely to do business with you if your website is frustrating to use.
Unfortunately, these advancements often overlook people with disabilities. While giving a website a nice look and a simple user interface is always a good idea, it doesn’t always make it accessible to people with specific needs. Neglecting accessibility options causes a lack of usability for the disabled community, especially those who are visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing. It can also prevent a substantial number of potential buyers from interacting with eCommerce businesses.
Selling Virtually to the Disabled Community
As the push for businesses to switch to online retail increases, maximizing digital accessibility for those who need a little extra help becomes increasingly essential. Even something as small as allowing your website’s users to zoom your web page is a step in the right direction. It’s a small detail, but it will enable people with milder cases of visual impairment to read important information without unnecessary frustration.
However, people with more serious visual impairments also need to shop online. For them, the ability to zoom in on your website text may not be enough to make it all the way through checkout. Savvy brands want to make their websites accessible for visually impaired people, especially those who are legally blind.
Accommodating legally blind users may seem difficult at first, but many already have assistive technology. All you have to do is make sure your eCommerce website is compatible with most screen readers. You could also enable a text-to-speech option that’s innate to your site, allowing visually impaired individuals to navigate through your site even without a screen reader.
Pay attention to your image alt text
Many website creators forget is that while images enhance a web page’s aesthetic qualities, they do nothing for the blind. A simple way to alleviate this issue is by remembering to include alt text with your images. Alt text is a set of descriptive phrases picked up by screen readers, a standard assistive technology for the visually impaired. The screen readers will then describe the image to the user, allowing them to experience it to some degree.
Including alt text under images also has the chance to increase your overall page views. Search engines consider many things when determining your site’s ranking on the results page, and the inclusion of alt text is one of them. That means that including alt text can boost your SEO and increase the likelihood of you being in search results. Improving SEO and accessibility with one small action is a win-win.
Don’t over-do the holiday theme
Colorblind people also experience more trouble with the virtual shopping experience than most people realize… especially around Christmas. ECommerce sellers often prioritize making a fun, attention-grabbing landing page without realizing it may make things difficult for the colorblind. The reason it’s challenging around Christmas time is that many online retailers switch up their website to be mostly red and green.
Many colorblind people struggle with blue and yellow combinations, but red and green are the most common combinations for people to find hard to distinguish. Whether it’s the holiday season or not, try to keep your colorblind shoppers in mind when choosing a color scheme for your webpage.
The Consequences of Neglecting Accessibility
If you’re reluctant to implement adjustments out of fear of the expense, keep in mind that eCommerce sites aren’t exempt from accessibility standards. A business without a brick-and-mortar storefront isn’t exempt from ADA rules.
Web content accessibility guidelines are probably easier to enforce than ones in brick-and-mortar stores. Not only are eCommerce business sites available for everyone to view, but an inspector also doesn’t need to visit the business’s physical location to analyze its accessibility. They can simply type in a few words and inspect the business’s virtual accessibility from anywhere.
Accessibility lawsuits are a little less likely for online retailers, though, as there’s little to no chance of someone getting hurt because of guideline violations. That being said, lawsuits over neglect of web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) aren’t unheard of. There’s always the chance that you’ll get caught up in an accessibility lawsuit if you don’t follow the guidelines. Even for small businesses, there’s a risk, so it’s best to adhere to the rules as much as possible.
How to Implement eCommerce Accessibility without Breaking the Budget
You can make a few simple changes to your website to make it more accessible to disabled audiences. Enabling keyboard navigation is an excellent place to start, as it makes webpage navigation far easier for the visually impaired.
Including alternative text for any images allows the visually impaired user to experience the same effect that a seeing person would get from the image. The next step is making sure your eCommerce site is compatible with screen readers. These devices analyze text on the page and relay it to the user, including the alt text for an image. Lastly, upping color contrast for users that are colorblind or have a similar visual impairment can make differentiating the colors easier.
Social Media Tips
Using social media for your eCommerce business can be a great way to increase sales and engage with your community. But, many businesses on social media have embraced the video trend influenced by live videos and TikTok. Businesses are even focusing much of their advertisement creative on video format. However, relying solely on video or audio can decrease accessibility for potential buyers that are visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing. Include captions on all social media posts and subtitles on all videos can go a long way. There are many apps that will do the subtitle work for you.
There are even free and easy ways to improve accessibility of social media posts that don’t require additional tools. Paying attention to formatting hashtags and use of emojis can go a long way. When writing hashtags be sure to use camel case (capitalizing the first letter of each word). Camel case makes screen readers more effective. If using emojis leave those for the end of the content. Then the screen reader doesn’t waste time reading each emoji. Not sure where to start? Try reading your social posts out loud, and edit what seems out of place.
Social media accessibility has been a problem in the past, and it still needs some work. Fortunately, many social media apps are implementing decent accessibility guidelines. And there is an increasing trend to make social posts more accessible.
Implementing changes to your business’s eCommerce site and associated social media accounts can seem complicated. There are a few resources you need to incorporate that might ultimately get a little pricey. Not updating your site can be even more costly, though. Learn what steps you can take to go above and beyond the basic accessibility requirements and show users you care.
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