Why your eCommerce store needs to be fully accessible to all users
When we hear “accessibility,” most of us think about physical access, like wheelchair-friendly entrances and step-free access. But if you have motor control issues, impaired vision, and/or cognitive disabilities, for example, a website can be as inaccessible as a store with steep steps.
Equal web access is crucial for everyone to be able to find vital public service information, which is typically only available online; to access telehealth services; and to shop. COVID-19 was a boon to online shopping, as people avoided bricks-and-mortar stores out of fear of infection. The market saw 10 years of growth within just 3 months, and eommerce's share of total retail sales rose to 14% in 2020 from 11% in 2019. For many consumers, ecommerce became a lifeline for accessing vital groceries and medication.
If anything, shoppers with disabilities rely on online shopping more than the average consumer, because they are more likely to have comorbidities, but they are shut out from all too many online stores.
What's holding back web accessibility?
Running an accessible store should be a no-brainer, but as eСommerce business owners quickly discover, it's quite complex.
For a start, ADA legislation requires websites to be made accessible, but it doesn't define an accessible site. There are WCAG guidelines that lay out web accessibility needs, but if someone with disabilities can't use your site, you could still get sued, even if your site meets ADA recommendations.
What does an accessible site include?
Some of the main issues around web accessibility include:
- Support for screen readers
- Intuitive website structures and easy to find information
- Easy to read display for users with low vision
There are many reasons why someone can't use a mouse to navigate the internet, including amputations, motor control issues, arthritis, a broken arm, or even a broken mouse. Instead of a mouse, people use a tab and enter keys, but many sites have drop-down menus that only open with a click, pop ups that can't be dismissed without a mouse, and forms that aren't keyboard-accessible.
Screen reader support
Blind internet users rely on screen readers to navigate the internet, and these screen readers use ALT tags and ARIA attributes to understand what's on the page. When those are missing, blind visitors to your site are simply lost. Screen readers also can't read information from an image, recognize strikethroughs like "$20 $15," and are often confused by decimal points.
Intuitive website structures and information
Visitors with cognitive disabilities, elderly people who aren't used to online shopping, and anyone who's tired, stressed, and in a hurry is liable to feel bewildered by all the information on an eCommerce site. Sites need intuitive hierarchies and simple, clear language without any jargon, so it's easy for visitors to find products, check returns and delivery information, and complete a purchase.
Easy to read display
When you use tiny text, low contrast ratios, faint colors, cramped spacing, and/or hard-to-read fonts, visitors with poor vision struggle to read the content. You need to offer clear fonts, wide spacing, high contrast ratios, and bold colors to make it easy for every visitor to read forms, instructions, promotions, and more.
The benefits of web accessibility for eCommerce store owners
Most importantly, running an accessible site is the right thing to do. But web accessibility also affects your revenue. Users with disabilities make up a market worth around $490 billion, similar to the Hispanic market and the African-American market. You can't afford to shut them out of your store, but they won't break their heads trying to navigate a difficult site; they'll just leave and go to your competitor.
Running a non-accessible store also harms your reputation. A user with disabilities who can't access your website isn't going to keep to themselves; they'll warn other people away from you. But on the flip side, when word gets around that your site is welcoming and accessible, even users without disabilities will want to shop at your store.
As if that's not enough, you'd be risking a lawsuit if your nopCommerce site isn't accessible. ADA Title II lawsuits have skyrocketed since 2018. An angry and frustrated shopper who can't buy the items they need won't hesitate to send you a lawyer demand letter, and you don't want to shell out $20,000+ for an out-of-court settlement.
How accessibility works for your eCommerce store
Most companies want their nopCommerce stores to be accessible, they just don’t know how to make it happen. Even a small eCommerce site can hold hundreds of small details that need to be corrected, and few eCommerce owners know how to rewrite the code themselves.
Most automated free and low-cost plugins don't do the job properly, but paying for a manual accessibility expert can cost thousands of dollars. On top of that, making an accessible online store isn't a one-time fix. You have to maintain it, check that updates didn't override your accessibility changes, and make sure that your new content is still accessible.
The solution offers a front-end accessibility interface that fixes UI and design-related adjustments, together with backend coding corrections that handle more complex issues such as keyboard navigability and screen reader optimization. Accessibility has never been easier.
Making your eCommerce website accessible to all
An online store that's designed with accessibility in mind delivers a better experience for ALL users, not just people with disabilities. By including accessiBe into your nopCommerce store, you can meet the needs of every consumer in a fast, hassle-free, and cost-effective way, increase your revenue, avoid ruinous lawsuits, and enjoy the knowledge that you're doing the right thing, too.