Are we doing enough to adjust websites for all customers out there, including ones with disabilities? The past year has forced all of us to become more tech-savvy, but brands still need to focus on providing accessible online services. Simplicity is the core value to include in all digital strategies, despite how accustomed we became to using smart solutions for daily tasks.

People with visual impairments, special education, and other accessibility needs have been struggling to navigate through the digital-first approach of many vendors. That’s something many businesses are failing to recognize. If brands want to do right by their customers and speak to wide audiences, they should rethink the accessibility of their websites. This includes not only technical aspects of their websites but structural ones as well, including the simplicity of language and content.

Recent research indicates that less than 1% of website home pages are likely to meet standard accessibility requirements. Pair this with the knowledge that nearly three-quarters of disabled online consumers will leave a website that they find difficult to use. Furthermore, 83% of disabled users will only shop on sites that they know are accessible. This means that UK retailers could be missing out on online sales of around £17.1 billion a year.

How many people are you excluding?

If you’re not addressing the inclusion on your website, then you are cutting out a significant proportion of your market. The NHS estimates that approximately 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability. Beyond this, about 2 million people in Britain live with sight loss severe enough to have a significant impact on daily lives. Furthermore, 1 in 8 men and 1 in 200 women have some form of colour blindness. In total, there are approximately 13.9 million disabled people in the UK, including 19% of working-age adults.

These numbers are significant, but they only include those with diagnosed disabilities. The uncaptured statistics are of equal importance and show just how important it is to build your brand through accessibility and inclusion. If your online shop window has hard-to-understand language, you could be excluding an enormous pool of potential customers. An inaccessible UX simply prevents users to navigate through the website and reach the checkout.

Take the following study as an example. The 2021 WebAIM Million report found that 86% of websites contain low colour contrast text. This could be enough to prevent the groups with vision impairments from using the websites with ease. Despite access to guidelines such as the WCAG, many e-retailers do not think accessibility is crucial for their customer base – taking a sledgehammer to their own revenue stream as a result.

Accessibility makes the UX

Most online retailers take user experience as the topmost priority but forget that accessibility is its key part. They often focus on the user journey, particularly in e-commerce, when using UX analytics. The spotlight mostly goes to the time spent on pages or points of customer drop-offs. Instead of taking into account every single detail, retailers usually look solely at the product and the interactions between different pages.

Vendors should also consider the simplicity or complexity of language on each page. They should ask themselves whether disabled customers can use the website properly because that can be the reason behind customer drop-off. A likeable website is fully accessible and easy to navigate with the keyboard, which means all pages need a clean and precise layout.

Transcripts and closed captions for audio and video content help with the points stated above. These simple additions support all users, including people with disabilities. Just imagine having a slow internet connection and how helpful would it be to load text pages faster – accessibility is all about making these situations frustration-free.

Using technology for better UX

Making the UX as accessible as possible may seem like a monumental task, but it doesn’t have to be managed manually. Technology has come a long way in auditing and providing insight into the accessibility of your site. Therefore, all vendors out there should consider using smart solutions for optimizing their websites.

Technology can help you scan pages for errors in seconds and prioritize issues for your team. Authoring tools, on the other hand, can support content creators in writing inclusive pieces. Furthermore, digital solutions can measure reading age, identify jargon, and suggest other improvements along the way.

Building brand reputation and customer engagement

When you build your brand through accessibility and inclusion and design an adequate website, you’re open to many business benefits. For example, accessibility and SEO are linked very closely. Providing transcripts and closed captions for web content is a requirement for meeting web accessibility standards such as WCAG. As Google and other search engines provide results based on matching search text with web text, they cannot look through your audio and video content. So, closed captions and transcripts help your SEO because the text enables your website to be discovered by search engines.

Brands should also keep in mind that people prefer to engage with socially responsible businesses. Consumers appreciate those who commit to improving the experience of all customers, especially ones with accessibility needs.

Accessibility measures are not just ‘nice to have’. They are essential if we are to strive towards a society that is accepting and accommodating everyone, regardless of ability, illness, or special educational needs. Your website is now your shop window – you should make it as inviting and inclusive as possible.

We are not just talking about maximising your businesses’ revenue because simple navigation and design will definitely lead to good results. When you build your brand through accessibility and inclusion and improve online services, you also do the right thing for your customers and make their lives easier.

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