Today, the 13th November 2018, marks Purple Tuesday, a UK-wide event that is promoting accessible shopping, established to recognise the needs of disabled people in the UK and ensure that their shopping experience, online or offline, is as inclusive as possible.
With nearly 1 in 5 people making up the disabled population in the UK, the Purple Pound is worth a whopping £249 billion to the UK economy. This sheer spending power is often not realised by businesses, especially online retailers who are failing to make their websites accessible for disabled people.
So, what can you do, as an online shop to begin to cater for those with access needs and start profiting on the Purple Pound?
Users who are blind/visually impaired
For those users who are blind or visually impaired who wish to access your site, using a screen reader may be the only answer. Screen readers translate a website into readable text and relay the information back to the user as speech. Whilst these seems fairly simple, screen reader users often face a number of problems:
- Their screen reading software doesn’t work – This could be an error on your site, making sure your website supports the latest browser versions is essential as many screen readers fail due to browser compatibility issues.
- Contrasting colours – Many visually impaired people can still read large text, as long as this text is in contrast to the background. This can be a major issue with some sites. High-contrast colour combinations are recommended and are not sparse…it’ll be easy to find a combination that will work for your online shop.
- Product Descriptions – Having a product description will help blind or visually impaired users understand what the product is and how it works. It’s also worth including product dimensions to ensure they are purchasing the right thing.
- Cart alerts – As visually impaired users add products to the cart, it’s essential that they know how to access the online cart and how many items they have got in it, and ideally, what the price is. Many screen readers won’t read out a simple cart icon without adequate link tagging. It’s important you label your links, making sure that a blind user can find and access the shopping cart.
People who are Deaf or have hearing impairments
According to the World Health Organisation, there are more than 360 million people in the world who have hearing loss. Around 145,000 of those people, prefer to communicate using British Sign Language (BSL). So how can you tailor your e-commerce site for those who are Deaf or who have hearing loss?
- BSL Videos – Whilst this can be extremely costly for some businesses, if you have instructional video content for the products on your website, it is worth getting a BSL translation for these product videos so that users who are Deaf are able to understand the product.
- Captioning – As mentioned above, BSL interpretations can be expensive and time-consuming for many businesses, but a cheaper alternative to this (despite not being as accessible) is using subtitling and captions for product videos on the website. Alternatively, a transcript can be provided on the website for those who cannot listen to the content.
People with mobility impairments
Navigating around a website for people with motor impairments can often be a huge challenge. These users tend to utilise keyboard navigation or a mouse on low-sensitivity settings, but this can still cause issues when moving around a website and, in particular, completing purchases on an online store.
- Spatial awareness – It’s important that your website order forms or payment forms are designed to have spatial awareness in mind. This means that form submission boxes that are used sequentially, are closer together, but never closer than 2 millimetres.
- Keyboard tabbing – Those who use keyboard navigation to get around the website need to understand where they are tabbing and where they have currently tabbed to on the website. By adding/changing a styling element in your website to show where the user is currently tabbed to, this can significantly assist keyboard users.
- Skip to content – Having a button that skips the navigation of the website and moves straight to the content can be incredibly useful for those who are keyboard tabbing, as well as those who are using screen readers. This is especially useful when a website has many products and services in the navigation that could be avoided.
Cognitive impairment is usually used as an umbrella term for many disabilities, conditions and disorders that range from the mild to the severe, because of the sheer range of cognitive impairments, it can often be a challenge for web developers/designers and content writers to create websites that are accessible for everyone. However, making your website easy to use is the best practice, and below are a few tips you can use:
- Images – Those with dyslexia, in particular, may find it challenging to access textual information, so including contextual images to go alongside textual instructions is often a great thing to do. For example, check out instructions can be displayed visually and in written form.
- Auto-complete and suggestions – For those with anxiety and memory loss, when searching for a product, it can be difficult and time-consuming if they are unsure of the name. However, including auto-complete suggestions in the search results can help combat this issue.
- Form instructions and error-handling – Whilst it may seem like a trivial thing when someone enters the wrong information into your order form or purchase form, let them know what went wrong and how it can be fixed, rather than a ‘You entered incorrect information’. Instead, use an example from the BBC: “Oops, that date doesn’t look right. Make sure it’s a real date written as DD-MM-YYYY e.g. the 5th of June 2009 is 05-06-2009”. This is presented when a user enters an incorrect date of birth.
Whilst these tips are merely a starting point to making your e-commerce store more accessible, they will certainly help you make the most out of those disabled users who are avoiding your website to go somewhere else more accessible – allowing you to harness the Purple Pound.
By making your website more accessible, it is not only improving the usability for those who are disabled, but for everyone who is accessing your website. Never have the words ‘This website is too easy to use’ been uttered. Usability and the customer journey are appreciated by everyone.