Top retailers’ websites are still inaccessible.

Written by Ben Leach on

Revealed: The largest online giants who are still inaccessible to disabled people.

At HeX, we’re incredibly passionate about what we do, and we think accessibility is an incredibly important part of a website. Across the board, accessibility should be implemented on digital services, but this is even more necessary for online retail stores.

It’s not often that we out individual companies for not implementing accessibility; we understand that awareness raising needs to be done, and not everyone has infinitely available resources. But today, we made an exception. It’s 2019. Large online stores have no excuse anymore.

If you’re unsure of what accessibility is, you can start with our page ‘What is Accessibility

Top 10 retailers in the UK

The UK has been gifted with an incredibly available and easy online retail environment, so much so that next day delivery is standard and retailers now make more profit online than they do on the high street. This is even more apparent with the rise of online-only retailers in the past decade.

The UK e-commerce industry is a fierce one, with retailers battling it out to release the best products for the cheapest price, often, employing aggressive tactics to attract penny-pinching clientele.

In a list, devised by SimilarWeb, a market intelligence company, and shared on Disfold, the top ten retailers (correct as of March 2019) in the UK are collected based on web traffic and conversions. The following list make up the top ten:

  1. Amazon UK
  2. eBay UK
  3. Asos
  4. Argos
  5. ASDA
  6. Tesco
  7. Marks and Spencer
  8. John Lewis and Partners
  9. Curry’s PC World
  10. Debenhams

Why Accessibility is important for online retailers

In the UK alone, more than 18% of the population have some kind of disability or impairment, requiring varying degrees of support when navigating websites. Some, require the use of assistive technology to make websites work for them. Others on the other hand do not require as much assistance, but still rely on websites making things clear, and visible.

The financial argument

The UK disability market is worth a whopping £249 billion to the UK economy. And by 2021, it is expected that 93 per cent of UK internet users are expected to do some form of online shopping, according to Statista.

With both of these statistics in mind, your e-commerce accessibility status could mean millions of pounds in potential revenue for your business.

The moral argument

If the finances aren’t valid enough on their own, you also have to take in the moral issue with not being accessible. A couple of simple errors could completely alienate disabled people from your online store.

If you’re a business taking part in Black Friday, Cyber Monday or have sales of your own that are inaccessible to disabled people, not only are you forcing customers away, you’re forcing would-be customers to pay more than they wanted for the product. Is that fair?

You also risk backlash within the disabled community, Twitter accounts like @DontWantOurCash run by Actress and Disability Campaigner, Samantha Renke, publicly out companies who are causing problems for the disabled community.

How many of the Top 10 retailers are accessible?

We assessed the accessibility of each site using an automated tool to start. Once we’d established the technical errors on the site, we carried out a brief manual review assessing some basic customer journeys (such as adding a product to a cart).

Below is how the top 10 fared against out tests.

Amazon UK

Amazon have clearly attempted to do some level of accessibility. But some of this work has proven futile. Below are the main errors we found with Amazon:

  • Missing alternative text on product images
  • Slider images missing alt tags
  • Empty link navigating to their home page
  • Very low contrast in some areas
  • Duplicate alt text across a number of images
  • Redundant links

eBay UK

An impressive 19 million people visit eBay UK’s site every month to place bids on products, but by the looks of the accessibility errors, the only thing that disabled people will be bidding, is eBay a goodbye. Their errors are:

  • Image map are missing alternative text
  • Empty headings
  • Empty buttons
  • Empty links
  • Areas with very low contrast
  • Redundant links

Asos

As an online-only fashion brand, you’d expect Asos to be completely accessible to those with disabilties considering their only opportunity for a sale is through the website. Whilst it’s not impossible to buy products, it’s made harder by:

  • Missing alternative text on some images
  • Spacer images missing alternative text
  • Empty headings
  • Empty buttons
  • Empty Links
  • Some pages with no heading structure

Argos

With a large catalogue of products available online, you wouldn’t expect Argos to also have a large catalogue of accessibility errors, but they do. They are:

  • Missing alternative text on some images
  • Empty headings
  • Broken ARIA menu
  • Contrast Errors.
  • Tabbing through menu is not possible.

ASDA

Whilst the home page is not too much of an issue when it comes to access, the other pages are where the issues start to cause an issue. These issues:

  • Very low contrast in many places
  • Broken ARIA menus
  • Empty link
  • Empty button
  • Missing form labels

Tesco

On an accessible level, Tesco are the best of the Top 10 for Accessibility, there are, however, some elements that still fail basic accessibility checks. These elements have:

  • Empty form labels
  • Empty buttons
  • Very low contrast

Marks and Spencer

Relying more than ever on online sales, Marks and Spencer have made some commitment to making their site accessible, their main errors are:

  • Missing form labels
  • Empty headings
  • Empty buttons
  • Empty links
  • Very low contrast in areas

John Lewis and Partners

For what John Lewis makes up for in style and class, its shortcoming is the website’s accessibility. The issues are:

  • Empty buttons
  • Empty links
  • Broken skip link
  • Broken ARIA reference
  • Very low contrast in areas
  • Duplicate/redundant alternative text
  • Incorrect heading structure.

Curry’s PC World

With a big online offering, Curry’s PC World is one that you’d think would be accessible to the masses. But, in reality, this isn’t the case, they have:

  • Missing alternative text
  • Missing form labels
  • Empty links
  • Broken ARIA reference
  • Broken ARIA menu
  • Very low contrast in areas
  • Duplicate/redundant alternative text
  • No heading structure

Debenhams

There’s not much you can’t get at popular department store, Debenhams, unless of course you’re looking for accessibility. Their errors are:

  • Missing alternative text
  • Missing form labels
  • Document language missing
  • Empty buttons
  • Empty links
  • Broken skip links
  • Very low contrast in some areas
  • Skipped heading level

What can we do?

Well, if you’re one of the people in charge of the websites above, we encourage you to get in touch with us. HeX has the ability to help you create a more accessible website.

If you’re just someone interested to see what the errors are, we recommend you get in touch with the online giants, let them know. Scope, the disability charity has created The Big Hack, highlighting the importance of web accessibility. If you find a site that is inaccessible, you can let them know using the reporting tool.

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