What you need to know about Website Accessibility in Retail

10 Feb 2023
Web Accessibility Testing with Inspired Testing

If you operate within the retail space, you’ll know how important it is to make your physical spaces as accessible as possible for everyone, regardless of their abilities. Your online presence should be no different. In fact, many countries mandate web accessibility by law. You can do web accessibility testing to make sure that your web presence complies with the required standards, but a firm understanding of the principles that underline these standards is important.

Web accessibility is all about making your website accessible to everyone who visits it, regardless of their abilities. Its format, structure, navigation, visuals, and written content should still be accessible to differently-abled individuals. It should not only be accessible to everyone, but you should also strive to provide the same or similar great experience to all web users. Demonstrating that you care about everybody that visits your website can boost brand loyalty.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and their enforcement is driven by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The first version was released in 2008 with the newest release, WCAG 2.2, expected early in 2023. The guidelines are backwards compatible, which means that if a website conforms to the newest guidelines, it will also conform to previous versions.

The WCAG provides success criteria that are testable statements that are not technology-specific. It rests on 4 principles that aim to make the Web as accessible to everybody as possible: Websites should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

Perceivable: Users should be able to perceive or identify web content and elements. Usually, this is done visually but some users may need sound or touch to perceive information.

Operable: Users need to be able to use interactive elements like controls, buttons, and navigation control, often through assistive technology such as voice recognition, keyboards, and screen readers.

Understandable: It should be easy to learn and understand how to use your website.

Robust: Users should be allowed to choose the technology they use to interact with your website without it affecting its reliability.

The good news is that complying with these criteria will improve the UX of your site in general, which is vital in retaining users to your site. A website with a clean design that’s easy to use and navigate regardless of the device, browser, or operating system is especially important in today’s world of user journeys that stretch over multiple platforms and devices.

Regardless of how well they are developed, all websites should be tested to confirm that their performance and accessibility meet the minimum standards . Failing to do so could lead to costly penalties in the US, and while there have been no successful court cases about a lack of web accessibility in the UK, it remains a possibility. The European Accessibility Act will regulate accessibility in EU states, with enforcement actions starting in 2025.

The Gold Standard in Web Accessibility Testing

There’s a wealth of information available on what web accessibility means, and certainly no lack of tools to test your website. No single tool is available to test everything accurately, and accessibility is one of the fields where human input is still vital.

How do you ensure that your website meets accessibility criteria?

  • Keep accessibility front of mind rather than an afterthought or box to be checked after everything else has been done.
  • Work with a company that has a mature testing capability that includes accessibility testing. Essentially, this means that accessibility will be evaluated as part of the testing life cycle, instead of in a separate process. Doing it this way will pick up issues with accessibility earlier in the development cycle when it is easier and cheaper to fix.
  • Choose experts that can create a bespoke solution rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. There are many nuances in website testing which increase with the complexity of the website and other systems involved, in which case free or off-the-shelf solutions will end up wasting time and driving up costs.

We’re moving into a world that is increasingly accessible for everyone regardless of their abilities. As regulations tighten, it makes sense to address website accessibility sooner rather than later and working with an expert team will save time and money in the long run.

Ansa du Plessis

Technical Copywriter, Inspired Testing

Ansa is an experienced copywriter with a passion for technology, science, and communication. She’s a strategic thinker and closely collaborates with the experts at Inspired Testing to create material that adds true value to her readers.

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