The pressure on e-commerce businesses to make their websites more accessible isn't only a moral argument. It’s now a legal one. If you fail to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations on web accessibility, you risk a lawsuit. In fact, as of 2019, there were 2,256 ADA Title III lawsuits, which was preceded by a 177 percent jump in the number of federal cases between 2017 and 2018.
Working on your site’s web accessibility is a much cheaper — and hassle-free — alternative to an ADA lawsuit. Keep reading for four crucial strategies to help you understand web accessibility and how you can improve yours.
WEB ADA COMPLIANCE STRATEGIES
- More Text
- Transcription and Video Captioning
- Inclusive Customer Experiences
- Color Balance
UNDERSTANDING WEB ACCESSIBILITY
Web accessibility is a process by which you, as an e-commerce business, design your website such that persons with disabilities can also use it without undue difficulty. When you’re mulling over web accessibility, you have to consider varying forms of disability, including:
Knowing that site owners need help in enhancing accessibility, the Web Accessibility Initiative put together the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines help e-commerce firms work out principles that promote inclusivity.
AVOIDING ACCESSIBILITY LAWSUITS
For businesses that don't pay attention to web accessibility, the threat of a lawsuit grounded in failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is ever-present. Such cases have hit e-commerce especially hard. So, what can you do to ensure your e-commerce business promotes web accessibility to ward off potential lawsuits and to ensure a good experience for all users?
MORE TEXT IS NEVER A BAD IDEA
Many e-commerce sites place a heavier premium on visual media than text as they believe shoppers tend to recall images better than words. Although there is room for visual media to add value to your site’s usability, that shouldn’t come at the expense of text.
For example, many visually impaired users use screen readers to shop online. If the level of text-based content on your site isn't comprehensive, such shoppers struggle to use it. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to make the website more accessible.
Using plain text significantly boosts your site’s accessibility as it’s a flexible medium. Screen readers and other modified assistive tools can decipher plain text and read it out to visually impaired shoppers. More plain text on the site makes it much more accessible.
That doesn't mean you can’t use visual media or should slowly strip most of it away, of course. There are some ways you can make such media compatible with enhanced accessibility. For example, if you plan to use an image on your site, add an alt tribute to help communicate what the image means. If it’s a complex image whose alt tribute will exceed the 100 character limit, text descriptions or captions can work as well.
Not only is this practice both morally good and legally necessary, it’s also smart business. If visually challenged shoppers find your e-commerce site hard to use, it’s easy for them to bounce. That will result in losing a significant amount of sales as people become frustrated and look elsewhere.
BET BIGGER ON TRANSCRIPTION AND VIDEO CAPTIONING
Keeping with the text-focused theme, transcribing any audio content on your site makes it available to hearing-impaired shoppers. Likewise, adding closed captions to your videos is another way to reach those who can’t hear the audio and encourage them to engage more with your website.
The great thing about focusing on transcription and video captioning for your e-commerce site is that it also carries ancillary benefits across a wider user base. An excellent example here is an in-depth report looking at how users watch Instapage videos. It turns out that only 12 percent of users watch these videos with the sound on. That means a huge majority of users, both hearing-impaired and not, rely on text running alongside the video. For e-commerce stores using this platform, video captions led to a 16 percent higher reach. That translates to more leads and potentially higher conversion rates, all as an additional benefit of focusing more on accessibility.
CRAFT A MORE INCLUSIVE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
You already know the numbers - almost 90 percent of online shoppers refuse to return to a website once they suffer a poor customer experience. That means the retail landscape now calls for high personalization to surprise and delight your shoppers.
When it comes to web accessibility, the context doesn't change. If anything, the stakes are greater as emerging e-commerce trends only leave your customers more informed.
To avoid nasty ADA lawsuits, you need to take a total inventory of the current user experience you’re shipping. Put yourself in the shoes of disabled shoppers' and go through your site from research to checkout. Did you like the experience, or were there glaring flaws you need to fix?
As you assess your user experience, dig deeply into all facets of the customer journey. It’s easy to make shallow changes that give you a false sense of assurance, but only deep analysis can truly move the needle.
For example, look at your support function. If users who raise an issue need to send a screenshot to your team for resolution, that process can be challenging to visually disabled users using screen readers. As such, it would be prudent to invest in an accessible alternative that empowers such a user to raise pain points and seek your assistance in a more effective way.
Be patient as you conduct a thorough user experience audit with accessibility in mind. Answers may not all come at once, and you need to be open to making changes over a long period of time. Furthermore, you should be open to any customer feedback that you may receive to continue to make your website more inclusive.
Once you’re through with the audit, don't treat it as a one-and-done affair. Make it a part of your ongoing strategy to continue uncovering new ways you can improve web accessibility.
THE RIGHT COLOR BALANCE MATTERS
How you use color is a vital component of web accessibility. That’s because one in every 200 women and one in every 12 men suffer from color blindness. If you don’t design your e-commerce site's color scheme thoughtfully, you’ll alienate a notable customer base.
A useful way to boost accessibility with color is to ensure you use colors on the opposite ends of the color wheel. The net effect of doing so is creating greater contrast between these colors, making them stand out to colorblind users.
But it’s not only colors that help colorblind users differentiate between various elements on your site. Other cues come into play as well. Since a category of colorblind users can still struggle to tell between various colored page elements, you need to employ texture and shapes to resolve this difficulty for them.
For example, if a link on your site has a different color, you can consider underlining it as well. When a colorblind user fails to tell it's a link due to the color, underlining it helps them realize it’s a link.
Making colors accessible is not an easy task. As such, you will find the temptation to deliver good enough. Equal access to all means designing an e-commerce website that gives all users the color aids they need to turn into a paying customer.
WEB ACCESSIBILITY IS NO LONGER AN ACCESSORY — INVEST IN IT OR PREPARE TO WEEP
Today’s online shopper is more conscious and discerning, meaning you can't get by with poor web accessibility. As such, you need to invest in making your e-commerce site more inclusive. If you don't, not only do you lose potential sales but you risk facing an ADA Title III lawsuit.
Assess your site with empathy towards the disabled to enhance its usability. Not only is it cheaper than a lawsuit, but it will fetch you more leads and higher conversion along the way.