add accessibility to you website

Optimizing Accessibility for Ecommerce Websites: A Proactive Approach

Add accessibility to your website and improve user experience, expand your reach, and boost your brand reputation.

In today’s digital world, the internet connects people with diverse abilities and needs.

But, if your website isn’t easy to navigate for people with visual impairments or limited mobility, they’re going to take their business elsewhere faster than you can say “accessibility audit.”

That means missed sales, unfulfilled growth, and even legal repercussions. Plus, in an age where inclusivity matters more than ever, an inaccessible website paints a negative picture of your brand.

Here’s the good news: making your website accessible isn’t rocket science. Simple things like clear descriptions, keyboard navigation compatibility, and alternative text for images can make a world of difference. The first step is acknowledging that you need to add accessibility to your website because, as Phil Springall said:

“Accessibility is like ice cream; the more you ignore it, the messier it gets.”

If you run an ecommerce website, this is your wake-up call.

Why You Need to Add Accessibility to Your Website

In today’s digital marketplace, the user experience (UX) is a pivotal factor in the success of an online business.

A Forbes article highlights that a well-crafted UX can enhance a website’s conversion rate by up to 400%. Given that a seamless, frictionless digital experience is now a basic expectation, incorporating accessibility into this experience becomes not just a value-add but a necessity. Benefits include:

1. Enhanced Usability is for Everyone

One of the primary benefits of accessible design is its contribution to overall usability. Features like high-contrast text, while essential for those with visual impairments, also improve readability for all users, especially in brightly lit environments.

Similarly, keyboard navigation supports not just individuals with motor disabilities but also those engaged in multitasking, highlighting the universal utility of accessibility features.

2. Financial Benefit and Market Expansion

When we consider the financial implications, the importance of accessible design becomes even clearer. By embracing accessibility, businesses can tap into a wider audience, including the billion people globally with disabilities who hold $1.2 trillion in annual disposable income.

Citing Robert Pressman’s “Software Engineering: A Practitioner’s Approach,” investing in UX, including accessibility, can yield significant returns, ranging from $10 to $100 for every dollar spent. This impressive return on investment (ROI) reinforces the economic advantages of embracing accessible design.

The financial incentives for accessible design are underscored by a U.S. study revealing that inaccessible websites miss out on an astonishing $6.9 billion in revenue annually.

Notable examples like Amazon have seen a surge in conversions following accessibility-focused redesigns. While specific figures are proprietary, this trend is indicative of the broader market potential unlocked through accessibility.

3. Improved Customer Loyalty and Brand Image

A commitment to accessibility goes beyond compliance; it reflects a brand’s dedication to social responsibility, enhancing its reputation and fostering customer loyalty.

Inclusive design resonates with the ethos of caring for all users, which can significantly contribute to building strong, long-lasting customer relationships.

4. Enhanced Flexibility and Scalability

Moreover, designing with accessibility in mind often leads to more adaptable and scalable digital solutions. It equips platforms to meet a variety of user needs and preferences, ensuring functionality and user-friendliness as technology and user behavior continue to evolve.

In summary, integrating accessibility into digital design is not just a moral imperative but a strategic business decision that enhances usability, expands market reach, bolsters brand image, and ultimately drives conversions.

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8 Tips to Add Accessibility to Your Website

Building an accessible ecommerce platform isn’t just about ticking legal boxes; it’s about creating an inclusive journey that benefits everyone. Here are eight actionable steps with real-world examples that can help you prioritize accessibility for a more user-friendly digital experience.

1. Understand Your User

Knowing your user base is crucial for designing for accessibility. For example, Microsoft’s Inclusive Design initiative demonstrates this by actively involving people with disabilities in the design process, leading to innovations like the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

microsoft inclusive design logo

This approach isn’t just about compliance; it’s about genuinely understanding diverse user needs. A practical step is to use web analytics and surveys specifically designed to capture accessibility needs. Collaborate with organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind or the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs to involve users with disabilities in your testing process.

2. Understand Accessibility Law

The legal landscape surrounding digital accessibility has grown increasingly complex, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis escalated the shift to digital platforms, making web accessibility an urgent issue for businesses.

According to Forrester, there was a 20% increase in digital accessibility lawsuits in the US in 2020 compared to the previous year. This uptick demonstrates not only the legal imperatives around making your website accessible but also aligns with broader corporate commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I).

But the consequences of ignoring these laws go beyond just legal ramifications; it could also mean missing out on significant market segments. Forrester also highlights the 1-billion-strong market of people with disabilities that have $1.2 trillion in annual disposable income.

This is not to mention the rapidly aging population that is increasingly reliant on digital services. The importance of compliance with accessibility standards like Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, therefore, cannot be understated.

Take the high-profile case of the Domino’s lawsuit, for example, where the brand faced legal actions and public embarrassment for non-compliance with ADA guidelines.

article about Domino vs blind man in court

This serves as a cautionary tale, reminding businesses that making your digital platforms accessible is not just about avoiding lawsuits but also about the intention to make inclusivity and accessibility a priority rather than a “checklist” item.

In summary, eCommerce companies must go beyond ticking the legal boxes. To genuinely serve your customer base and fulfill your commitments to DE&I, a thorough understanding and implementation of accessibility laws and guidelines are not optional but essential.

3. Engage Users with Disabilities

Engaging directly with users with disabilities is critical. Google, for instance, conducts rigorous user testing that includes people with various disabilities to ensure their products are universally accessible.

They use targeted strategies like user interviews, usability tests, and surveys to gather valuable feedback; where they even say, “We want people to know their community had a major seat at the table to make this phone work for them.” This approach ensures that their products are not just meeting legal standards but are genuinely inclusive and user-friendly.

While engaging directly with users with disabilities is indispensable, it’s crucial to recognize that accessible design benefits everyone, not just individuals with disabilities. This concept is known as the “curb-cut effect,” where features designed for accessibility end up benefiting a broader user base.

For instance, closed captioning which was initially intended for the deaf and hard of hearing, is now widely used in noisy environments like gyms or airports and even by those learning a new language. Similarly, the clear and simple language often used to make content accessible to those with cognitive disabilities also makes information more digestible for everyone, especially in a world where people skim content on their mobile devices.

Google’s approach to accessibility highlights this universal benefit. Their voice-to-text features, designed to aid users who cannot type, have become popular tools for hands-free texting and multitasking.


 The high-contrast mode, another accessibility feature, is a boon for users in bright outdoor environments, not just those with visual impairments.

By prioritizing accessibility, you not only cater to users with specific needs but also enhance the usability for all your customers. This inclusive approach leads to a more intuitive, user-friendly, and ultimately more successful product or service.

4. Apply the 3 C’s of Accessibility

The 3 C’s—Color Contrast, Clickable Area, and Common Content Accessibility—are fundamental to accessible web design. They serve as a simple framework that emphasizes visual readability, usability, and consistent content structure.

  • Color Contrast: Utilize color contrast tools to ensure your text is readable against its background. This doesn’t just help users with color vision deficiencies; it’s also beneficial in conditions like bright sunlight.
  • Clickable Area: Making buttons and links easier to click benefits everyone. For example, someone using a mobile device with one hand will appreciate larger, more comfortably spaced clickable areas, as will someone with a motor disability using an adapted mouse.
sample of clickable area to add accessibility to your website
  • Common Content Accessibility: Consistency is key. Using a coherent layout and design with alt text for images makes navigation simpler for everyone but is especially beneficial for users relying on screen readers.
infographic showing the uses of Alt Text

The 3 C’s in action can be seen in platforms like Apple’s iOS, which has set a high standard for accessibility. For Color Contrast, they offer a range of settings to accommodate different visual impairments. In terms of Clickable Area, their interface is designed so that buttons and icons are easily tapable, benefiting users with motor disabilities. For Common Content Accessibility, Apple provides support for screen readers like VoiceOver, ensuring that content is accessible to users who are blind or have low vision.

5. Avoid Common Pitfalls

One common pitfall is solely relying on automated testing tools for accessibility. While these tools can catch many issues, they often miss nuances like poor labeling or confusing content sequence. Make sure to include manual testing and real-user testing to round out your evaluation process.

6. Educate Your Team

Creating an accessible website is not just the designer’s or developer’s responsibility. Everyone, from the content creators who need to provide alt text for images to the marketers who decide on color schemes, must understand accessibility. Regular training sessions and workshops can help team members stay updated on best practices.


Adobe and Google do this well for their employees, where their network is focused on supporting and advocating for employees and their family members with disabilities. Offering resources and training for their staff to create accessible content, demonstrating that accessibility is a shared responsibility across all departments.

7. Optimize for Assistive Technologies

Not all users will interact with your website using a mouse and keyboard. Some may use voice recognition software, screen readers, or other assistive technologies. Use semantic HTML to give meaning to your content. ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) landmarks can be used to indicate the role of an element on the page, helping screen readers interpret it better. Always design keeping keyboard navigation in mind.

Amazon’s Alexa is a prime example of optimizing for assistive technologies. It demonstrates how voice recognition technology can aid users with motor or visual impairments, allowing them to interact with technology in a way that was not possible before.

Child playing with Alexa speaker

Amazon’s continuous improvement of Alexa’s voice recognition capabilities highlights the importance of designing content that is compatible with assistive technologies.

8. Stay Updated on Accessibility Trends

To stay ahead, consider subscribing to industry-leading blogs such as A List Apart or WebAIM, attending conferences like the Accessibility Summit, and joining professional forums on platforms like LinkedIn that focus on accessibility topics.

Seminar on accessibility

Take Action Now for an Inclusive Tomorrow

Accessibility should be an ongoing commitment, not a one-time effort.

By understanding your users, complying with laws, involving experts, focusing on details, training your team, and staying updated, you can create a genuinely inclusive ecommerce website.

Remember, accessibility isn’t just about opening doors for users with disabilities; it elevates the user experience for everyone, fostering a more engaging and user-friendly environment. By taking actionable steps today, you’ll not only fulfill your ethical obligations but also lay the foundation for a thriving digital community where everyone feels welcome and empowered.

The rewards, both in terms of user satisfaction and potential business growth, are well worth the investment in this ongoing journey towards an inclusive digital experience.

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About the Author

Ekkachai Jet Ittihrit

Ekkachai Jet Ittihrit, a recent Oregon State University graduate in Human-Computer Interaction, is eager to enter the UX field, emphasizing accessibility. At The Good, he blended his academic knowledge and passion for inclusive design to promote accessible technology solutions.