How to create accessible websites that can win more customers and boost sales

An online presence can be one of the first things a potential customer seeks out for information about your brand so an inaccessible website may discourage customers – especially those with disabilities – potentially losing sales and harming your brand.

Ecommerce is booming, accounting for over 36% of the UK retail market opens in new window in 2021, an increase from 20% in 2019.

This increase is likely the result of a push for online shopping during the Covid pandemic.

A study by Growth Intelligence opens in new window shows that 85,000 businesses moved online in the four months of the first lockdown after many were forced to close their physical premises.

Low barriers to entry, including cheap website hosting, free website platforms, and easy-to-build online stores make having a website an essential tool of start-ups looking to sell products and services.

It allows you to reach new customers, including disabled customers who find it difficult to access and shop at physical stores.

But not all websites are equal when it comes to customer accessibility.

According to The Purple Pound opens in new window, 73% of disabled customers have experienced difficulties on over a quarter of the websites they’ve clicked on.

Those who click away have a combined estimated spending potential of £17.1 billion.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility means making a website that provides a good experience for all users regardless of their ability and how they access the internet.

It offers support for assistive technologies that help people with disabilities use the internet, such as:

  • screen readers for blind/visually-impaired individuals
  • speech input software for those unable to type
  • screen magnification to help enlarge areas of the site.

Building an accessible website means structuring the site and design of pages, images, text, and elements such as video so they can be used by as many people as possible.

For example, including a transcript along with a video on your website enables visually impaired people using screen readers to access the content of the video.

Why make your website accessible?

Your start-up could benefit from having an accessible website.

With recent cost-of-living increases prompting shoppers to look for cheaper deals and products, accessible online stores may benefit from more sales, improved reputation, and better customer service.

Increase customers

Improving your website accessibility means more people can discover and engage with your business.

The The Purple Pound opens in new window states that businesses lose approximately £2 billion a month by not being accessible to people with disabilities.

Boost brand reputation

An accessible website could signal to customers that you’re serious about inclusivity by providing a universal experience for all customers, regardless of ability.

Reduces customer handling

An accessible website enables customers to navigate more efficiently and find what they are looking for, potentially reducing the need to contact customer support.

This means less customer inquiries or complaints, which can reduce business costs.

Improves discoverability

Google values accessibility opens in new window and adapts its algorithms to consider it.

Making your website usable by screen readers, for example, can help your website rank higher in search engines such as Google, therefore helping your start-up website reach more people.

Tips to make your website more accessible

There are lots of ways to increase your website accessibility.

W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) opens in new window is a valuable resource for information on website design and coding when looking to create an accessible site.

Layout and design

By tweaking the design of your website you can increase accessibility by:

  • ensuring sufficient contrast between backgrounds and text so text can be easily read
  • avoiding the use of white text on black as it can be harder to read
  • using simple fonts at a reasonable size, with the option to enlarge for individuals with visual impairments
  • avoiding using only colour to convey information (such as graphs) for people with colour blindness.

Design for screen readers

Screen readers allow visually impaired people to access digital information.

They work by describing and reading out loud the content on the screen.

You can make it easier for screen readers to navigate and decipher your webpage with labelled content using headers, bullet lists and captions.

That way, visually impaired visitors will be able to clearly understand what your business offers.

Use ALT text

Visually impaired users use screen readers to help them understand webpages.

These tools read the ALT text on visual information to describe what is shown in an image.

Search engines such as Google index and rely on ALT image descriptions as they can’t see images, which in turn helps to boost search engine ranking performance opens in new window.

Keyboard navigation

Some people with disabilities use a keyboard rather than a mouse or trackpad to navigate a website.

Keyboard navigation commonly involves using the tab button to navigate the site’s content, so ensure the tab order matches the visual hierarchy.

Enable speech recognition

Speech recognition allows people unable to type to use their voice to navigate a site, allowing functions such as copy and paste functions, and scrolling.

For further information and understanding, read the Government guide opens in new window to making your service accessible.

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Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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