How online retailers exploit untapped potential – eCommerce Magazin


Order a new cell phone case, book the long-awaited vacation trip, quickly google whether you can still use the cucumber water before you dump it or make an appointment online at the registration office after moving. Due to the massive expansion of digital offers since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, many things are now being done online.

However, for part of the population, such offers cannot be used or can only be used to a limited extent due to impairment – for example hearing or vision. The following applies: Accessibility is essential for every tenth person, necessary for around every third person and everybody without exception is useful. A British study has also shown that the majority of those with disabilities who are willing to shop leave pages if they are not usable well (71 percent) and instead spend their money exclusively on barrier-free shops they are already familiar with (85 percent).

Digital accessibility is becoming an obligation for everyone

Despite these figures, the majority of online shops and websites are still not designed to be barrier-free. An analysis of the 15 largest shops in Germany T-Systems MMS already showed in February 2017 that just one shop was easily accessible. Ten shops were so poor in terms of their accessibility that they simply could not be used by users with disabilities.

Make your website accessible
A customer journey without obstacles: So far, very few online shops have offered that. Image: Yomex Owo / Unsplash

This should end by 2025 at the latest. Electronic business services are then subject to the requirements and sanctions of the European Accessibility Act (EAA). The only exceptions are micro-enterprises. Just a few weeks ago, the Bundestag passed the Accessibility Strengthening Act (BFSG), which implements the EU directive into German law.

So there is a lot going on at the legal level on the construction site of digital accessibility. But how do online shops manage to implement these requirements in concrete measures, adapt their website and thus no longer exclude a potential target group? In order to understand what accessibility can look like in online retail, it helps to first be aware of the impairments and who they affect.

Make your website accessible: Different impairments, different requirements

Around every tenth citizen in Germany lives with a disability. Different demands on software arise from different physical, emotional, mental or sensory impairments. This includes both technical ones, which relate to the implementation in the source code, as well as requirements for user interaction and visual design: “Products and services are barrier-free if they are used for people with disabilities in the usual way, without particular difficulty and basically without Third-party help can be found, accessed and used ”, so it is in the BFSG.

  • Visually impaired users: This group includes all people who have reduced eyesight, impaired visual field, color ametropia (e.g. red-green weakness) or sensitivity to glare.
    They require, for example, a contrast between the reading text and the background in a ratio of at least 4.5: 1 between the foreground and background color. In addition, the text must be able to be enlarged up to 200 percent using the browser zoom function without any loss of content or functionality.
  • Blind users: Instead of using a mouse and a screen, blind people work with screen reader software that reads the displayed content out to them. You can optionally use a dynamic Braille display that makes text in braille tangible. The PC is usually controlled via the keyboard.
    For blind people, websites must be well-structured in HTML markup and clearly labeled throughout. This is achieved with the help of (section) headings, descriptions and labels for form fields. In addition, it must be possible to control and operate all interactive content using the keyboard.
  • Motor-impaired users: Anyone who has a manual physical limitation is either not able to use a mouse at all or is only able to use them to a very limited extent. The PC is often operated using the keyboard or other alternative control devices.
    The tab focus must be clearly visible for these users at all times so that they always know where they are on the website and can easily navigate through the shop.
  • Hearing impaired users: This group needs visual alternatives for audio output and acoustic signals. Deaf people often use sign language to communicate. Written texts should be formulated in plain language.
    Any audio content must alternatively be available in text form. The customer service of online shops must also be accessible to them – not only by telephone, but also in writing, for example by e-mail, chat or contact form.
  • Cognitively impaired users: People who have a problem absorbing or processing information need an application that is easy to use and understandable.
    Requirements here are, for example, consistently designed dialogues, texts in simple language and an individually adaptable typeface. In order to simplify reading and to reduce errors in input, tools for speech input and input are used.

This brief overview shows: In order to make the website barrier-free according to the design-for-all principle, there is often a need to tighten the requirements management of shop development.