John Lewis’ website offers its customers the best levels of accessibility out of the top UK high street retailers, with Boots showing the most drastic improvement in the sector, according to a new study released today.
The 2009 Ecommerce Accessibility Report from user experience consultancy, Webcredible, revealed that the John Lewis website topped the study of 19 leading retailer websites with a score of 74 per cent, moving from 4th to 1st place with a rise of 1 per cent from last year. However, the report also revealed that Boots was the outstanding mover having gone from joint 17th place last year to 2nd place with a score of 72 per cent, an improvement of 35 per cent from the previous study.
Webcredible’s 2009 Ecommerce Accessibility Report also gives guidance to online retailers and helps them to understand how they can improve their sites and make them accessible to users with a broad range of disabilities. The guidelines that need improvement are much the same as last year, including: using appropriate alternative text for images, not embedding text within images so that it can be resized properly, and providing skip links to get to the main content more easily.
After only achieving a low average accessibility score of 56.8 per cent a year ago, the ecommerce industry has seen a general improvement in accessibility achieving an average score of 61.6 per cent in 2009. The main reason for this improvement is that only one retailer scored lower than 50 per cent, compared to seven in last year’s report. This shows that more top retailers are paying greater attention to the basics of accessibility, such as descriptive page titles, headings and links, and text resizing options.
However, the top score of 74 per cent is two per cent lower than last year and seven of the 19 retailers have achieved lower scores in 2009, suggesting that as they add new features and functionality to compete in the increasingly competitive online market place, the accessibility of their websites is suffering slightly.
The improvement in accessibility is most obvious in the case of Boots, but other big improvements were seen with WHSmith climbing from 16th place to 11th, improving its score from 41 to 61, and Debenhams which climbed from equal 17th to equal 12th place with an improvement of 19 per cent. Last year’s top three sites, H.Samuel, HMV and B&Q find themselves in 9th, equal 4th and 6th, respectively in this year’s report.
Trenton Moss, Director at Webcredible comments, “Accessibility has unsurprisingly risen up the agenda for many retailers in the past year and sites like Boots have demonstrated that the improvements were there to be made. The average score for every guideline has improved, but the main reason for dropped points is still inconsistency, with many retailers applying accessibility guidelines to some pages but not others.”
He continues, “There are legal requirements for the accessibility of websites set out by the Disability Discrimination Act and if these are not met, then companies could find themselves in trouble. Besides, the basics of accessibility go hand-in-hand with usability and search engine optimisation, meaning that an accessible website can help boost your online presence and sales with all user groups, not just disabled people.”
The 19 ecommerce websites received the following scores in total, out of 100:
Webcredible analysed the websites of 19 of the UK ’s leading high street retailers in January 2009. An identical study had previously been completed in December 2007 of the same sample of retailers (with the exception of Woolworths).
Each website was evaluated against 20 best practice guidelines and assigned a score of 0-5 for each guideline, with 5 being the maximum. With 20 guidelines in total, websites were assigned a total Web Accessibility Index rating out of 100. A full copy of the report can be downloaded from www.webcredible.co.uk/accessibility2009.
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