Ecommerce accessibility 2010 – report released released the findings of this year’s ecommerce accessibility report and found that, unlike in usability, not much had changed when it comes to website accessibility among the top high street retailers.

Whereas the average score in usability has been increasing year-on-year, the average accessibility score actually went down slightly this year (although that may be partly because Woolworths was included again this year and only scored 38 per cent, but this time last year it wasn’t around to assess).

There were obvious exceptions to this lack of improvement however. B&Q was the outstanding mover and has clearly invested in its website since last year. It achieved a score of 84 per cent to top the table, up 16 per cent from last year. Other big improvements were seen with H.Samuel climbing from 8th place to 3rd, improving its score from 65 to 75, and Next which climbed from 18th to 11th with an improvement of 9% to 60.

In contrast, Marks & Spencer’s website, newly launched in October 2009, only managed to increase its accessibility score by 1 per cent to 59 per cent, even though it now leads the way in usability.

So, what’s the reason for the general lack of improvement in accessibility considering there’s continual investment in these ecommerce websites? Well this could be down to advances in web technologies making it more difficult for ecommerce sites to maintain levels of accessibility as they provide richer interactions.

It used to be the case that, if you did your usability and SEO work right, you’d be 80% there with accessibility due to the interlinked nature of the disciplines. However, AJAX and Web 2.0 present new challenges from an accessibility point of view and this is no longer the case.

However, some of these mistakes are so easy to rectify it’s amazing that so many sites fail every year. For example, the guideline that gets the lowest average every year is providing focus states for links to make them accessible for keyboard-only users. This can be done through one simple line of code, yet only B&Q, John Lewis, Argos and HMV do this to a reasonable level and the majority of sites don’t even attempt it.

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