Inaccessible websites force many to ‘click away’

New research indicates that UK businesses are losing out on huge sums of money – potentially totalling billions of pounds – by failing to make their websites accessible to users with access needs.

A British pound symbol inside a red slashed circle
A British pound symbol inside a red slashed circle

Published by British disability consultancy Freeney Williams, the Click-Away Pound (CAP) Survey assessed the ‘online shopping experience of customers with disabilities, and the costs to business of ignoring them.’

The report revealed that 71% of disabled customers with access needs will ‘click away’ from a website that they find difficult to use. A key finding from the survey was that the spending power of these online shoppers who click away is £11.75 billion, which is money that is then spent elsewhere by those same shoppers, on sites that they can access.

Rick Williams, co-author of the survey, said “as a business, why would you design a website that people can’t use? It’s astonishing and businesses are losing opportunities for all that money.”

The CAP Survey summary notes that, ‘businesses need to bear in mind that if a disabled shopper clicks away from their site to one of their competitors, they show little inclination to return.’ It also states that ‘most businesses will be unaware that they are losing income, because more than 90% of customers who have difficulty using a site will not contact them.’

Indeed, the survey found that over 80% of online shoppers with access needs will choose to spend their money on websites with the fewest barriers in place for them, as opposed to the sites offering the cheapest prices for products or services.

The five most common website problems identified by survey respondents were: crowded pages; poor link information; difficulty or inability to fill in forms; moving images or graphics; and poor legibility, including colour contrast and text layout.

Screen-readers were found to be the most common type of assistive technology (AT) used, with 53% of all respondents using some form of AT. As the CAP Survey pointed out, ‘no matter how sophisticated or efficient AT might be or how competent its user, unless a website is designed and developed to take access needs into account, the capacity of AT to overcome access barriers will always be limited.’

Heidi Laidler, Media Access Australia’s User Experience Designer, is not surprised at the findings of the report. “I’m not surprised at all, and I have no doubt that the same would be true in Australia.”

“It’s disappointing that, while many organisations are investing in user experience to improve their websites, users with disability are frequently overlooked,” she says. “Organisations, and often designers and developers, don’t realise that users with disability make up such a large proportion of users. As such, they need to be considered throughout the design and development process.”

“Essentially, organisations with inaccessible websites are inadvertently disallowing around 20% of their potential customers from making purchases or interacting with their organisation online,” says Heidi Laidler.

“Like any user, the vast majority of people with a disability will simply leave a website if they find it difficult to use, which unfortunately is the case for many websites,” Laidler says. “Furthermore, there is a significant number of websites which are not only difficult to use for individuals with disability, but in fact are impossible to use for some users with disability.”

“One thing not mentioned in this report, is that poor accessibility may not only reduce revenue, but can also be damaging to an organisation’s reputation,” she adds. “In many instances, a website is the face of an organisation and unintuitive or inaccessible design makes a very poor first impression.”

The inaugural CAP Survey stopped gathering information in July 2016, collecting detailed responses from 362 participants, with the results published late last year. Some estimates from the report are based on applying result trends to a national level, using data from the Office of National Statistics, among other sources.

You can read the Click-Away Pound Report in full. A follow-up survey is also planned for this year, which will examine the subject in relation to specific business sectors, and go beyond the UK to possibly include Europe, North America, and South East Asia including Australia.

 

For more information on how to ensure that what you are doing online is accessible and meets WCAG 2.0 guidelines, you can check out the Media Access Australia services website, email the Media Access Australia team or call (02) 9212 6242. The team can assist your organisation with annual web audits, digital accessibility maturity assessments, document remediation, accessibility training and more.