John Lewis tops website accessibility league

John Lewis' website offers its customers the best levels of accessibility out of the top UK high street retailers, according to a study released today.

The...

John Lewis' website offers its customers the best levels of accessibility out of the top UK high street retailers, according to a study released today.

The 2009 Ecommerce Accessibility Report from user experience consultancy Webcredible shows the John Lewis website topped the study of 19 leading retailer websites, with a score of 74%.

It moved from 4th to 1st place with a rise of 1% from last year. The report also revealed that Boots was the outstanding mover though, having gone from joint 17th place last year to 2nd place this time, with a score of 72% - an improvement of 35% 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% a year ago, the ecommerce industry has seen a general improvement in accessibility achieving an average score of 61.6% this year.

The main reason for this improvement is that only one retailer scored lower than 50%, 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, said Webcredible.

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%.

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.

Currys remained bottom of the list with a score of 37%.

Trenton Moss, director at Webcredible, said, "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."

There are legal requirements for the accessibility of websites set out by the Disability Discrimination Act.

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