Actually it’s not. Marks and Spencer languishes in a paltry Lidl-like 12th place on a new web accessibility table prepared by ‘user experience’ consultancy Webcredible for its third annual 2010 Ecommerce Accessibility Report, which is out now.
I’m a big fan of this topic. There’s so much to look at in terms of accessibility that can be influenced by web developers and the services they envision, web designers and the stylistic approach they take to the GUI and, crucially, the confluence point of the two disciplines as they coalesce to form a single touchpoint on the Internet.
Is a web site easy to use for people with motor function difficulties that find a traditional mouse movement hard going? Is the presentation troublesome for someone with colour blindness? Is there tabbing support for the visually impaired? Um, hang on – is it just plain and simple easy to use?
So how does Webcredible evaluate accessibility? Nice home pages and fun 3D and 360 graphics? No sir, according to the company’s website, “The report evaluates the accessibility of the UK's leading high street retailers' websites. Based on real world accessibility (not merely box ticking), we devised 20 essential web guidelines that all ecommerce websites should adhere to, evaluating each site against these guidelines.”
So in fact M&S are not the crème de la crème when it comes to the crunch (or the click for that matter), but blazing a trail in front are B&Q and John Lewis with web accessibility scores of 84% and 79% respectively to M&S’s rather poor 59%.
Now I’m not going to rattle through who went up and who went down as you can see the results on the above link. Instead let’s just say that surveys and tables are usually a fairly dull affair and certainly a pretty ‘tired’ publicity mechanism; but the one thing that might be interesting is a look at the companies who improve year-on-year.
It’s certainly possible to raise one’s game in this area and ‘implement’ accessibility – and that might sounds like I am allowing the marketing people to brand the term in a new way but I don’t think it is. Accessibility should not simply be a process or a consideration, it should be a tool and an essential modular component of any site design and architecture.
Trenton Moss, director at Webcredible says that, "Despite increasing awareness over the past couple of years of the need for accessible websites, it still seems that accessibility is not considered as much as usability in site build and developments. It's clear that a lot of work has taken place on existing and redesigned sites to improve usability, but it seems in all this work many retailers have failed to take accessibility seriously enough.
The legal requirements for the accessibility of websites set out by the Disability Discrimination Act and the basics of accessibility are broadly agreed to actually compliment usability and search engine optimisation, yet it is still not a high enough concern for some website owners it seems.