The importance of creating accessible Shopify sites; tips for inclusive design

March is Disability Awareness Month, and we wanted to highlight the importance of creating accessible eCommerce experiences. Accessibility isn’t just a nice to have; it’s vital to designing digital experiences that accommodate all users.

Whether physical or neurological, disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, and the chances are that some (potentially more than you’d realise; the World Bank approximates that 15% of the global population has some form of disability) of your customers fall into one or more of these categories. By not considering the accessibility of your site, you run the risk of alienating an audience! 

Understanding the significance of accessibility

Accessibility in the eCommerce world can sometimes be misunderstood as merely complying with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), but it’s so much more. 

By prioritising accessibility, you’re not only building inclusivity into your site for customers with additional needs but also enhancing the site's usability for all users. Studies from the WebAIM project show that businesses that prioritise accessibility experience a 20% increase in website conversions on average. 

From individuals with visual impairments who rely on screen readers to those with motor impairments who navigate using alternative input devices, accessible design ensures everyone can access and interact with your brand online. 

Shopify and accessible design

As a leader in the eCommerce space, Shopify recognises the importance of accessibility in web design and provides a robust set of tools and features to empower merchants to create engaging online experiences. They also offer resources and guidance to help, including: 

  • Built-in accessibility features designed to enhance the usability of its platform for both customers and merchants. These features include keyboard navigation support, semantic HTML markup, and focus management to ensure compatibility with screen readers and assistive technologies. 

  • Pre-set themes which adhere to best practices for accessibility, such as proper heading structures, colour contrast ratios and navigation options that are easy to use for all users. 

  • Educational resources and documentation to help merchants understand the principles of accessible web design. 

  • Numerous apps and integrations that are accessibility-related enhance the accessibility of any merchant store. These apps include text-to-speech functionality, accessible forms and image alt-text optimisation. 

But what do merchants need to consider when designing an accessible eCommerce site?

There are a lot of different things that make up an accessible eCommerce website, and it’s important to take a look back at your design regularly to make sure that some of these elements are still relevant and optimised. 

At Radiant, we recommend the following elements as vital for ensuring a truly accessible eCommerce experience for your customers: 

  • Prioritise clear and intuitive navigation

Simplify the navigation on your Shopify site by employing clear and intuitive menus and navigation pathways. Use descriptive labels for links and buttons, and organise content logically to facilitate seamless navigation for all users. Also, make sure that all interactive elements on the website, such as buttons, links and form fields, are fully accessible via keyboard navigation. Users should be able to navigate the entire site and complete essential tasks without a mouse. 

  • Think about how a computer programme like a screen reader would read your site

Design your website with screen reader users in mind by providing descriptive alt text for images, labels for form fields, and proper HTML markup for content structure. Test your website with screen reader software to ensure all content is accessible and comprehensible! 

  • Think about your colour-ways

Colours are so much more than a design choice! Make sure you choose colour combinations that provide sufficient contrast to ensure that people with visual impairments can read the site easily. Avoid using colour to convey information, and ensure that text and interactive elements stand out against the background. 

  • Think about your text size and the fonts you use

Some fonts look awesome on paper but don’t translate on screens, and vice versa. Some fonts make a bold design statement but are actually nearly impossible to read! Ensure your eCommerce website uses clear and legible fonts with adjustable text sizes and provides clear options for users to adjust as needed. 

  • Use multimedia assets with attached words

Using different media types on your eCommerce website is great for engagement, but consider providing alternative formats for this content, such as transcripts for videos and audio descriptions for images. This also means that customers who have disabled certain types of media (regardless of their ability) will still be able to experience your site to the fullest. 

At Radiant, we understand the importance of accessible design in creating inclusive eCommerce experiences. Our team of experienced designers and developers is dedicated to helping merchants create websites that are visually stunning and accessible to all. 

Whether you're looking to build a new website from scratch or refresh your existing site with accessibility in mind, we're here to help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you elevate your website design and create an eCommerce platform that welcomes everyone.:

  • We have a mix of both creative, strategic and technical ability which means we're perfectly placed to maximise your potential.