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B&Q and John Lewis lead retailers in website accessibility

B&Q and John Lewis lead retailers in website accessibility

B&Q and John Lewis offer their customers the best levels of website accessibility out of the top UK high street retailers, but Marks & Spencer's new website languishes in 12th place despite topping the table in usability, according to a new study released today.

The 2010 Ecommerce Accessibility Report from user experience consultancy, Webcredible, revealed that B&Q was the outstanding mover. It replaced John Lewis at the top of the study of 20 leading retailer websites with a score of 84 per cent, moving from joint 6th to 1st place with a rise of 16 per cent from last year.

Despite slipping from 1st to 2nd place John Lewis still improved its score by 5 per cent to 79 per cent. However, Marks & Spencer's website, newly launched in October 2009, only managed to increase its accessibility score by 1 per cent to 59 per cent to remain in 12th place in this year's report.

This despite drastically improving its usability score with the redesign, to top Webcredible's Ecommerce Usability Report in October2009. Currys again propped up the table achieving a score of only 37 per cent, just as in last year's report.

In addition, Woolworths only managed to score 38 per cent to finish in 19th place, despite now having become an online only retailer. Webcredible’s 2010 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 still consistent with previous years including not embedding text within images, and providing focus states for links and skip links. The average accessibility score had improved last year to 61.6 per cent, but this year's report shows that there has been a slight drop in ecommerce accessibility standards since then with an average score of just 60.2 per cent in 2010.

This drop can be attributed to the bottom end, with 4 retailers now scoring under 50 for accessibility, as opposed to just one in last year's report. In addition, it's clear that sloppiness and inconsistency is still inherent when it comes to the implementation of accessibility.

However, it's not all bad news, the top score of 84 per cent is 10 per cent higher than last year and there are now seven retailers scoring over 65 per cent. Accessibility improvements were most obvious in the case of B&Q, but 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 per cent to 60.

Trenton Moss, Director at Webcredible comments, "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."

He continues, “As I've said many times before, there are legal requirements for the accessibility of websites set out by the Disability Discrimination Act and the basics of accessibility also compliment usability and search engine optimisation, yet it is still not a high enough concern for some website owners.”

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