Can you imagine there was such a time when the Internet wasn’t for everyone? That was the case for years before the Web Accessibility Initiative came into full effect. Their goal has been to improve the accessibility of web pages for internet users with impaired vision, learning difficulties, cognitive declines, etc. Through a series of Guidelines, commonly referred to as the WCAG, this initiative was able to standardize the design of web pages and most recently mobile content. In this article, we will take a closer look at the guidelines and what they mean for any eCommerce site.
What are the WCAGs?
These are guidelines used to explain how to design any web page that you want to publish in order to provide easy access to any and all people searching on the Internet, irrespective of any physical or mental limitation the user could suffer from.
They were created and are regulated by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that is the international organization acting in favor of standardizing technology like HTML, XHTML, and CSS. Last published in 2018, the WCAG 2.1 guidelines provide a common ground to create and adapt web content to individual user needs, extending to mobile web content as well.
What are the guiding principles behind these guidelines?
For a website to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) it must be: perceivable, understandable, operable, and robust.
- Perceivable: All information and components which are part of the visible user interface must be developed in a manner that can be perceived by any individual user.
- Understandable: All content must be designed so uses can immediately identify the functionality and information provided.
- Operable: All components which are part of the user interface and page navigation must be usable and accessible.
- Robust: All content must be easily interpreted by search engines and technology available to users.
These four principles are the pillars behind the 12 guidelines laid out for web pages to follow. To learn more about the latest updates and versions of the WCAGs click here.
How to be compliant with these guidelines
To review the status of your site requires a self-examination process that you and your developers must take seriously. For this, W3C provides a preliminary resource and an in-depth evaluation, easily accessible for those looking to publish online.
The initial easy check criteria give you and your developers a broad overview of the status of your site. It checks for things like:
- Meta Titles
- Alt Text
- Contrast Ratio
- Form functionality
- Site Structure
- Keyboard Access
The in-depth evaluation will require you to follow the Website Accessibility Conformance Evaluation Methodology (WCAG EM), however, you can always trust an expert partner like Resolve Digital to evaluate this for you.
Why is this important for eCommerce sites?
With the United States at the forefront in the fight for human rights, it passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) law in 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) in 2008. These laws were passed to prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in jobs, schools, transportation, and public and private places that are open to the public.
In 2018, the Department of Justice clarified that websites are considered to be public accommodations, and therefore must comply with the ADA. With that, sites without regard for the WCAGs are easily exposed to ADA lawsuits, chief among them: retail and eCommerce sites.
However, being sued is not the only reason to consider being compliant. These guidelines exist so sites can provide a better user experience to EVERYONE, which if you are in the eCommerce business, is really a top reason to do almost anything with your site in 2020.
Through the article, you may have also noticed that many of the compliance points that we look at also relate to what we now know as best practices for SEO and Content Marketing. It should come as no surprise that being compliant correlates to your website’s ability to rank higher on search engines and have content appear on the first pages of google. Given the fast-paced changes we have seen in this subject matter over the past two years, we have made it a priority to make sure all our work is compliant, guaranteeing the uniqueness, longevity, and profitability of our client’s sites.
At Resolve Digital we are proud of the leadership position we hold for ADA compliance consulting and development. We can help you avoid issues by making sure your site adheres to the WCAG guidelines and keeping it up-to-date as accessibility requirements evolve. If you are unsure about the status of your site, would like a free evaluation or are ready to make some changes, schedule a call with us, we are ready to work with you.
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