Ecommerce Growth

An Essential Guide to Shopify Accessibility Improvement

Ecommerce Growth

An Essential Guide to Shopify Accessibility Improvement

Have you ever considered how your Shopify store's accessibility could be impacting your growth and customer experience? Surprisingly, many online stores overlook the critical aspect of digital accessibility, thus potentially missing out on reaching a broader range of customers. Shopify accessibility isn't just about complying with laws; it's about inclusivity for all of your customers.

Ensuring your Shopify store is fully accessible means committing to a design that can be effectively used by everyone. This includes people who rely on assistive technologies, improving the shopping experience for all. However, achieving online accessibility can seem daunting, especially without proper guidance.

Quick Facts about Shopify Accessibility
Shopify Commitment: Shopify is committed to making the internet more inclusive
Guiding Principle: They use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.1
Testing and Remediation: Shopify test content and features for WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliance
Product VPATs: Shopify accessibility conformance reports are available

Coming to terms with the nuance of accessibility, from the legal requirements down to the technical implementations, can feel overwhelming. This guide aims to demystify this process. Here, we'll share how to enhance the accessibility of your Shopify store, from understanding the backbone of Shopify's accessibility commitment to best-practice measures you can undertake to improve your store's accessibility.

Accessibility best practices - shopify accessibility infographic pyramid-hierarchy-5-steps

By understanding Shopify's accessibility standards and learning how to implement them effectively, you can create a seamless and enjoyable e-commerce experience for all your customers. Being accessible means potentially capturing the market from people who would otherwise struggle to navigate your store. That's a win-win situation for both your business and your customers. Prepare to dig into the heart of Shopify Accessibility and elevate the inclusiveness and, ultimately, the success of your online store.

Understanding the Importance of Accessibility in E-commerce

E-commerce has exploded in recent years, becoming a lifeline for many businesses, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. But as we embrace this digital revolution, it's critical that we don't leave anyone behind. That's where the importance of accessibility in e-commerce comes in.

The Role of Accessibility in Digital Equity

Digital equity is all about ensuring that everyone, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities, has equal access to digital resources, including e-commerce websites. As the internet becomes more integral to our daily lives, the importance of web accessibility is more prominent than ever.

Approximately one in four adults worldwide has some form of disability. These individuals are increasingly turning to the internet for their shopping needs. But are they finding the inclusive experience they deserve? Not always. This is why at First Pier, we prioritize making websites, particularly Shopify stores, fully accessible.

The Impact of Accessibility on Customer Experience and Sales

Beyond the moral obligation and legal requirements, improving your Shopify store's accessibility can significantly enhance user experience and, consequently, your sales.

Businesses that have made their websites accessible can market more effectively and generate goodwill among the general population. Empathetic brands stand out in a crowded business landscape, and increasing the accessibility of your website is a concrete way to show consumers that you value their time and needs.

Furthermore, improving your Shopify accessibility can also boost your SEO practices. As we've learned from our extensive experience at First Pier, many best practices for accessibility and SEO overlap. For example, an easy-to-navigate website, alt text for images, and well-formatted web copy are beneficial for both accessibility and SEO.

Not only will you attract customers with disabilities, but even those without any impairments will appreciate the enhancements to your site and associate your brand with empathy and inclusivity. This positive association can significantly boost sales and customer loyalty.

In conclusion, accessibility in e-commerce is not just about compliance; it's about providing a better shopping experience for all, which in turn drives business growth. In the next sections, we'll delve deeper into Shopify's commitment to accessibility and how you can improve accessibility in your Shopify store.

Shopify's Commitment to Accessibility

At First Pier, we firmly believe in the power of digital equity, and so does Shopify. As a leading e-commerce platform, Shopify is committed to making the internet a more inclusive space by providing an inclusive user experience that allows everyone to maintain their dignity and independence. This commitment is backed by their continuous efforts to remove access barriers and to comply with accessibility standards.

Shopify's Use of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1

At the core of Shopify's accessibility efforts are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.1. These guidelines serve as their guiding principle, shaping the way they conceive and realize new products. The principles of accessible design and development are an integral part of Shopify's product creation process.

Shopify's Accessibility Testing and Remediation Process

Shopify goes beyond just following guidelines; they also actively test their digital content and products for WCAG 2.1 Level AA compliance. This process involves using a variety of tools, including automated testing software, screen readers, voice dictation, screen magnification, and color contrast analyzers.

Furthermore, Shopify collaborates with individuals with disabilities to conduct usability tests during product creation. This level of dedication and thoroughness ensures that Shopify's products are accessible to all, eliminating any barriers that might prevent users from having a seamless shopping experience.

Accessibility Conformance Reports Provided by Shopify

To further demonstrate their commitment to accessibility, Shopify provides accessibility conformance reports, each following the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), WCAG Edition. These reports are readily available and cover a range of Shopify's products, including their checkout process and various themes.

Shopify's commitment to accessibility is a testament to their dedication to inclusivity and digital equity. As a Shopify partner, we at First Pier fully support these efforts, understanding the crucial role that accessibility plays in creating an inclusive online shopping experience. In the next section, we'll guide you on how to further improve accessibility in your Shopify store.

Accessibility - shopify accessibility

How to Improve Accessibility in Your Shopify Store

Improving the accessibility of your Shopify store is not just about compliance with regulations, it's about providing an inclusive shopping experience for all users. This includes individuals with visual, hearing, or cognitive impairments who may need additional support to navigate and interact with your online store. Let's delve into how you can make your Shopify store more accessible.

Ensuring Text Accessibility

The readability of the text on your website is essential for accessibility. This involves several factors such as color contrast, use of headings, text size, alignment, and differentiation of text links from regular text.

Importance of Color Contrast

Color contrast refers to the difference in light between the text and its background. Customers who are colorblind or visually impaired rely on sufficient color contrast to differentiate one thing from another. To ensure your text is accessible, use an online contrast ratio tool to check the color contrast of your store. Aim for a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for body text and button text against its background and 3:1 for headings and large text.

Proper Use of Headings

Headings are a crucial navigation tool for users with screen readers. They communicate the organization of your page content. Therefore, headings should be used in sequential order, without skipping levels.

Setting Minimum Font Size and Text Alignment

Keep your text large enough for customers to comfortably read. The minimum font size recommended for body text is 16 px. Also, avoid justified text alignment as it creates inconsistent spacing between words making it harder to read. Instead, opt for left-aligned text.

Differentiating Text Links from Regular Text

When adding hyperlinks to your content, make sure they are easily distinguishable from the regular text. This makes it easier for users to identify and use the links.

Providing Alternative Text for Images

Alternative text (alt text) is a description of an image that is read by screen readers. It's crucial to include alt text for every image on your site to ensure it's accessible to visually impaired users. The alt text should be descriptive and consider the context of the webpage when describing images.

Improving Slideshow and Video Accessibility

Autoplay slideshows and videos can be disorienting to some users. Therefore, avoid autoplay and instead give users control over these elements. Provide closed captioning for videos to make them accessible to users with hearing impairments.

Enhancing Keyboard Support

Ensure your site can be fully navigated using a keyboard. This is crucial for users who can't use a mouse or touch screen. Make sure there is a clear visual indicator for interactive page elements when they are in focus.

At First Pier, we believe that Shopify accessibility is integral to providing an inclusive and successful shopping experience. By implementing these strategies, you can improve your store's accessibility, ensuring all users can comfortably and efficiently interact with your online store.

Shopify Accessibility Policy

As part of its commitment to digital equity, Shopify has a comprehensive accessibility policy in place. This policy outlines their commitment to ensuring that all users, regardless of their abilities, can access and use their services effectively.

Purpose and Principles of the Policy

The purpose of the Shopify accessibility policy is to create an environment that is accessible for persons with disabilities. The policy is built on the principles of respect, dignity, and independence for all users. Shopify strives to offer the same services to all individuals, ensuring that persons with disabilities can benefit from their goods and services in the same way as others.

Definitions of Disability, Service Animal, and Support Person

The policy clearly defines the term "disability" to cover a wide range of physical, mental, and developmental conditions. It also includes definitions for "service animal," which refers to animals used by individuals for reasons relating to their disability, and "support person," who assists a person with disabilities in communication, mobility, personal care, or access to goods and services.

Policy Application and Commitment to Service

The policy applies to all Shopify services provided to the public and holds all Shopify staff and visitors accountable for providing accessibility to persons with disabilities. It commits to serving all visitors, including those with disabilities, by taking into account their specific needs and ensuring that they can access and benefit from Shopify's goods and services just like any other user.

Provisions for Service Animals and Support Persons

Shopify's policy ensures that individuals with disabilities who rely on service animals or support persons for assistance are allowed to bring them onto Shopify premises. Provisions are made to ensure that these individuals are not prevented from having access to their support persons or service animals while on Shopify premises.

Notice of Temporary Disruptions and Alternative Resources

In case of any temporary disruption in services or facilities used by persons with disabilities, Shopify commits to providing timely notice and offering alternative resources wherever possible.

Staff Training and Feedback Mechanism

To ensure the effective implementation of the policy, Shopify also provides training to its staff about providing goods and services to persons with disabilities. Furthermore, Shopify welcomes feedback from users to improve its services and resolve any potential issues related to accessibility.

At First Pier, we applaud Shopify's commitment to accessibility and strive to incorporate these principles in our own work. By understanding and implementing the guidelines set by Shopify's accessibility policy, we can ensure that our services are accessible and inclusive for all.

Accessibility Best Practices for Shopify Themes

At First Pier, we believe that creating a truly accessible Shopify store goes beyond adhering to policies. It involves a deep understanding and application of accessibility best practices in every facet of your Shopify theme.

Importance of Accessibility Testing

First and foremost, it's crucial to regularly test the accessibility of your theme. This can be done using tools such as the Shopify Lighthouse CI GitHub action which helps measure and calculate your theme's accessibility. By incorporating this into your continuous integration (CI) process, you can ensure that any changes to your theme do not negatively impact its accessibility.

Main Principles of Accessibility: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust

When creating your theme, keep in mind the four main principles of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Your theme should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. This means that all information and UI components should be understandable and easily navigated by users, and the content should be robust enough to be interpreted reliably by assistive technologies.

Supporting Keyboard and Gesture Controls

It's also important to support keyboard and gesture controls. Many users with visual or motor impairments rely on keyboards to navigate and complete tasks online. Your theme should allow for all links, buttons, dropdown navigation, and form controls to be easily operated using a keyboard. Additionally, functionalities such as pinch to zoom should always be available for users who rely on gesture controls.

Building Page Structure with Valid HTML

Building your theme with valid HTML is another key practice. Using the W3 HTML checker, you can validate the generated HTML to ensure your page structure is sound. This includes setting the lang attribute on the html element to help screen readers pronounce content in the correct accent and dialect.

Proper Use of Drop-down Menu Navigation Attributes

When designing your navigation system, ensure all menus, including drop-downs, are accessible. This means that all links and buttons within the navigation should be operable with a keyboard.

Providing Descriptive Alt Text for Product Images

To aid visually impaired users, all product images should have descriptive alt text. This helps screen readers understand and describe the content of the image to the user.

Handling Form Fields and Errors Properly

Dealing with form fields and errors correctly is crucial. Users should be able to easily identify and rectify errors. Furthermore, form fields should have clear and descriptive labels to aid understanding.

Ensuring Media Accessibility

All media, including videos, should have appropriate accessibility features. For instance, videos should have closed captions for users with hearing impairments.

Considering Color and Contrast for Text

Text color and contrast should be considered to aid readability. The WCAG recommends a contrast ratio of 4.5:1 to ensure colorblind users can parse out information easily.

Managing Focus and Keyboard Functionality for Dynamic Components

For dynamic components in your theme, manage focus and keyboard functionality properly to ensure they are accessible. This means that when navigating with a keyboard, focus should move from top to bottom and left to right, and it should not switch unexpectedly when a control receives focus.

Ensuring Touch Targets for Touch Screen and Mobile Devices

Lastly, ensure that touch targets are appropriately sized for touch screen and mobile devices. This allows users to easily operate interactive elements using touch.

By adhering to these best practices, you can significantly improve your Shopify theme's accessibility, ultimately resulting in a more inclusive shopping experience for all customers. As we at First Pier always say, good accessibility is good business.

Conclusion: The Role of Accessibility in Building a Successful Shopify Store

In e-commerce, where the digital landscape is continuously evolving, accessibility should not be seen merely as a legal obligation or a tick box exercise. Instead, it should be viewed as a fundamental component of customer service and an essential element in building a successful Shopify store. Focusing on Shopify accessibility is all about ensuring that all customers, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, can engage with your store and have an enjoyable shopping experience.

At First Pier, we consider accessibility to be a priority, not an afterthought. We believe in creating e-commerce experiences that are inclusive and accessible to everyone. We understand that accessibility is not just about removing barriers for those with disabilities, but about creating an environment that respects and values diversity.

Improving Shopify accessibility can have significant benefits for your store. Not only does it widen your customer base by making your site more accessible to people with disabilities, but it also enhances the overall usability of your site, leading to an improved customer experience for all users. This can result in higher customer satisfaction, increased loyalty, and ultimately, more sales.

From ensuring text accessibility and providing alternative text for images, to improving slideshow and video accessibility and enhancing keyboard support, there are many ways to improve Shopify accessibility. The key is to continually test and iterate on your site, seeking feedback from users and making improvements as needed.

Moreover, Shopify's commitment to accessibility, as evidenced by its use of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 and its ongoing accessibility testing and remediation process, means that you have a solid foundation to build upon.

In conclusion, aiming for a high level of accessibility not only fulfills a social responsibility but is also a smart business strategy. By putting accessibility at the forefront of your Shopify store development, you can ensure that you are providing an inclusive customer experience, reaching a wider audience, and maximizing your e-commerce potential.

For more information on Shopify accessibility, you can check out our guide on Shopify ADA compliance or learn about the benefits of choosing Shopify Plus on our Shopify Plus benefits page. You can also explore our detailed guide on Shopify website design to get more insights on how to create a visually appealing and user-friendly online store.

A more accessible online store is a more successful online store. So, let's make the digital world more accessible together.

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