Thuiswinkel.org, VNO-NCW and the Accessibility Foundation teamed up in the Shopping Tomorrow expert group “Opportunities of e-Accessibility”. The members of this expert group approached us to develop an online tool. A tool that would show how important web accessibility is ánd that shows that web accessibility helps boost profitability. We brought this idea to a fully functional MVP in approximately one month. The Accessibility Self Scan shows online retailers how accessible their webshop is. Besides the test results, the tool provides tips and how-to’s. In the first week after launch, approximately 500 webshops had been scanned.
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ShoppingTomorrow was started by Thuiswinkel.org in 2013. Since its initial launch, it has grown to the main Dutch expertise network for online retailers. Every year, several expert groups dive into relevant hot topics. In the 2018-2019 season, an expert group “Opportunities of e-Accessibility” was launched. This group was initiated by Thuiswinkel.org and hosted together with VNO-NCW and the Accessibility Foundation.
There were two main reasons to start this expert group:
- Research by the Accessibility Foundation had shown that awareness and expertise regarding web accessibility were severely lacking within the e-commerce industry.
- In January of 2017, the Dutch “Wet Gelijke Behandeling Chronisch Zieken (WGBH/CZ)” (legislation that ensures equal access for people suffering from chronic illnesses) had come into force. This legislation requires business owners to prove they’re making efforts to enhance the accessibility of their websites. Within approximately five years, a new, stricter act is expected: The European Accessibility Act. To Thuiswinkel.org, it’s important to keep their members up to date on upcoming legislation early on. After all, they’ll need time to gradually apply improvements and meet the new, stricter, standards in time.
The expert group set out to show online retailers that investments in web accessibility can generate a positive ROI. Which is why they came up with the following research question: “How can I increase conversion by improving the web accessibility of my website or app?”.
Besides a research paper, the members planned to offer hands-on tips and how-to’s as well. During the research phase, the expert group had, amongst others, checked out our tool Privacy Insights. A tool that our developers had developed to increase awareness and knowledge about privacy. This sparked an idea among the members of the expert group: maybe a similar tool, but focused on increasing awareness of the benefits of web accessibility would help achieve their goal. As a result, the expert group approached us to brainstorm about the possibilities.
The expert group had devised the following objectives for the tool they had in mind:
- The Accessibility Self Scan needed to give a quick and easy to understand overview of how accessible a webshop is at the time of testing.
- The tool needed to be easy to use.
- The test results and the additional information needed to be educational, encouraging and easy to understand for a wide variety of roles within organizations.
“All administrative bodies agreed: we would need to work hard on awareness and support around the topic of web accessibility. Above all, nobody wanted to end up in the same sort of pinch that happened as a result of not being up to speed in a timely manner when the GDPR legislation came into force.”
“No matter the amount of research, we’ll never be able to predict how well a tool or service will be adopted. By using an Agile approach to launching, and by subsequently implementing market feedback, a product or service is more likely to tie into your users needs. As a result, it will be more valuable. “
The Accessibility Self Scan needed to be launched within a bit over a month. Because we had invested extensively in increasing our knowledge and expertise regarding accessibility over the past years, we felt comfortable accepting this challenge. In consultation with the expert group, we opted for an Agile approach. Next, we determined what features absolutely needed to be included in this first version. After launching the tool, we intend to obtain user feedback from this first version and optimize and expand the tool subsequently.
The Accessibility Self Scan tool was presented to the public during the Dutch WebWinkelVakdagen of 2019. This is a yearly event for online retailers in The Netherlands and hosts an expo and dozens of lectures and workshops.
The tool checks, amongst others, code quality, content structure, content readability, and color contrast. This provides business owners with a clear overview of how accessible their webshop is for users with a variety of restrictions. And they are able to calculate potentially missed revenue.
To make sure the Self Scan tool keeps running smoothly, even when hundreds of sites are tested at the same time, we have opted for a setup with two servers. One server hosts the WordPress site that contains the tool. This is where users enter their URL, where the test results are presented and where additional information is available. The second server performs all scans, generates the results and returns those to the first server.
“Unfortunately, technology doesn’t allow us to test whether or not it’s possible to accomplish a conversion by just using a keyboard. Yet. Therefore, we have created a challenge. Users determine what conversion they want to test, and indicate whether or not they’ve been able to reach the conversion within a reasonable time frame.“
“I am looking back on this cooperation with pleasure. We had a tight planning and a hard deadline. From the first conversation to the launch, communication was easy. We were in touch continuously. That made things so much easier.”
Within the first week after launch, no less than 500 webshops were scanned.
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