accessibility

Accessibility Matters: How Prioritising Usability and Inclusivity Drives Customer Satisfaction and Market Success

Kurt GraverBusiness Development

In today’s increasingly diverse and digital world, accessibility and usability have become critical factors in determining the success of products and services. As a UK entrepreneur, prioritising inclusivity and ease of use can be the key to unlocking customer satisfaction, loyalty, and market growth. 

According to a study by the Click-Away Pound Survey, 69% of users with access needs will leave a website they find difficult to use, resulting in an estimated £17.1 billion in lost revenue for UK businesses (Click-Away Pound, 2019). By embracing accessibility and usability best practices, you can tap into this significant market opportunity, differentiate your offerings, and drive long-term success. 

In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of accessibility and usability, provide actionable strategies for improving your products and services, and share inspiring case studies of businesses that have excelled through inclusivity.

Understanding Accessibility and Usability

Before diving into the strategies and benefits of prioritising accessibility and usability, let’s clarify what these terms mean and why they matter for UK entrepreneurs.

Defining Accessibility

Accessibility refers to the practice of designing products, services, and environments that can be used by people with a wide range of abilities, including those with disabilities (W3C, 2021). In digital products, such as websites and mobile apps, accessibility means ensuring that all users can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the content and functionality, regardless of their physical, sensory, or cognitive abilities.

Defining Usability

Usability, on the other hand, measures how easy, efficient, and satisfying a product or service is to use (ISO, 2018). It encompasses learnability, efficiency, memorability, error prevention, and user satisfaction. While usability is important for all users, it is particularly crucial for those with access needs, as poor usability can create additional barriers and frustrations.

The Relationship Between Accessibility and Usability

Accessibility and usability are closely intertwined, as they both contribute to creating positive and inclusive user experiences. By designing for accessibility, you often improve usability for all users, not just those with disabilities. For example, features like clear headings, intuitive navigation, and descriptive link text, which are essential for users with visual or cognitive impairments, also make it easier for all users to find information and complete tasks on your website (UX Collective, 2020).

The Business Case for Accessibility and Usability

Investing in accessibility and usability is the right thing to do from an ethical and social perspective and makes good business sense. Here are some compelling reasons why UK entrepreneurs should prioritise inclusivity and ease of use:

Expanding Your Market Reach

According to the UK Government, there are over 14 million people with disabilities in the UK, representing a significant and often overlooked market segment (GOV.UK, 2020). By designing products and services that are accessible and usable for this population, you can tap into a larger customer base and increase your market share. Moreover, as the population ages, the number of people with age-related impairments, such as vision loss or mobility issues, is expected to grow, making accessibility even more important for future-proofing your business (WHO, 2021).

Enhancing Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

When customers encounter products or services that are difficult to use or inaccessible, they are more likely to abandon their purchases, switch to competitors, and share negative feedback (Forrester, 2019). On the other hand, by providing inclusive and user-friendly experiences, you can increase customer satisfaction, build trust, and foster loyalty. Studies show that customers with disabilities, in particular, are more likely to become repeat customers and recommend businesses that accommodate their needs (American Institutes for Research, 2018).

Improving Brand Reputation and Differentiation

By demonstrating a commitment to accessibility and usability, you can differentiate your brand from competitors and position yourself as a socially responsible and customer-centric business. Inclusive design can also help you stand out in a crowded market and attract positive media attention and customer advocacy (Forbes, 2020). Moreover, as consumers become increasingly values-driven, aligning your brand with principles of inclusivity and equality can help you build a strong and authentic reputation.

In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 requires businesses to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that people with disabilities can access their products and services (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2021). Failing to comply with these legal obligations can result in costly lawsuits, fines, and damage to your reputation. By proactively addressing accessibility and usability, you can mitigate legal risks and demonstrate your commitment to equal opportunities and non-discrimination.

Strategies for Improving Accessibility and Usability

Now that we’ve established the importance of accessibility and usability let’s explore some practical strategies for improving your products and services:

Conduct Accessibility and Usability Audits

The first step in improving accessibility and usability is to assess your current products or services against established standards and best practices. Conduct thorough audits using tools like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the WCAG-EM Evaluation Methodology (W3C, 2021). These audits can help you identify areas of strength and weakness, prioritise improvements, and create a roadmap for remediation. Consider involving users with disabilities in your audits to gain valuable insights and feedback.

Implement Inclusive Design Principles

Inclusive design is a methodology that considers the needs and preferences of a diverse range of users throughout the design process (Inclusive Design Principles, 2021). By applying inclusive design principles, you can create products and services that are more accessible, usable, and appealing to a broader audience. Some key principles include:

– Provide multiple ways for users to interact with your product, such as keyboard navigation, voice commands, or gesture controls.

– Use clear, simple language, icons, and visual cues to convey information and guide users.

– Ensure that your content is perceivable by all users, including those with visual, auditory, or cognitive impairments, by providing alternatives like captions, transcripts, or audio descriptions.

– Allow users to customise their experience, such as adjusting font sizes, colours, or contrast levels, to meet their needs and preferences.

Engage with Users with Disabilities

Engaging with users with disabilities directly throughout the design and development process is essential to understand their needs and challenges truly. Conduct user research with participants with various abilities and impairments, such as interviews, focus groups, or usability testing (UX Magazine, 2019). This can help you uncover valuable insights, identify potential barriers, and validate your design decisions. Consider partnering with disability organisations or advocacy groups to recruit participants and gain their expertise and feedback.

Provide Accessibility Training and Resources

To embed accessibility and usability into your organisation’s culture and practices, it’s important to provide ongoing training and resources to your team members. Invest in workshops, webinars, or online courses that cover topics like inclusive design, web accessibility standards, and assistive technologies (Deque, 2021). Encourage your team to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in accessibility and usability and foster a continuous learning and improvement culture.

Leverage Assistive Technologies

Assistive technologies like screen readers, magnifiers, or voice recognition software can help disabled users access and interact more effectively with your products or services (AbilityNet, 2021). By designing with these technologies in mind and testing your products with them regularly, you can ensure that your offerings are compatible and optimised for assistive tools. Additionally, consider providing resources or guides to help users set up and use assistive technologies with your products and offer support channels for any technical issues or questions.

Case Studies of Accessible and Usable Design

To inspire and illustrate the benefits of prioritising accessibility and usability, let’s look at some real-world examples of businesses that have successfully embraced inclusive design:

Apple: Designing for Everyone

Apple has long been a leader in accessible technology and is strongly committed to building products that work for everyone. From features like VoiceOver, which provides spoken descriptions of on-screen elements for blind or low-vision users, to Switch Control, which allows users with motor impairments to navigate their devices using external switches, Apple has integrated accessibility into the core of its products (Apple, 2021). By designing with inclusivity in mind, Apple has not only empowered users with disabilities but also created more intuitive and user-friendly experiences for all customers.

Barclays: Inclusive Banking Services

Barclays, one of the UK’s largest banks, has made significant strides in improving the accessibility and usability of its services. The bank’s website and mobile app have been designed to meet WCAG standards, with features like adjustable text sizes, high-contrast modes, and compatibility with assistive technologies (Barclays, 2021). Barclays has also introduced initiatives like the Accessibility Tool, which allows customers to customise their online banking experience based on their individual needs, and the SignVideo service, which provides British Sign Language interpretation for deaf or hard-of-hearing customers. By prioritising accessibility, Barclays has demonstrated its commitment to financial inclusion and customer-centricity.

Scope: Accessible E-commerce

Scope, a disability equality charity in England and Wales, has developed an accessible online shop that showcases best practices in inclusive e-commerce design. The shop’s website features clear and consistent navigation, descriptive product information, and multiple search and filter methods (Scope, 2021). Scope has also integrated accessibility tools like ReadSpeaker, which provides text-to-speech functionality, and Recite Me, which allows users to customise the website’s appearance and language. By creating an accessible and user-friendly shopping experience, Scope has not only made its products more available to customers with disabilities but also demonstrated the value of inclusive design in the e-commerce sector.

Conclusion

In conclusion, prioritising accessibility and usability is a moral imperative and a smart business strategy for UK entrepreneurs. By designing products and services that are inclusive and easy to use, businesses can expand their market reach, enhance customer satisfaction, improve brand reputation, and follow legal requirements.

This blog’s strategies and case studies demonstrate the tangible benefits of embracing accessibility and usability, from increased customer loyalty and advocacy to differentiation and growth in the marketplace. By conducting accessibility audits, implementing inclusive design principles, engaging with users with disabilities, providing training and resources, and leveraging assistive technologies, entrepreneurs can create products and services that work for everyone.

At SGI Consultants, we are committed to helping UK businesses unlock the power of accessibility and usability through our comprehensive Business Systems framework and expert consulting services. By partnering with us, entrepreneurs can gain the knowledge, tools, and support they need to create inclusive, user-friendly experiences that drive customer satisfaction and market success.

As the business landscape becomes increasingly competitive and customer-centric, accessibility and usability will become critical differentiators. By prioritising these principles now, UK entrepreneurs can position themselves for long-term success and positively impact the lives of their customers and society. So, let’s embrace accessibility and usability as core values and design a more inclusive and user-friendly future for all.

Sources:

– AbilityNet. (2021). Assistive technology. https://abilitynet.org.uk/factsheets/assistive-technology

– American Institutes for Research. (2018). A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults With Disabilities. https://www.air.org/resource/hidden-market-purchasing-power-working-age-adults-disabilities

– Apple. (2021). Accessibility. https://www.apple.com/uk/accessibility/

– Barclays. (2021). Accessibility. https://www.barclays.co.uk/accessibility/

– Click-Away Pound. (2019). Click-Away Pound Survey 2019. http://www.clickawaypound.com/cap19final0502.html

– Deque. (2021). Web Accessibility Training. https://www.deque.com/services/training/

– Equality and Human Rights Commission. (2021). Equality Act 2010. https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/equality-act/equality-act-2010

– Forbes. (2020). The Importance Of Inclusion And Accessibility In Business. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/2020/09/30/the-importance-of-inclusion-and-accessibility-in-business/

– Forrester. (2019). The Billion-Customer Opportunity: Digital Accessibility. https://www.forrester.com/report/The+BillionCustomer+Opportunity+Digital+Accessibility/-/E-RES146987

– GOV.UK. (2020). Family Resources Survey: financial year 2019 to 2020. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/family-resources-survey-financial-year-2019-to-2020/family-resources-survey-financial-year-2019-to-2020

– Inclusive Design Principles. (2021). The Principles. https://inclusivedesignprinciples.org/

– International Organization for Standardization. (2018). ISO 9241-11:2018 Ergonomics of human-system interaction — Part 11: Usability: Definitions and concepts. https://www.iso.org/standard/63500.html

– Scope. (2021). Shop. https://www.scope.org.uk/shop/

– UX Collective. (2020). The Difference Between Accessibility and Usability. https://uxdesign.cc/the-difference-between-accessibility-and-usability-8c90f3f5b2f4

– UX Magazine. (2019). Designing for Accessibility: A Guide for UX Designers. https://uxmag.com/articles/designing-for-accessibility-a-guide-for-ux-designers

– W3C. (2021). Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview. https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/

– World Health Organization. (2021). Disability and health. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/disability-and-health