The UK's top e-commerce vendors are still largely failing to improve the design of their sites so that they can be used by those with visual impairments and other disabilities, according to the latest research from user experience consultancy Webcredible.
The firm's 2010 Ecommerce Accessibility Report found that the average score for the 20 internet retailers surveyed dropped from 61.6 per cent last year to 60.2 per cent this year.
B&Q was the clear winner, jumping five places since last year to first place with an impressive score of 84 per cent, but companies such as Mothercare, Game and Currys all dropped places.
Trenton Moss, director at Webcredible, suggested that the drop in standards could be down to retailers gaining an artificially high spot last year because "a lot of accessibility goes hand-in-hand with good coding and usability".
Moss warned that, rather than advances in web design, certain technologies are outstripping e-commerce firms' abilities to maintain a site which can be accessed by all.
"Ajax and Web 2.0 present new challenges from an accessibility point of view, " he said. "It used to be the case that, if you did your usability and search engine optimisation work, you would be about 80 per cent there from an accessibility point of view. But now it's a different ball game."
Moss argued that many sites failed this year, as in previous years, because of a lack of consistency. Companies did well on the homepage, for example, but failed to replicate this deeper into the site.
Other common failings which are easy to put right included highlighting links so that users who have to tab their way through a site can see where they are, and not embedding text within images.
"The likes of Currys and Woolworths at the bottom of the table are going to be losing money because they are blocking the audiences coming to them," said Moss.
"You don't have to be perfect. Even a score of around 70 per cent means you are doing alright and people can use your site."
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