The UK’s top retail sites ranked by accessibility

New analysis from web hosting providers LCN has identified the most and least accessible UK websites for the visually impaired. 

Over 2 million people in the UK suffer from vision loss – with an additional 3 million people suffering from colour blindness – which can make the simplest online tasks a challenge.

However, after analysing the 50 of the most popular UK retail sites, it seems some are still neglecting basic accessibility needs.  

Clothing retailer H&M’s homepage topped the table for accessible websites, registering a perfect score of 100 on Google Lighthouse – the only site to cater for all types of visual impairments.  

At the other end of the table, motoring retailer Halfords’ homepage scored the lowest, at 49 overall, despite other sites posting worse scores across specific impairment categories.  

The Top 10 Most Accessible Sites 

Retail Site 

Accessibility Score  

H&M   

100 

Laura Ashley  

99 

Beauty Bay  

98 

B&Q  

98 

Sainsbury’s   

96 

Ann Summers  

96 

Wickes  

91 

Karen Millen  

91 

Oasis  

91 

Tescos 

91 

 

The Top 10 Least Accessible Sites 

Retail Site 

Accessibility Score  

Halfords 

47 

Carphone Warehouse  

58 

Wilko   

63 

New Look 

63 

Chain Reaction Cycles 

67 

Currys  

69 

Office 

71 

The Perfume Shop  

71 

Simply Be 

72 

Jacamo 

72 

Each homepage studied was also assessed for which type of impairment they may be neglecting. Most of Halfords’ homepage issues were related to accessibility problems for screen reader and colour-blind users. According to Wave by WebAim, there were a total of 51 homepage issues for screen reader users and 32 colour contrast issues. 

Even more concerning, other sites such as Superdrug (193 colour contrast issues) and Boots (177 screen reader issues) performed worse for these visual impairment categories.  

The Top 5 Least Accessible Sites for Colour Blind Users 

Retail Site 

Colour Contrast Errors  

Superdrug 

251 

Wilko  

86 

Simply Be 

47 

Nisbets 

40 

The Perfume Shop 

40 

 

The Top 5 Least Accessible Sites for Screen Reader Users 

Retail Site 

Total Screen Reader Errors  

Boots 

178 

JD Williams 

78 

New Look 

66 

Currys 

57 

Very 

56 

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are designed to help websites meet accessibility standards for colour blind users. These state web pages should strive for a contrast ratio of 4:5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text to pass level AA. To pass level AAA there needs to be a 7:1 contrast ratio for normal text and 4:5:1 for large text. For graphics, the ratio should be 3:1.  

For screen reader users, problems occur when the site is improperly coded. Missing, empty or duplicate attributes in the site’s code mean certain elements cannot be read aloud. Broken ARIA attributes (which help streamline a site into assistive screen reader technology) also cause problems.  

A final visual impairment to consider is those with partial vision, who may struggle reading small or low-resolution text. The current guidelines recommend having website text sized at a minimum of 10 pixels. Carphone Warehouse ranks as the worst homepage performer in this category, with 32 instances of text lower than 10 pixels.  

The Top 5 Least Accessible Sites for the Partially Sighted 

Retail Site 

Small Text Scenarios  

Carphone Warehouse 

32 

Wilko  

31 

Amazon 

18 

Screwfix 

14 

Axminster 

14 

Across all sites, it seems screen readers are the most neglected accessibility consideration, with an average of 26.3 issues per homepage. This is closely followed by issues for colour blind users (15.8 contrast issues per homepage) and partially sighted users (4.3 small text scenarios per homepage).  

If these issues are not immediately addressed, these sites will be left only partially accessible to those with visual impairments, ultimately leaving millions frustrated and confused. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has put online shopping at the forefront of retail due to store closure, with its market share reaching 35.2% in January 2021. Yet not all shoppers have an equal opportunity to reap its benefits, with many sites lacking when it comes to accessibility for the visually impaired.  

Phil Dunsford, Front-End Web Developer at LCN, commented: “Moving forward, accessibility for disabled users should be at the forefront of any web designers’ goals.” 

“Beyond the obvious moral responsibility and emphasis on equality, it is in a retail business’ best interests to make their site accessible to all.” 

“Five million people in the UK have some sort of visual impairment that impacts their ability to use and buy products on the web. This is a significant customer base to be neglecting. Especially as many of these changes can be made quickly and easily by developers.”  

Methodology 

Google Lighthouse and Wave by WebAim were used to audit all sites. The analysis was conductedfrom 21st June – 25th June 2021.  

The Google Lighthouse score from 0-100 was used to rank sites overall for accessibility on mobile.  

To rank sites by their accessibility for colour blind users, colour contrast errors were identified using Wave by WebAim.  

To rank sites by their accessibility for screen reader users, all errors around missing, empty or duplicate elements were totalled, alongside any broken ARIA elements. This again was measured using Wave by WebAim.   

To rank sites by their accessibility for the partially sighted, all small text alerts were counted. This was also measured by Wave by WebAim.  

Homepages only were analysed. While issues likely extend beyond homepages, they typically represent the most important page of any website.  

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