The UK’s top retail sites ranked by accessibility 

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 retail sites posting worse accessibility 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.

blind person keyboard

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 the retail 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.”