How Accessible is On-line Shopping? Interviews UX with Impairments

How Accessible is On-line Shopping?

Video Transcript:

 Hi, I’m Collette Costello for Kiku Girl.


In this video I’ll be looking at how accessible on-line fashion shopping is, in this world of Technology how well is that technology being used to ensure that everybody can have a good shopping experience. The chances are that you, or somebody close to you is at the moment affected by an impairment, or will be one day in the future.


So I started by putting the question out there on Twitter, “Can I ask if you do have an impairment, what are the main problems you face when shopping specifically for fashion on-line?”.  From the responses I am enlisted a team of accessibility fashion divas to give me their real-life stories, their real-life experiences of shopping online.


First of we’ve got Roxy, she describes herself as funny, dependable, but she does now get tired very easily. So she loves nothing more than to throw on comfortable, warm clothing. She’s becoming more reliant on online fashion shopping.  She says “The more activity I do the more pain that have later, so I might think I can walk throughout the mall, but the next day being pain”. So when shopping for clothes Roxy relies on websites that have customer reviews, as often when she buys clothes the size charts don’t match the clothes which are being sold.  So she relies on the reviews to tell her how they will fit. Returns is an issue she gets the clothes delivered direct to her door, but if she needs to return them she has to go to the post office, which is a real pain with her mobility issues.


Next up we have Stephanae, she’s behind “Bold Blind Beauty”, on-line fashion blog. She feels empowered by fashion, she’s a classic stylish dresser and feels that she could conquer the world wearing heels and a pencil skirt.  She loves shopping online. As she is visually impaired and has residual eyesight’s in  her left eye, she relies heavily on Microsoft’s built-in accessibility features, mainly the magnification to access the Internet. So good written descriptions to go along with images on websites, make a massive difference to her. She has picked out QVC as an accessibility champion in this area, with them also having a built-in text enlargement tool, to making it easier to read the written descriptions.
Last up we have Anna, she’s curious, sensory and describes herself as an introvert. She loves casual, loose-fitting clothing and she’s really really techno savvy when it comes to shopping online. She has really good knowledge of how websites should be designed, so she can find her way around.  Anna is also visually impaired so to access the Internet she uses voiceover, sometimes Narrator, she also uses zoom to make giant font sizes, as well as many other accessibility software tools. Uniqlo and Super Dry are getting it right in terms of accessibility for Anna, with good descriptions clear color’s, size charts that match the clothes on sales and good sub categories to reduce the need for lots of scrolling. Fashion companies that she feels could improve their online accessibility are, H&M;, L’Occitane and Old Navy.  Being from Texas, fabrics which are going to keep Anna cool are important to her, without the zoom feature or close-up images it’s hard for her to tell what fabrics clothes are made out, and also it’s difficult for her to see details such as seams and buttons that might rub against her and be uncomfortable.  She also finds that a lot of websites just don’t work when she uses Screen Reader, or zooms in on them, invaluable tools for the visually impaired, the navigation breaks, the shopping carts become inaccessible.

Accessible design of on-line shops benefits everybody, often the fashion companies just need to make simple changes to fix the issues that, Roxy, Stephanae and Anna have experienced when shopping online. Giving these valuable customers the enjoyable shopping experience that they deserve!

To learn more check out their full interviews which are on the blog post, link is below. So a big thank you to my team of fashion accessibility divas without whom this video wouldn’t have been possible. If you’d like to learn more about fashion technology, check out the rest of my web site

I am Collette Costello for Kiku Girl.

Full UX Interviews:

What is your favourite fashion item?

It’s so hard to pick just one but I’d have to say heels followed closely by pencil skirts. For as long as I can remember high heels were a signature item for me although these days I don’t wear them nearly as often as I once did. Wearing heels with a pencil skirt or wrap dress and I feel like I can conquer the world.

Do you use anything to help you access websites, such as a screen reader?

Since I have residual eyesight in my left eye I rely heavily on Microsoft’s built-in accessibility features mainly the magnification. I used to use ZoomText but the software wasn’t compatible with my last laptop so I began using Microsoft’s accessibility. While it isn’t as robust as ZoomText it has what I need to accomplish my daily tasks on my computer. I also use a 32-inch television screen as my monitor so it gives me a little more desktop real estate. Rarely if ever do I use the narrator but when I have a great deal of reading to do it’s much easier using this feature than tiring my eye.

Name your top accessible online fashion shop. What are they doing right?

While I do nearly everything online, shopping included, over the past couple of years I’ve drastically reduced my amount of shopping. With this in mind, I think QVC does an exceptional job at describing their products. Even though I can still view photos many times there are details I can’t see so accurate and thorough descriptions are very helpful to me. Granted QVC isn’t my first go to when I’m looking for clothing and accessories but I think they are worth mentioning. For those of us with some or diminishing eyesight they also have a text enlargement tool on the site.

Since I don’t rely on a screen reader I can’t speak to accessibility from this standpoint on my favorite online fashion stores (Macy’s, Nordstrom Rack, and H&M). However, depending on what I’m looking for and how well the items are described varies on each site. Many times I may find something I think I like but if I can’t determine all its features I move on to another item and many times another site. I enjoy online shopping but it does require patience and if I’m having trouble finding what I want typically out of frustration I move on to another site. Personally, if I have to pick up a phone to call for additional information I quickly lose interest.

Name your worst accessible online fashion shop.  What are they doing wrong?

The worst one that comes to mind is ThredUp although I’ve not purchased anything from them in a couple of years so they may have improved. Back when I was using the site the product descriptions were practically non-existent. I also didn’t like how items were organized, I had trouble navigating the clothing by size, color, etc. Hopefully, the site has improved but it left me feeling less than enthused about revisiting.

​Stephanae McCoy
Bold Blind Beauty
The Abby icon is depicted walking with her white cane in one hand, handbag in the other, is black and white, wearing a stylish black dress and black heels. Her hair is best described as explosive. She is to the left of a vertical teal line followed by business contact information.

Me in 3 words?

Curious. Sensory. Introvert.

Fav fashion item?

Probably random super soft loose t-shirts with cool prints, or dresses. Or shorts. Or perfume (can’t take a picture of a scent so perfect:)

Accessibility Tools?

I use VoiceOver, sometimes Narrator or NvDA but more comfortable on ios and mac.  I also go with high contrast, invert colors, zoom to make more giant font sizes… may sound an odd combo but it’s not.

Fav Accessible Shop?

Probably Uniqlo. Good descriptions, including colors on the pages so no guessing what color something is. Some pages have long scrolls but as everything can be browsed in subcategories (like women’s, sale, loungewear) it’s a lot more manageable than infinite scrolls with random refreshes. All different clothes also have a size table so easy to order when you know that shirt, dress or jeans is going to have precise those measurements for that size. Tracking info is nice to have too, although many sites have that these says for orders. Another nice one: superdry. Good descriptions etc, although sometimes it’s a bit painful to scroll.

Worst Accessible Shop?

Where do i start? Broken navigation and shopping carts that don’t work have sent me away previously. Smaller stores usually. Also L’Occitane was bizarrely not screenreader friendly a year ago (fixed since i think). Bizarre as many of their products have braille. Some common bad ons: both HM and Old Navy have impossible infinite scrolls, so either way too many products or I can’t just narrow them down. Precise sizes aren’t always there. You get to know the color of an item only after adding it to cart. That’s rather annoying if you eg want a black or gray item and can find out if it’s one of those or some blue only after adding it to cart. Changing prices can be annoying too – if there is a deal it might not always sound correctly, although hopefully those have been since fixed. Then there is the problem of not knowing what kind of fabric something is made of. Can’t tell from descriptions or images. Is it soft to touch? Or does it have seams that irritate skin? Is it too hot to wear in this climate in summer? Sensory aspect can be huge, and it would be easily fixable by describing the items better and adding detail pics that show what kind of material is it in close up. Texts need to be able to be made larger, zoom needs to work, and those on top of having it all work with VO and other systems. As most VI people can have some usable sight at least on good days and want to use that it’s a bigger user group. Plus of course older users or those who just happen to buy stuff using their phone will benefit too since suddenly someone would need reading glasses or has cataracts or the screen size is too tiny for a good look. So plenty of other people who don’t really think of themselves as disabled will find the sites easier to use use too when done right.

Extra Comments:

Shopping offline can be frustrating too 🙂 But yea all the other users benefiting… think of your average grandparent. Reading glasses and hearing aids, maybe parkinson’s. So plenty of settings probably interestingly on their phone if they are fluent with it, and they usually won’t see any of their impairments as disabilities

Forgot… there is also the category of sites that don’t work on mobile. Because someone thinks people don’t buy on their iphones, and everyone needs and has a computer with a big screen around. Found those occasionally. The sites not working (not loading at all) on safari and ios… lots of people can’t use and buy then.

Also sensory issues (common and not just for asd or spd): descriptions and images should be clear about what kind of fabric they have. seams (even on t-shirts) can be painful or irritating. finding things like bras, jeans, and if work uniforms dictate non-stretchy shirts,

Site navigation or shopping doesn’t work when using a screenreader, zoom etc. Not enough descriptions: need size details (for the exact item), description of materials and how heavy or light or if stretchy, what kind of color or patterns, washing instructions if unusual

When those details are done right, sighted people don’t necessarily notice the difference, except maybe a better description for them too. “Thin, flowy fabric. Perfect for hot weather or running. Short sleeves, a-line, length x above knee” “light purple flowers, gray background”

Describe yourself in three words?

Tired, dependable, funny (I think?) What is your favourite fashion item? recently i’ve been really interested in pajamas and comfy, warm clothing

Do you use anything to help you access websites, such as a screen reader or ergonomic keyboards?

Not really, although i do have to make sure not to spend too much time at my desk. sometimes i use speech to text because typing hurts my fingers, usually towards end of the day.

Name your top accessible online fashion shop. What are they doing right?

Haven’t found one yet! but i like when online stores have ways to make sure sizing is accurate. users can report how something fit (runs small, large, or normal?) and give reviews. i read a lot of reviews.

Name your worst accessible online fashion shop. What are they doing wrong?

I can’t remember any specific ones. however if there isn’t a lot of information on sizing (like what is a small, medium, large?) or even things like care information (so i can see how much energy it’ll take to maintain) then i usually won’t purchase the item.

Thread – Extra Comments

I can not go try on stuff all the time; i rely a lot on online shopping. so i like to see a size chart, but it is not always there. what is a medium? what is a large? where does it fall on standard sizing? I usually check the reviews for how something fits.  Also the return process can be a pain, i can’t always go to the post office.

A lot of places send a return label. but i think there should be an option to have a box and packaging sent, and have it be a USPS label which already comes to the house (or the equivalent for whichever country they’re in).

I am still pretty mobile – i have pain and fatigue. so i don’t mind just putting it in my mailbox. i would pay for someone to pick up at my house though. however i have $ to spend on stuff like that to help me out

I have become more reliant on online shopping. in the past if anything was uncertain i’d just go up to the mall and try some stuff on or something…i just recently got a measuring tape so should be easier, but most online shopping has been a pain unless i’ve ordered there before and familiar with sizing.

Twitter – @kikufashiontech

You Tube – Kiku Girl

Linkedin – Collette Costello

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