Web Accessibility: Numbers?
August 14, 2008 8:37 PM   Subscribe

Are there any documented cases or studies that actually measure how web accessible design impacts the "bottom line" for a company?

One argument I see all the time is that there are N disabled web users in the world, and if an average consumer spends $ at a site, having an inaccessible site design reduces potential profit by N($). Or something like that.

So besides the legal necessity and argument for rights (which are good), have there been any solid economic markers for the effects of accessibility?

I've heard of the NFB v. Target thing, but I think that's still ongoing and haven't seen numbers for that.
posted by Ky to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'd imagine that it would be hard to generalize (as with all web stats). I don't think you can ever say that doing X to your website will increase sales by $Y
posted by meta_eli at 9:15 PM on August 14, 2008

Best answer: If you have access to an University library then I've seen a paper which seems to be what you're looking for. Disclaimer: I haven't read this paper, but had it and some others due to one of my MBA courses. There isn't really a lot of quantitative research out there, at least much that folks are sharing.

I have no doubt that someone out there has looked at this pretty extensively from a business niche point of view, but, needless to say, they ain't sharing their results.

The full abstract follows, but this excerpt is most of interest - "The economic aspects of ECCRM should be enough to encourage firms to make their sites accessible to all current and potential customers. "

Full abstract: "Companies increasingly employ the World Wide Web to gather information from and disseminate information to actual and potential customers and for end-consumer business transactions and interactions. The challenge of attracting and keeping economically valuable customers while repelling and eliminating those who are not economically valuable is the focus of Electronic Commerce Customer Relationship Management (ECCRM). Many companies consider traditional usability when designing customer-oriented aspects of their Web sites, but they may not consider the critically important aspect of accessibility. On-line barriers may limit or preclude Web accessibility for potential customers with access challenges. ECCRM requires that companies communicate with current and potential customers to establish, develop, and manage relationships. However, this may be difficult or impossible for customers unable to access the company's Web site for information, let alone to place orders or interact with company representatives. Web site accessibility is an important aspect of usability for ECCRM that is being overlooked by most firms.

This article describes the background of Web site accessibility from economic, market-oriented, legal, and usability perspectives. Then it presents the results of an evaluation of the accessibility of the top 250 2002 Fortune 500 company Web site home pages (actually, as will be explained below, there only 248 home pages were evaluated). The Bobby accessibility validation program quantified the number and severity of accessibility errors and problems for each site. The majority (182/247, i.e., 75%) of the Fortune 250 Company Web sites have Priority 1 accessibility errors, and many of these problems are so severe that the firms should give a high priority to correcting them. The study illustrates the need for companies to go beyond traditional usability testing to examine the accessibility of their Web sites so that they can successfully employ ECCRM and comply with ADA and other legal guidelines and requirements. The economic aspects of ECCRM should be enough to encourage firms to make their sites accessible to all current and potential customers. Suggestions for improving the accessibility of Web sites are provided as well as future research directions."

Citation: Romano, N., C., 2003, 'Customer Relationship Management for the Web-Access Challenged: Inaccessibility of the Fortune 250 Business Web Sites', International Journal of Electronic Commerce, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 81-117
posted by Mutant at 5:14 AM on August 15, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, Mutant. I didn't get much of anything in my own search, but at least someone else can verify for me too (maybe I should look at plain traffic stats and not limit to economics). I'll look into that paper!
posted by Ky at 7:01 AM on August 15, 2008

Glad to help! And remeber to look first at that papers references; they are basing their conclusion on lots of other peoples research. Some of the cited titles may be of more specific interest to your query.
posted by Mutant at 8:41 AM on August 15, 2008

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