Content is a major way of communicating messages, but on the web we can be prone to believing that aesthetics sell and end up neglecting the written content. Good copywriting is about understanding how it makes the audience feel and persuading them using both language and imagery.
Mark Vincent is one of our accessibility testers. He has been buying clothes online for the past 7 years – his screen reading software reads what is on the page for him, but the only way he can visualize clothing is through the image the content creates in his mind. He has written a guest blog for us to understand what the web “looks” like to him. Try to imagine the product yourself only through the written cues before you follow the link.
Mark Vincent on Content
When giving some thought about how I use the Internet and the content I consume, the importance of language became very apparent. It is fair to say that I am very comfortable using the Internet. From paying my utility bills, buying shoes, clothes, and doing my grocery shopping. In all of the above categories descriptive language is important, but most helpful or unhelpful in items such as clothing.
One important point before I talk about content. You could have the best copy in the world, but please remember I have to be able to access it through my screen reader. Not only access it, but be able to complete the process using one piece of technology for the sake of my shopping experience. I will just add a little at the end of each review to talk about technology as part of my experience.
Choosing clothing is about colour, design and materials, but the sale really comes from creating the “I want” factor. The 3 following examples highlight areas where either the communication or accessibility create common blocks to me taking advantage of the great array of products on offer.
Mid Blue Button Down Chambray Casual Shirt
- 100% cotton, peached for softness
- Relaxed fit; button down collar
- Split yoke; breast pocket
- Savile Row Company buttons
This smart casual mid-blue shirt is the perfect shirt to take you through this winter and many more to come. A winning combination of peachy-soft chambray and relaxed fit with neat button-down collar – and stylish yellow contrast finish inside the collar and cuffs.
I hear the words “peached for softeness”, “relaxed fit” and I am already introduced to how that garment feels, and then one step further about how it would feel on me. This description is all about me, and continues with further detail about the cut of the garment and even occasions where I might wear it.
I love Savile Row’s product range, I want to buy their clothes from the description, but the fact of the matter is I have to turn off Jaws and use a different screen reader to access the sizing chart in order to add an item to the basket – good bye good shopping experience! I haven’t used the site in over 18 months for this reason.
Men’s No-iron Classic Pleated front Chinos
Wrinkle-beating, stain-cheating No-iron Chinos take everyday wear and tear in their stride.
- Special ‘nano’ technology stain and wrinkle resistance
- Durable twill fabric
- Traditional fit for ease of movement
- Pleated front
- Button-through back pockets
- Free custom hemming
‘Nano’ technology builds stain and wrinkle resistance into the very fibres of our tough twill fabric. So spills roll right off while wrinkle resistance means ironing is optional – you can wear them straight out of the dryer. Cut to our Traditional fit you’ll enjoy ease of movement as well as easy care. The plied, combed cotton yarn is built to hold fast and garment washing enhances the soft ‘hand’. Finished with side pockets and belt loops.
100% cotton. Machine wash.
The Land’s End description really does echo the reliable quality approach to the clothes they make. I know after reading that description that I am buying an item of clothing that is well made, there to be worn, and will remain in a good quality state.
The words used, the list form that the details of the clothes are presented in, gives me the strong impression of the above reliability in quality marketing approach. It’s this reliability that I find attractive. It’s the classic items of clothing that can be worn time and time again that I am being drawn to invest in with Land’s End.
The descriptive language used is appealing to me, and allows me to visualize what the item would be like it if I owned it. This powerful descriptive content combined with my imagination has over the years concluded in many great buys. The actual result is a wardrobe of clothes that I like, and wear.
The accessibility of Land’s End is good, but could really shine with a few tweaks. When considering the amount of clothes I have purchased online over 7 years, there have been few disappointments once the items arrive on my door step.
Marks and Spencer
Single Breasted 2 Button Jacket
- Notch lapel
- Single breasted
- 2 button fastening
- Long sleeve
- 4 button cuff
- Single breast pocket
- Front pockets
- Single vent
- Care Instructions: Dry clean
- Composition: 100% polyester Lining: 100% polyester
A style classic at a great value price, updated with a modern cut and contemporary detailing.
No description of materials, and the hint at the unspecified modern design, and me the left wanting customer. The Marks and Spencer description makes the point of not including me in the browsing and buying experience. This is clothes shopping. How will I feel when I own this? How will it look, and where would this look good? None of these emotional power houses are tapped in to with this description.
The list details are somewhat removed from the description and don’t add anything to my experience. It really needs to be brought alive as in the Savile Row example…Polyester could have been “Cool polyester”, but I didn’t have any emotive words and stage setting to get excited about the materials.
I found this item very easily, as a screen reader user not familiar with this web site. The Marks and Spencer site gives me powerful navigation in order to browse all the items on offer. It even gives me powerful control over sizing, color, and quantity allowing me to make that purchase. That however becomes somewhat diluted, when the actual description of the item fails to speak to me as a visually impaired browser.
How can you make your website a better experience for Mark?
Many websites conform to accessibility guidelines, but we tried very hard to avoid the technical aspects in this blog. Instead, we tried to concentrate on how the content made Mark feel as a customer.
When we perform accessibility testing, we are not just ticking boxes for compliancy, we observe real users, like Mark, experiencing the site so that the input is much richer.
It certainly does not have to be to the detriment of your design, in fact we can suggest many ways you can stick to design guidelines and still enhance the usability and accessibility of your site.
About World Usability Day
This blog was inspired by this year’s World Usability Day theme of “communication”. When we first thought about what we could blog about, one of the immediate thoughts was on how good usability helps us to communicate to our customers. It’s not all about being blind, but when you lose a sense you have to rely on others – and this can help us to deeply understand different aspects that make up the entire user experience for everyone.