Implications for Improving Accessibility to E-Commerce Websites in Developing Countries: A Study of Hotel Websites

Implications for Improving Accessibility to E-Commerce Websites in Developing Countries: A Study of Hotel Websites

Arunasalam Sambhanthan (University of Portsmouth, UK) and Alice Good (University of Portsmouth, UK)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/ijkbo.2012040101
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Abstract

This research explores the accessibility issues with regard to the e-commerce websites in developing countries, through a study of Sri Lankan hotel websites. A web survey and a web content analysis were conducted as the methods to elicit data on web accessibility. Factors preventing accessibility were hypothesized as an initial experiment. Affecting design elements are identified through web content analysis, the results of which are utilized to develop specific implications for improving web accessibility. The hypothesis tests show that there is no significant correlation between accessibility and geographical or economic factors. However, physical impairments of users have a considerable influence on the accessibility of web page user interface if it has been designed without full consideration of the needs of all users. Poor readability and less navigable page designs are two observable issues, which pose threats to accessibility. The lack of conformance to W3C accessibility guidelines and the poor design process are the specific shortcomings which reduce the overall accessibility. Further enhancements are suggested with adherence to principles, user – centered design and developing customizable web portals compatible for connections with differing speeds. Re-ordering search results has been suggested as one of the finest step towards making the web content accessible for users with differing needs.
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2. Literature Review

Webster’s dictionary defines accessibility as “the quality of being accessible, or of admitting approach.” (Webster’s Dictionary - Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1996, 1998 MIRCA, Inc) This definition serves as an introductory note for the term, but insufficient to explicit the innate meaning of accessibility in its practical form. On the contrary, W3C providing a more contextual definition for the term, states “Web Accessibility is a term used to identify the extent to which information on Web pages can be successfully accessed by persons with disabilities including the aging” (W3C, 2000). However, this definition only includes the physical disabilities, but fails to include some other important dimensions of this multi-faceted word. Particularly, accessibility could means a lot in the context of developing countries which are far behind developed countries in terms of economic condition. Consequently, Good (2008, p. 16) defines accessibility in a more versatile manner which and encompasses the contextual requirements of developing countries. The definition goes as, “A website is said to be accessible when anyone, regardless of economic, geographic or physical circumstances, is able to access it.” This means, the ease with which, people from different economic backgrounds, people living in different geographic zones and people having different physical impairments could access the web’. Hence, for this particular study, accessibility could be defined as ‘the ease with which people with disabilities, people from different geographic regions and people having different internet connections could access the websites.

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