Karl Groves

Tech Accessibility Consultant
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Website Accessibility and Support for Low Bandwidth Users

This blog post is part of a series of posts discussing the Business Case for Accessibility. In order to get a full view of the Business Case for Accessibility, I encourage you to read all posts in this series, links to which can be found at the bottom of this post.

The arguments in this case are oriented around the idea that an accessible website is also better for users on low-bandwidth connections. Specifically cited are techniques including use of CSS layout, clear navigation, and good alternatives for non-text content.

  • Does it increase income? Yes. If you make money online, support for low-bandwidth users is very important. Those of us on high speed connections typically assume everyone else is on a fast connection as well. That’s not actually the case. In the United States, for instance, only 36% of users are on broadband connections.
  • Does save money? Not really. Design and development of a low-bandwidth friendly site is the same as one that uses a lot of bandwidth
  • Does it mitigate risk? Yes. As the study cites below, lack of support for low-bandwidth users can cause high bounce rates and lost sales.
  • How strong is the evidence? Pretty strong. Data can easily be found through a quick Googling and verified through your own analytics regarding conversions from dial-up users. Correlation between accessibility and support for low-bandwidth users is rather strong. However, like SEO and usability, I’d consider accessibility a by-product of low-bandwidth support – not the other way around.

Roughly 44% of users are still doing shopping online using low-bandwidth connections. While these users tend to be willing to wait longer for pages to download, they are still very likely to bounce if it takes too long to do things:

Roughly 75 percent of online shoppers who experience a site that freezes or crashes, is too slow to render, or involves a convoluted checkout process would no longer buy from that site. Jupiter Research (PDF)

Only 23% of the WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion are cited as beneficial to low-bandwidth users. As I said above, like the other business case arguments, I would regard accessibility a benefit of low-bandwidth support.

I’m available for accessibility consulting, audits, VPATs, training, and accessible web development, email me directly at karl@karlgroves.com or call me at +1 443-875-7343